No. 3/7150, Private, John (Jack) TALBOT
Aged 22

Norfolk Regiment
7th Battalion
Killed in Action on Monday 9th April, 1917

An Old Contemptible

His civilian identity is not absolutely sure but assumed to be:
John TALBOT was born in Exning , his birth registration has not been identified, son of Robert and Rhoda TALBOT (née HEFFER). "Soldiers Died" says he was born in Exning (John Talbot) Military records indicate an 1893 birth, civil records point to 1895 (there was a John HEFFER birth registered in 1895).

1901 census...He has not been found in this census. His father Robert appears to have died in 1898. His mother ? Rhoda (widow) was a servant in Cherry Hinton. Brother Robert has not been found.

1911 census...In the 1911 John, 16, a farm labourer born Exning and a boarder with Walter and Lydia COLLEN (née BROWN) at East Fen Common, Soham. He gave Walter as his master in enlistment as Walter Collen, East Fen, Soham. At the 1911 census Walter was stated to be permanently incapacitated so a 16 year old helper would have been very useful. Later John gave Lydia COLLEN's name as next of kin and foster mother. It seems his mother Rhoda (widow) was in the Workhouse, Exning Road, Newmarket

The Army family form signed by Lydia COLLEN states he and brother Robert were raised in the workhouse then she adopted John 'Jack' TALBOT.

He then went to Norwich and on 9th December 1911, enlisted in the Norfolk Regiment. He was aged 18, 5' 4.5" (163.8 cm) tall and weighed 112 lbs (51 kg). He had worked for William POLLARD of Brook Street, Soham
Some of his military training must have taken place at Shornecliffe Camp near Folkestone, since he got 2 day confined to barracks on 2nd May 1912 for " being careless on the rifle range".
He was based in UK until 6th October 1914, then went via St Nazaire to France, joining his battalion on 15th October 1914, thus earning the clasp to the 1914 star. Wounded on 26th April 1915 he came back to UK on 29th, remaining here until 4th October 1915. He had two periods of illness, from 28th February to 5th March 1916, and from 31st May to 6th June 1916. Apart from his 2 days CB at Shornecliife and another 3 days CB in September 1914 for being late on parade at Walton, near Felixstowe, he appears to have had a blameless military career, even a blank "drunkeness" sheet. He was killed on 9th April 1917 at the start of the 3rd battle of Arras and initially buried at Estaminet Corner, and later interred in his final resting place at Bunyans Cemetery.

His elder brother Robert ( born 3rd December 1891) also has many sheets of his records in the "burnt" records and survived the war, being the eventual recipient of John's effects and medals. The Army at that time had Robert living c/o Mrs E PALMER, Newnham, Burwell. Robert gave his next of kin as his Aunt Mrs J St.... (here, annoyingly, the records are illegible but it could be Stubbings). Robert served in the Cambridgeshire, the Royal Sussex and the Suffolk Regiments. Both brothers appear to have added to their age for the Army.
Currently despite have quite extensive military records, it is proving difficult to find records of their mother and father, except John stated in 1911 that his father was dead. The evidence is of his mother being Rhoda HEFFER, an Exning girl who married Robert TALBOT in Q3-1891 and that Robert senior was the Robert Talbot who died in Q1- 1898. As to mother, a Rhoda TALBOT died (reg Newmarket q2-1923) but the two boys did not give her as next of kin.

In the 1911 census it seems Robert Talbot junior was in Exning at White Hall Yard with his uncle and aunt Arthur and Fanny TALBOT.

"Estaminet Corner" was on the main Arras-Cambrai road at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines. Bunyans cemetery is along a severe track across the fields to the north of the village.
The Battle of Arras was a major British offensive during the First World War. From 9th April to 16th May 1917, troops from the four corners of the British Empire attacked trenches held by Germany to the east of the French city of Arras. To the north the Canadians attacked and took Vimy Ridge, to the south the French failed at Chemin des Dames, and centre the British achieved their objectives, at some cost, to the east of Arras, but not the sought after break-through.
24 men of the 7th Norfolks lost their lives that day, only half have identified graves. Seven of these are in Bunyans Cemetery which is most difficult to reach by car unless in very dry weather.

© Commonwealth War Graves Commission

John (Jack)is buried in Bunyans Cemetery, Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, France Ref: A.13
and also commemorated on the War Memorial in Soham

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details