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Jesse Marshall

Jesse MarshallPrivate Jesse Marshall, 12/1037, 12th (Miners) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Jesse Marshall was born in the town of Dewsbury in early 1894, the son of teamer Esli Marshall and his wife Sarah Jane, nee Scorah who married on the 7th June 1884 at Holy Innocents Church, Thornhill Lees. Esli Marshall was born in Gildersome, Leeds in 1865, but died at the early age of 39 years in 1904. His wife Sarah Jane, who was born in Hanging Heaton in 1866, remarried 32 year-old miner and widower Joseph Hudson Carr on the 27th March 1909 at St. Thomas Church, Batley when she was 43 years of age. Sarah Jane died in 1912.

Shortly afterwards, the now extended family with three of Joseph Carr's children and three of Sarah Jane's children, including Jesse Marshall moved to live at 8, School Street, Gawthorpe, Ossett. Jesse Marshall worked as a coal miner at the nearby Chidswell Colliery owned by Crawshaw and Warburton of Dewsbury.

On the 20th September 1913, Jesse Marshall married 19 year-old Lilian Hinchcliffe (1894-1951) at St. Philip the Apostle (Mission) Church, Leeds Road, Dewsbury. At the time, 19 year-old Jesse was living at 8, Edge Road, Thornhill and was working as coal miner at Ingham's Combs Colliery in Thornhill. Lilian gave birth to a son, named Jesse after his father on the 24th August 1915 in Dewsbury.

After Jesse's death, Lillian remarried Alfred Goldthorpe (1893-1951) on the 24th August 1918 at Haworth, Keighley.

Jesse Marshall volunteered for the army service and joined the 12th (Miners) Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, probably before December 1915, because he served in Egypt before moving to the Western Front in 1916.

The battalion's history dates from 5th September 1914 when the War Office authorised the West Yorkshire Coalowners Association to raise a Miners Battalion for the King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry). After beginning its life at Leeds, the battalion trained first at Farnley Park, Otley and then at Burton Leonard, near Ripon. By this time it had been allocated to 31st Division as its pioneer battalion. After completing its training in Yorkshire, the battalion moved to Fovant, Salisbury in October 1915 before embarking for Egypt on 6th December. After little more than two months in Egypt, the 12th K.O.Y.L.I. was ordered to France to take part in the planned summer offensive on the Somme.

Private Jesse Marshall died on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the 1st July 1916.

No description of the 1st of July 1916 attack on Serre by 31st Division on the first day of the Battle of the Somme would be complete without mention of the part played by the division's pioneer battalion: the 12th (Miners) Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

The failure of 31st Division's attack at Serre in the face of overwhelming enemy artillery and machine gun fire is well known. The pioneers went into the attack equipped similarly to the assault infantry, the chief difference being that the pioneers also carried a pick or a shovel, but only 170, rather than 220 rounds of ammunition.

On the extreme left of the main British attack, the plan for the opening day of the Somme offensive required 94th and 93rd Brigades of 31st Division to capture the hill-top fortress village of Serre. Prior to the attack, five saps (A, B, C, D and E) were dug at intervals along the divisional front, each running from the front line to within 30 or 40 yards of the German lines; one hour before the assault, all the saps were to be opened up. As soon as the infantry were through their first objectives, "B" and "C" Companies of the 12th K.O.Y.L.I. were to start constructing communication trenches leading from the sap heads to the captured German lines. "A" and "C" Companies had been allocated to 94th and 93rd Brigades respectively, their task being to establish strong points at selected positions in the captured German trenches.

Wounded British Soldiers at the Battle of the Somme

Above: Wounded British soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

The failure of 31st Division's attack at Serre in the face of overwhelming enemy artillery and machine gun fire is well-known. On the 94th Brigade front, two platoons from "A" Company of the 12th K.O.Y.L.I. followed the 12th York & Lancasters (Sheffield City Battalion) and 11th East Lancashires (Accrington Pals) into the attack; as many as four out of every five men from these two platoons were wounded or killed.

On the front of 93rd Brigade, at least one platoon of "D" Company of the 12th K.O.Y.L.I. suffered heavy casualties on following the 15th West Yorkshires (Leeds Pals) into the attack. Sgt.-Maj. George Cussins, moving forward some minutes later with "B" Coy. of the 16th West Yorkshires (1st Bradford Pals) reported afterwards: "I found in the front line, a good many of the 15th W. Yorks, what was left of the D.L.I. Co. attached to us, also a few of the K.O.Y.L.I."

In the hours that followed, "B" and "C" Companies of the 12th K.O.Y.L.I., together with the remaining platoons of "A" and "D" Companies "had to rebuild trenches that were crumbling under heavy gunfire, forward supplies of ammunition, dig new trenches, and help in the later hours to save some of the wounded." The pioneers reassembled at their assembly posts at 4.30 in the afternoon. 197 officers and men were reported as killed, wounded or missing, though the return of eight missing men on 4th July brought the number of casualties down to 189.

Jesse Marshall was among those 189 casualties on that terrible first day of slaughter. He is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps in the Somme region of France and contains 1.1128 WW1 casualties. Colincamps is a village 11 kilometres north of Albert.

Private Jesse Marshall was posthumously was awarded the British and Victory medals, as well as the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before the 31st of December 1915 posthumously.


Above: The WW1 Memorial Plaque at St. Philip's Church, Dewsbury which includes Jesse Marshall.

Jesse's elder brother William Marshall, born in 1887, also served during WW1 as Private 63940 in The Labour Corps and was discharged on the 20th March 1919 (with a disability).


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission