No.25674, Private, John WELLS
Aged 29

8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Saturday, 11th August 1917

John Wells was born in 1888 in Santon Downham (Thetford Q2-1888 4B:409), son of Edward and Amelia WELLS (née FIELD) .

1891 census...Aged 2, he was at Farm House, Ratters Road, Santon Downham with his father Edward WELLS [51] farm keeper born Whepstead; his mother Amelia [42] born Brandon; sisters Rose [29] born Whepstead, Alice [13] born Santon, Violet [8] and Mary Field [6] both born Santon Downham; brothers Arthur [15] farm labourer born Santon and Walter [11] born Stamford, Norfolk.

1901 census...Aged 12, he was at The Staunch House, Santon Downham with his parents (father now general labourer); sister Rose, brother Samuel H [9] born Santon Downham and niece Irene W. A. WELLS [2] born Thetford.

1911 census...Aged 22, a furrier(rabbit skins) he was at 3 Church End, Brandon with his widowed mother, sister Rose and niece Alice (Alice Irene W) Irene in previous census). His father had died in 1910.

On 7th January 1914 he married Lily Emily DYER. They had a son, Edward James on 30th April 1914 and a daughter Joan Margaret on 16th December 1916 and were living at Laundry Cottages, Santon Downham.

The "living relatives" form completed by his widow gave widow and children at Laundry Cottages, Santon Downham, father dead, mother and sister Rose and her daughter Alice at 3 Church End, Brandon, brother Walter [40] in London, brother Arthur [44] at Little Lodge, Santon Downham. Sister Violet [30] address illegible, Mary [35] now Mrs Barnfield, Nancy [46] now Mrs Basham, Alice [43] now Mrs Butt.

Lily was awarded a weekly pension for her and the two children of 22s 11d (£1.15)

He attested in Norwich on 9th December 1915 and placed on Reserves. He was No.2509 of the 4th Volunteer Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. Mobilised on 11th December 1915, No 25674, Norfolk Regiment, he gave his age at 27 years 6 months , married, occupation assistant gamekeeper. He was 5 feet 9.5 inches (176.5 cm)tall, weighed 150 lbs (68.3 kg), chest 36.5" to 40.5" (92.7 to 102.9).
Embarked Folkestone for Boulogne on 1st December 1916 and sent from 17 Infantry Brigade Depot in Etaples to join the 8th Norfolks on 13th December. A short spell off duty due to scabies in 1916 and again in 1917, then he was wounded on 10th March 1917 and admitted to No 10 General Hospital, Rouen. Passed on to No.9 Gen Hospital on 22nd March, discharged to 17 IBD at Calais on 12th April, he returned to duty on 21st April 1917 and was killed in action on 11th August.

The war diary is far too expansive about the operations from 10th to 16 August 1917 to record here, but in essence the battalion was in the Zillebeke area, and arrived at Chateau Segard at 08:30 on 10th, preparing to advance and take Inverness Copse. Having been moving around for 22 hours, they reached the front line in front of Ritz Street, when at 04:30 on 11th the Germans attacked and broke through to take a strong point. . With the assistance of some 6th Berkshire they recaptured the strong point by 06:00. From noon on the 10th to the morning of 12th they lost 1 officer killed, 7 wounded and 47 OR killed or died of wounds and 99 wounded.

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

John Wells is commemorated on the Menin Gate, panel 4

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