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1880 - 1916

Early Life

JOHN DEVENISH (also known as Jonathan Devonish) was born on the 14th April 1880 in Great Waltham, the son of Jo(h)nathan and Emily (also known as Emma) (née Wallis). His parents were married in the summer of 1877 in the Chelmsford area. Emily was born in Felsted and Jonathan was born and lived in Brick Cottage, Chatham Green, Great Waltham. Jonathan was employed for many years by Mr Lewis Campen at Stonage Farm.


Their first child, Sarah Ann was born shortly after their marriage in 1877. Census and Parish records show that Emily and Jonathan had seven children in total. John was their second child and first son. He was followed by two sisters, Florence Emily (b.1884) and Beatrice Ellen (b.1886), then three younger brothers, James (b.1892), Arthur (b.1894) and Ernest Robert (b.1898).

In 1881, the Census shows the family was living at Chatham Green, with Emily’s mother Sarah, a widow, staying with them. John (called Jonathan in the Census) was aged one year.

In 1891 his father was working as an ordinary Agricultural Labourer and John and his two younger sisters were at school. In 1901, John was now an Agricultural Labourer aged 20 years old.  

Military Life

In 1911, John Devonish, is shown on the Census as being in the Military, aged 26 years (he was 31 years old), as a Private, Regimental No. 7991, serving with the 2nd Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment in India. The Regiment was sent to India in 1905 and arrived home in the UK in December 1914. At some point John was transferred to the 8th Battalion, which had recently formed at Beverley on 22 September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 62nd Brigade, 21st Division. On the 9th September 1915 the Brigade landed at Boulogne.


According to the Battalion War Diary, 8th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment took part in the main attack at Loos in the Battle of The Somme on the 25th September 2015. They were fighting in the SE corner of Loos village and also had two companies on the slack heaps throughout the 25th and 26th September 1915. In November, the Regiment transferred to the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division which engaged in various actions on the Western Front.

On 29th and 30th June 1916 the 8th East Yorks were training at Saint Martin Au Laert with the 8th Brigade Machine Gun Company.


On the 14th July the Battalion were holding their position at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. There were heavy bombardments by the enemy, of the trenches and back area with gas and Lachrymatory Shells. The Diary of the 8th Battalion, thus describes this bombing episode: "12.15 p.m. Bombing party of 2nd Royal Scots appeared on our left. They advanced quickly and carried all before them. As they advanced our men joined in and the fight was over at once. But of the two platoons of the 8th East Yorkshires, who had penetrated the enemy's wire in the initial attack, nothing further is recorded. Perhaps there was no more to tell than that they died gallantly fighting to the very last.
The position was now consolidated. At 2 p.m. the Battalion began to reorganise and count its losses, the latter were terrible. “The following," records the Diary," were the known casualties. Officers: killed 8, wounded 11. Other ranks: killed 81, wounded 218, missing 141. Total 19 officers and 440 other ranks."

Death and Memorial

John was killed in action on the 14th July 1916 and was 36 years old. His body was missing and never recovered.

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He is ‘Remembered with Honour’ on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 2C, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and built between 1928 and 1932. The Memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932, by the Prince of Wales. The Thiepval Memorial is on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929) in the Somme, France.

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John is also remembered on the War Memorial in Great Waltham.

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UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929


Jonathan, his father was his next of kin and he received the total sum of £22.16s.11d on the 3rd November 1916 with a further War Gratuity payment on the 23rd November 1919 of £11.


John was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and he qualified on the 8th September 1914 for the 1914 Star, but his father had to make an application for the Clasp, which was then authorised on the 26th February 1920.

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His younger brother James, serving with the 5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment was killed in action in Palestine in 1917.

His mother, Emma (Emily) died on the 13th September 1924. She was struck by a car whilst crossing the main Braintree Road in front of a steam lorry, at Chatham Green and died later that day.


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