John Lee

3248 Private John Lee
1/6th Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment

Later 21823 Private John Lee 148th Machine Gun Corps
Paul Lee, writes about his Great Uncle:-

John was born in 1893 at 20 Edward Street Bradley (pronounced Braidlee-as it would be around these parts) He was my paternal Grandfathers brother – which apparently makes him my Great Uncle. My Grandfather was also born in the same house and lived there into his 70’s – when they moved to a flat – about 100 yards up the road.
John however was not so lucky as my Grandfather – my Grandfather returned from The Great War and married my ‘Nan’ in 1919 and went on to have 11 children and (at the last count ) some 20 odd Grandchildren.

John enlisted at Bilston in October 1914, as Number 3248 in the Territorial Force 6th Battalion of The South Staffs Regiment.
The 1/6th Battalion The South Staffs Regiment TF on the outbreak of war was at the Drill Hall in Wolverhampton, part of the Staffordshire Brigade, North Midlands Division. On the 3 March 1915 the battalion disembarked at Le Havre.

Johns Brigade and Division were renamed 137th Brigade 46th (North Midlands) Division in May 1915.
46th (North Midland) Division were part of the Territorial Force with its H.Q. at Lichfield.
The 46th Division was the first complete territorial division to arrive in any theatre of war.
The 46th division was involved in the following actions during 1915:
30/31 July – The Liquid-fire Attack Hooge (139 Bde & Artillery)
13/15 October – The Battle of Loos Hohenzollern Redoubt ( XI Corps , First Army )

137th Brigade Machine Gun Company.

Each infantry battalion had a section of 2 machine guns. Within each brigade the eight guns were centralized and on 7 March 1916 the 137th MG Coy was formed from the machine gun sections of 1/5th South Staffs, 1/6th South Staffs, 1/5th North Staffs and 1/6th North Staffs.

The 137th MG Coy War Diary reads:

25 February, the company assembles at Les Mazares.
1 March 1916 the Company officially formed.
The War Diary then reports the company moved almost every day from Les Mazares to Hardinval, Hem, Rebreuve, Magnicourt, Ecoivres and:
11 March took their guns into the trenches East of Neuville-St-Vaast.
The company was relieved on 20 April 1916 by the 75th MG Coy (25th Division).
Between that day and 6 May 1916 the company moved to Pommier via Bailleul-aux-Corneillee, Ivergny and St Amand.
Once at Pommier, two sections of the company relieved 143rd MG Coy, 48th Division in the trenches at Fomquevillers.
One section went to the Brigade HQ at La Haie.
On 8 May one section took over trenches to the left from the 37th Division and the section at Brigade HQ moved up to the trenches.
11 May the Quartermaster’s Stores and transport moved to Souastre.
18 May the company was relieved by 139th MG Coy.
During June the company moved several times. They were preparing for the great attack that was due at the end of June. In fact, the assault was delayed for two days.
24 to 28 June: bombardment of Gommecourt.

1 July, the war diary entry reports: Z Day, attack on Gommecourt.

The First day of the Battles of the Somme!

1 July Gommecourt (VII Corps, Third Army)

The company suffered two officers wounded, one other rank killed and twelve wounded. No Other Ranks names were given in the war diary.

John is known to have served later in the 148th MG Coy, thus we may assume he was injured and left the 137th MG Coy. During which action or whilst on routine duty in the trenches that he was injured we may never know.

Men of corps such as the MGC rather than regiments such as the South Staffs, having left due to sickness or injury would not necessarily return to their original unit.

Having recovered, perhaps having returned to the UK, or even had spent a lengthy time in a British hospital in France John was posted to:

148th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed in the 148th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division on 6 February 1916 originally from the machine gun sections of the 1/4th KOYLI, 1/5th KOYLI, 1/4th York & Lancs and 1/5th York & Lancs.

49th (West Riding) Division (146th, 147th and 148th Brigades) was a pre-war Territorial Force formation with its headquarters in York. The division proceeded to France and by 19 April 1915 had concentrated behind the Lys.

The 49th Division fought in two major actions in 1915.

In 1916 it was engaged in:


1/3 July Battle of Albert

14/17 July Battle of Bazentin Ridge

23 July/18 Aug & Battle of Pozieres Ridge
27 August/3 Sept

15/22 September Battle of Flers-Courcelette

Captain KRG Browne MC, 3rd Essex Regiment took command of the 148th MG Company on 5 April 1917 from Major JGE Rideal, York and Lancaster Regiment.

The 49th Division was not involved in a major action in the first half of 1917 or in early July 1917.

The War Diary of the 148th Machine Gun Company under Captain Browne for early July 1917 reads as follows:

Le Dumes
1 July 1917. Sector very quiet, no activity to report during the night the usual indirect fire targets engaged.
2 July 1917. Sector quiet during the day. One of our 12 inch Howitzers was firing during the day from a position near our transport lines. Enemy retaliated during the morning with 4.2 inch shrapnel and High Explosive, and later in the afternoon with 5.9s. We moved all our horses out of the lines and put them into a field by Coy HQ.

During the night the enemy opened an intense Trench Mortar barrage on our front line north of Neuve Chapelle at 1.10 am. The bombardment lasted from 1.10 am until 3 am when it ceased. It was very intense until about 2 am when it slackened until it finally ceased.

Immediately the bombardment commenced our Machine Gun opened on the enemy’s front line firing on their “raid line” and continued to fire until the bombardment finished.

We had one man killed Pte Lee J 31823 (sic) who was hit through the neck by a machine gun bullet.

8,000 rounds were fired

John Lee aged 24 is recorded as having been killed in action on 3 July 1917 whilst serving in the 148th MG Company.


One Response to “John Lee”

  1. Christine Hawthorne Says:

    Hi, My grandfather was in the 1/6th South Staffs and went into the machine gun corps, incidentally as did my father in WW2! My grandfather name was Harold Cecil Lewnes,it seems strange our relatives could possibly have served together and known one another! My grandfather was gassed, not sure where or when, and suffered lifelong problems with breathing, asthma and he had TB after the war. This has been very interesting to read, I would like to try and get granddad service records, thank you for sharing the information.

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