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Information from Clive Wood, 2008
Lance-Corporal John Spencer

11430 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters

L-Cpl Spencer
Lance-Cpl. J Spencer
From The Argus newspaper
Son of Mr John (J.P.) & Mrs Emma Spencer

Aged 22 years

Died 16th April 1916

Commemorated at Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery (Extension), Pas de Calais, France
Grave I. B.6

Born and resided at Rushden, enlisted at Northampton.
The Rushden Echo, 25th December 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Soldier Suffering From Frostbite

Pte. John Spencer, of the Sherwood Foresters, son of Councillor John Spencer, of Rushden, is suffering from frostbite. Five years ago Pte. Spencer joined the Northants Special Reserves and 4½ years ago he changed to the Sherwood Foresters. He has been in India 2½ years and was then, with others, brought back to Europe, in order to join the British Expeditionary Force on the continent. On his way back, whilst in the Red Sea, he celebrated his 21st birthday. In a letter to his parents, dated Dec. 2nd, he states that he was in hospital. Both his feet having been frostbitten. A further letter has since reached Rushden, in which he says he is getting on very well. He says there are 14 English soldiers in the hospital, and they are treated like gentlemen. Besides the English, there are French officers and men. They are, he says, well supplied with reading matter, cigarettes, etc.

The Rushden Echo Friday 1 January 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

A Dirty Lot of Fighters - Rushden Soldier's Opinion of the Germans - More Evidence of Explosive Bullets and Firing on the Red Cross - Prussian Guards Knocked Down Like Skittles - Pioneer Spencer Sustains Frostbitten Feet

"The Germans are a dirty lots of fighters, they do not hesitate to fire on the Red Cross, and furthermore they are using explosive bullets, similar to a small shell. You see a fellow get hit and subsequently find that all the flesh has been blown off his forearm". So said Pioneer John Spencer (Rushden), of the Sherwood Foresters, who has been invalided home with frostbitten feet sustained in the trenches at Ypres.

Pioneer Spencer, who is the son of Councillor John Spencer, of Rushden, had been in India with his regiment for nearly three years prior to being sent to the front. His regiment first came to England, so that he was enabled to spend two days at home before proceeding on active service. Interviewed by a representative of the "Rushden Echo" he said:-

"Upon arrival in France we spent a day or two at Harve and were then taken straight to the firing line. We were in the trenches practically before we knew where we were, and at once got to work, potting at the Germans, whose trenches were but 80 yards from ours. It was night when we got to work and scarcely realised we were on active service until we heard the bullets round our ears and saw men falling all around us. The following morning, however, the truth was brought home to us very vividly, as some of our comrades had been killed during the nights, and we could see trenches all around us, and Germans shells were bursting everywhere. The Gurkhas were on our right and the East Lancashires on our left. It was the night following that on which we arrived that the Prussian Guards tried to break through our lines. They are fine big fellows, similar to our Guards, but their imposing size availed them nothing, for, as soon as a row of them got up to charge us, our machine guns mowed them down like skittles. We didn't get at hand-to-hand grips with them, however, as they were not allowed to get within 30 yards of our trenches. Although we were preparing to charge them in the open field we never got the chance, as they never got within bayonet distance. We lost a lot of men in this engagement, as the Germans tried to shell us out before the Prussian Guards attacked, but we stuck it, and for every one of our men that was killed I should think we accounted for ten of theirs. Apparently the Prussian Guards' charge was a fine exhibition of bravery, but you never know whether German troops are being driven by their officers from the rear, and it may have been so in this case. German prisoners have told us that their officers drive them forward sat the point of a sword or pistol. After about two hours' hot fighting we managed to drive back these picked men of the Kaiser's into their trenches."

"Did you see nay particularly striking deeds of bravery?" asked our representative.

"Many", replied Pioneer Spencer, "such are of everyday occurrence, but the men who deserve the most credit for bravery are the regimental stretcher bearers, who, in carrying the wounded from the trenches, are subjected to fire from German snipers, many of whom, having broken through our lines, have secreted themselves in the rear of our trenches. These cause us much more annoyance than the snipers in front, as there is much less protection from behind. Every night a corporal and six men, comprising the best shots and most trustworthy men of the regiment go out after these snipers, and when they come in they have usually got a German helmet or rifle which signifies to us that the owner has 'gone west.'

"The only injury I have received has been frost bite, and that in itself was painful enough, but I had a very narrow escape one day. I was lying in the trenches, letting fly at the Germans, when a light shell burst right above my head. A splinter passed through the right sleeve of my overcoat, and cut and burnt the sleeve of my tunic at the elbow, but luckily did not touch my flesh. That was the nearest shave I had, and quite near enough for my liking. When I got my feet frostbitten I had been three days in the trenches, during which time it first snowed, then rained, and finally froze. I felt my feet getting numbed, and when I got up to leave the trenches I found I could only hobble. It took me four hours to walk two miles, going at a snail's gallop. At the time I could not imagine what had happened to my feet, as there was not a deal of pain, although practically no use in them. It was when I took my boots off that they started to pain me. They swelled up to twice the size, and when the blood started to circulate again it felt as if my feet were being put through the rollers of a mangle. Naturally I could not walk as all, and finally I was sent to a hospital in Paris, or rather to a private hotel whish has been fitted up as a hospital. After three weeks there I was sent to England, and after about three days in a hospital in Birmingham I was allowed to come home, arriving in Rushden on Christmas Eve, and I have thus been able to spend Christmas at home, the first time for five years."

"Do you think the war will last long?" asked our representative.

"As soon as our reinforcements get up," replied Pioneer Spencer, "you will see the Germans go back with a rush. Our men are all the time advancing even now, and we have only about a quarter of the strength in the field at the present time that we shall have in the Spring."

"Pioneer Spencer wishes us to say that his comrades at the front are getting plenty of cigarettes and tobacco, but are badly in need of matches. He says that anyone sending tobacco to the front should also send boxes of safety matches in the parcel.

The Rushden Echo Friday 12 May 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier Killed - Lance-Corpl John Spencer A Victim of the War

Much sympathy is felt throughout the town with councillor John Spencer, J.P., (chairman of the Rushden Urban Council) and Mrs Spencer, of 241 Wellingborough-road, Rushden, in the grievous blow they have sustained by the official news, which they received on Sunday, of the death in action on the western front of their eldest son, 11430, Lance-Corpl John Spencer, of the -- Sherwood Foresters. The official document, which gives the information that Lance-Corpl Spencer was killed in action on April 16th, is accompanied by the usual letter of sympathy form the King and Queen.

The sad news was made all the more distressing by the fact that Mrs Spencer had received from her son a field card, dated the same day as his death, on which it was stated that he was quite well.

The late Lance-Corpl Spencer, who was born on Sept. 15, 1893, and was thus 22 years of age, enlisted when he was but 16 years of age. For a brief period he was with the Northamptonshire Regt., but before he was 17 years of age he joined the Sherwood Foresters, and was with them up to the time of his death. He served with the colours in Ireland, and afterwards saw service in India. When war broke out he was brought home form India - in September, 1914 - with the Indian troops, and his ship was the only one which was brought to England, the others going direct to the theatre of war. It was while his vessel was in the Red Sea that he celebrated his coming-of-age. In the earlier stages of the war Lance-Corpl - then Pioneer - Spencer took part in the very severe fighting at La Bassee and in the great battle of Ypres, where he lost a great many comrades.

Afterwards he suffered from frostbite, and was in hospital in Paris, for three weeks, arriving home on December 24, 1914 - the first Christmas he had spent at home for five years. He left England again early in March, 1915, for France, and took part in many engagements, in which a number of his brave comrades fell. At one time he was in hospital in France, his eyes having been affected by enemy gas.

In January this year he again visited home on six days' leave, and then rejoined his regiment in France, being with them until the day of his death.

To show how splendidly he carried out his duty it may be mentioned that before going to India he was home on a short leave, when the railway strike broke out. He had arrived at Rushden one night, and early the next morning came a telegram for him. Leaving his breakfast untouched he went and caught the first train from Rushden and arrived at Devonport during the day, being one of the few soldiers to reach depot that day, and he was complimented on his prompt return to duty. As a matter of fact, whenever he had leave, he always re-joined in proper time. He had two good conduct stripes, was a first-class shot, and held a number of military certificates.

During the Crown Prince of Germany's visit to India he inspected the regiment with which deceased was serving, and the Crown Prince complemented them on their fine physique and splendid military training.

The deceased soldier was of quiet, studious habits, and one of his officers once said to Mr John Spencer: "I wish all the lads in my regiment were as quiet as your boy." Four of his comrades from India said they had never known his to deviate in the slightest from the path of duty.

Deceased, as a boy, was a scholar in the Moor-road school and afterwards at the Alfred-street school. On leaving school he worked for a time at Messrs Jaques and Clark's boot factory and afterwards at Messrs John Cave and Sons. Before joining the Colours he was for a while with a Kettering wheelwright and blacksmith, with the idea of learning the trade. He was formerly a scholar in the Mission Sunday School.

Mr and Mrs John Spencer and the family wish to thank all who have expressed sympathy with them in their sad bereavement. "He hath done what he could."

Wellingborough News, May 12 1916, transcribed by Clive Wood

A Double Bereavement - Rushden's Chairman loses his Second Son

We very much regret to report that Lance-Corpl. John Spencer (Sherwood Forresters) eldest son of Councillor John Spencer (chairman of Rushden Council) who resides at Wellingborough-Road, Rushden, has been killed in action at the front. The deceased soldier was born in Rushden on September 15 1893, and as a boy attended the Moor-road and Alfred-street Schools, being also connected with the Wellingborough-road Mission Sunday School. He joined the Army when only 16 years of age and spent his first few months in the Northants Regiment. He then joined the Sherwood Forresters, with whom he served in Ireland and later in India. Whilst in India his regiment was inspected by the Crown Prince of Germany, who complimented the men on their fine physique and bearing. In September 1914, Lance-Corpl. Spencer left India to take part in the war. His earliest battles were La Bassee and Ypres. He was in a Paris Hospital for three weeks suffering from frostbite and at the end of that time spent several weeks in England.

In March 1915 he rejoined his regiment and took part in many of the chief engagements in France and Flanders, where many of his old comrades were killed. At one time he was in hospital with eye trouble, caused by poisonous gas. He came home on a six days leave in January of this year, and was killed in action 'somewhere in France' on April 16th at the age of 22 years. Lce-Corpl. Spencer was a very conscientious and capable soldier, and was held in high esteem by his officers and comrades. Much sympathy will be felt with Mr & Mrs Spencer, to whom it is a second blow within a short period.

The Rushden Echo Friday 16 June 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

A Rushden Soldier's Grave - The Late Lance-Corpl J Spencer's Last Resting Place - Letter From a Comrade

Councillor John Spencer, J.P., Chariman of the Rushden Urban Council whose eldest son, Lce-Corpl J Spencer, of the Sherwood Foresters, was killed in France on April 16th, has received the following letter from Lce-Corpl H Mellows of the same regiment:-

"I expect you thought I was never going to answer your letter, but I have a chance at last. I hope you will excuse the way I write this letter, for it is very hard for me to write one of this kind, and I hope you will bear the news, as it was a good soldier's death. It was on the afternoon of April 11th when your poor son met his death by a German rifle grenade and was killed at once. Your son was in the front line trenches at the time. I am pleased to say that he was carried to a cemetery and buried there where his grave will be well looked after by the French and English people. I will promise you I will see to it every little chance I have, for I am not many yards away. I shall be pleased when this lot is over. I am the only Northamptonshire soldier left in this regiment. My parents live at 179 Mill-road, Wellingborough, and I hope to be home soon, then I will be able to explain better, than writing. I am pleased to say that your son was a steady and good soldier and was well liked by everyone in the regiment. We came home from India together. I am very bad at writing a letter, but I do hope you will read this on the bright side until I tell you myself."

The Rushden Echo Friday 7 July 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Family Bereaved - The Chairman of the Urban Council Loses three Children in Two Months

The death took place early yesterday morning of Miss Lilian Winifred Spencer, second daughter of Councillor John Spencer, J.P., chairman of the Rushden Urban Council. The young lady, who was 25 years of age, had had a painful illness, but she bore her sufferings with remarkable fortitude. She was an enthusiastic worker in connection with the Wellingborough-road Mission with which cause she had been associated from the commencement. She attended the first Sunday School in connection with that place of worship, which was then held in the Moor-road schools. For very many years she was a member of the Mission choir, and was a teacher on the Sunday school, and an active member of the mission branch of the Y.P.S.C.E., and of the Band of Hope.

In Band of Hope circles she was well known as an elocutionist of no mean ability, and she had made several public appearances as a member of the mission sketch party. Until her illness she was employed at Mr C W Horrells. Much sympathy is felt throughout the district with Mr and Mrs Spencer, who have thus suffered their third bereavement within two months, and within the past 18 months four of their family have passed away, three being of adult age. It will be remembered that Coun. Spencer's eldest son, the late Lance-Corpl John Spencer, was killed in action on April 16th this year, and they received the news a month alter. Councillor Spencer's fourth daughter, Doris Elsie, died on June 11th.

The Rushden Echo Friday 23 May 1919, transcribed by Nicky Bates

MONS STAR - One of the first awards of the Mons Star in Rushden has been sent to Mrs E Spencer, wife of Councillor John Spencer, J.P., of 241, W'boro' road, as a posthumous awards to their son, Lance-Corpl J Spencer, killed in action during the war. The star is a massive cast in bronze, and bears the deceased soldier's name on the back. With the star and ribbon the following letter was sent from the Record Office "I am directed to transmit to you the accompanying '1914 Star', which would have been conferred upon No 11430, L/Corpl J Spencer, Notts and Derby Regt., had he lived. It is now sent to you in memory of his service with the British Expeditionary Forces employed in France and Belgium between the outbreak of war and midnight Nov. 22nd.23rd, 1914. In forwarding this decoration I am commanded by the King to assure you of his Majesty's high appreciation of the service rendered. - I am, your obedient servant, P Trainer, Capt., Record Office, Lichfield.

The Roll of Honour. Marquis de Ruvigny. London, Standard Art Book Company. 1917-1918 Volume 2, page 194., transcribed by Nicky Bates

Spencer John, L-Corpl, No 11430, 1st Battalion (45th Foot), the Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham and Derbyshire Regiment). Eldest son John Spencer, of Wellingborough Road, Rushden, J.P. and chairman of Rushden Council, by his wife, Emma, dau. of William Elson; b. Rushden, co. Northampton, 15 Sept. 1985; educated County Council School there; was a blacksmith; enlisted in the 3rd Battn. Northamptonshire Regt. in Jan. 1910; was transferred to the Sherwood Foresters the following Aug.; served in Ireland and in India, where he was at the outbreak of war; was recalled with his regiment the following month; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from Nov. 1914; took part in the fighting at La Bassee and Ypres; was invalided home suffering from frostbite, at Christmas 1914; rejoining his regiment in France in March 1915; took part in many engagements; and was killed in action 16 April 1916. Buried Aux Noulette Cemetery. A comrade wrote: "He was a very good soldier, and liked by all who knew him; very quiet and conscientious, and one who will be missed much." Unm[arried].

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