Corporal John Arthur BAYLES

 Regiment:                                      Bedfordshire Regimentlogo-cwgc2

Unit:                                                 2nd Battalion

Service Number:                          13507

Date of Death:                               2 July 1918 – Killed in Action

Age:                                                   24 years

Cemetery / Memorial:              Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension

Grave / Panel Ref.:                    IV. H. 6

Home Life:

John was born in Metheringham, Lincolnshire, in the December quarter 1893, the son of John Thomas (Cycle Repairer and Agent) and Julia (née Topping Bayles. He had an older brother, Ernest William, and a younger brother, Thomas Henry (see Footnote below).

In 1901 (Census RG 13/3058) they were living on Middle Street, Metheringham. Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/19710) they were still in business and 17 year old John was “Assisting in the Business”.

On 16 April 1918 “The Sleaford Gazette” of 6 April 1918 reported on John’s marriage to Ethel Mary Wilson, on Easter Monday, 1st April, in the Wesleyan Church, Ruskington.  She was the only daughter of “… the worthy and esteemed postmaster, J. W. Wilson, and Mrs. Wilson“. As well as being Postmaster, John William and Louisa (née Couling) Wilson also ran a Bakers and Grocer’s shop on the corner of Post Office Street and Church Street (now Church Street and Chapel Street). They had a younger son, William Brewin [see Footnote below].

The bride, who was charmingly attired in a dress of tussore silk, trimmed with Old Irish lace and chiffon, wore a veil of Irish lace with orange blossoms, and carried a sheaf of Easter lilies, was given away by her father. She was attended by two bridesmaids, one being Miss Edna Kershaw, Dewsbury, Yorks. who wore a pretty dress of mauve silk and picture hat, and carried a sheaf of carnations, together with a gold regimental badge brooch, the gift of the bridegroom. The other bridesmaid was little Miss Phyllis Spinks, of Ruskington, who looked very sweet in a dress of pink silk, and carried a basket of flowers, and also wore a gold and silver chain pendant the gift of the bridegroom The best man was Mr. Harry Moss of Sleaford, and the officiating Minister was the Rev. W. E. Lee, of Metheringham.

After John was killed in action, Ethel had John’s ‘Effects’ returned to her, in October 1918, valued at £11 17s [£11.85, equivalent in value to about £830 today – 2023]. Effective from 13 January 1919 she was awarded a Pension of 15 s. per week [£0.75 is equivalent to about £48 per week today].

On 6 September 1919 Ethel re-married Frank Harold Nichols from Goodmayes, Essex, in All Saints’ Church, Ruskington. Later in the day they left for their honeymoon in Skegness, Lincolnshire. [‘The Sleaford Gazette‘ 13 September 1919] In December 1919 received a further £19 [about £1,200 today] as War Gratuity.

Ethel died on 8 February 1945, aged 50, and was buried in Grave 53, New North Border, Ruskington Cemetery. Frank died on 22 January 1948, aged 61, and was buried with her.

John’s parents continued to live in Metheringham until their deaths, John Thomas in September 1942, and Julia in June 1950.

Military Service:

On 13 July 1918 “The Sleaford Gazette“, when publishing news of his death, reported that John had enlisted at Metheringham, where he had a business, on 4 September 1914. On 20 December 1915, the Battalion left the 21st Brigade for the 30th Division and the Bedfordshires were moved into the 89th Brigade of that division.

In 1918 the Battalion was heavily engaged in the First Battles of the Somme 1918 (also called the German Spring Offensives, Operation Michael or Kaiserschlacht), specifically the Battle of St Quentin, the actions at the Somme crossings and the Battle of Rosières in March. But we know from the above description that John was home on leave in April 1918 for his wedding and at the time of his death just three months later had advanced to ‘Acting Sergeant’. Being a Corporal at the time of his wedding would suggest prior service ‘in the field’.

In an Appendix to the War Diary, entitled: “Account of Operations at Bouzincourt Spur 30th June to 3rd July 1918” an account was written for the circumstances at the time of John’s death:

At 2.0 a.m. on the 2nd July they were relieved by “D” Company under Captain [Phillip Julius] Reiss MC, MM.  A quieter day followed but at 9.25 p.m. after two hours heavy shelling, in the course of which the enemy obliterated a large portion and knocked out two Lewis Gun teams, the enemy attacked under a very heavy 5.9″ barrage and succeeded in recapturing their original front line In spite of a magnificent resistance put up by a party under Captain Reiss and Lieut.Hughes. The total Casualties during the attack were 7 officers and 146 Other Ranks.

On 13 July 1918 “The Sleaford Gazette” published a letter received on the 5th by John’s wife, Ethel, from his Regiment:

Bedford Regt., B.E.F., 5/7/18. Dear Mrs. Bayles, It is with very great regret I have to write to tell you of the death of your husband. He was one of my best N.C.O.’s, and could ill be spared, as he was absolutely reliable on all occasions and under all conditions; and I can assure you that in his last hours we had some of the worst we ever have had. All I can tell you is this, that he was killed instantaneously, and could not have suffered any pain. He has been buried in a cemetery behind the lines, and a fitting memorial put up to his memory. Believe me yours very sincerely, K. Ritchie, Lt., A/CC Co., 2nd Bedford Regt.

The Gazette” added: “He has been twice wounded and his last visit to the front, was the third time he had gone out. The brave corporal’s services extending nearly to the full period of the war, have been such as to make those near and dear to him proud of his record, and to men of his character the country owes a debt of gratitude. ”

Though not a resident of Ruskington, John was married for a short time to a resident, who after her re-marriage, continued to live in the village until her death. John is not commemorated on any of Ruskington War Memorials, but is commemorated on the Metheringham Memorial.

 

John’s wife, Ethel Mary (née Wilson) was the older sister of W/T Operator William Brewin Wilson, who died as a Prisoner of War on 25 November 1916, aged 20.

John’s younger brother, Private 10173 Thomas Henry Bayles, served with 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.

He was killed in action on 7 August 1915, aged 20. He has no known Grave and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

 

 

Sources:

  • The Sleaford Gazette”  – 6 April 1918; 13 July 1918
  • “The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War” – “2nd Battalion
  • “The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War” – “1918 War Diary
  • War Memorials Online

 

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