John ("Jack") George Butteris
John George Butteris is not commemorated on public memorials in Dartmouth but is on our database because his death was announced in the Dartmouth Chronicle. His grandfather and grandmother, Valentine and Emma Butteris, were longstanding residents of Dartmouth; Valentine worked for the Dartmouth Chronicle for many years.
John George Butteris was born on 21st November 1896 in Norwood, London, and baptised at Holy Innocents, South Norwood, on 5th June 1896. He was the second son and third child of Sidney George Butteris and his wife Martha Isabel Menzies.
Sidney was born in Dartmouth in 1863. His father, Valentine Butteris, (Jack's grandfather) was born in Plymouth, where he began his working life as a printer's apprentice. He married Emma Eden Whiting in Bristol in 1846, and their first two children, Ellen and Henry, were born in Bristol, though they were baptised at St Saviour's, Dartmouth, in 1851. When the 1851 Census recorded the family living in New Road, Dartmouth, Valentine's occupation was "Printer and Stationer" - but the scope of his activities expanded rapidly. By 1856, the Post Office Directory for Dartmouth listed him as "bookseller, printer, proprietor and publisher of the "Dartmouth Observer" newspaper, and agent to Unity Fire and Life, and Church of England Fire and Life Assurance Companies", with his address given as Assembly Rooms, Duke Street.
An early publication, in 1852, was "Butteris's Guide to the Dart, Dartmouth and the Neighbourhood", published in Dartmouth and London. In this he referred to the house in which he was living:
A remarkable ceiling may be seen in the house occupied by Mr Butteris. It represents the "Root of Jessie" (sic) with his descendants branching of from him in succession until the genealogy ends in the Virgin Mary and our Saviour.
The house is now part of the building occupied by Dartmouth Museum.
The Butteris family expanded also. Arthur Valentine was born in 1852, followed by Charles in 1853. Sadly Charles lived only 2 days, and was buried on 2nd November 1853 at St Saviour's. Fanny Jane was born in 1854, but died aged 5 years and 6 months, in 1859. Charles Earnest was born in 1856, Claudina in 1858, and Edward George in 1861 - sadly he too died young, aged 10 months. Sidney was born in 1863 and Frank William, the youngest, in 1868.
Valentine's newspaper, the Dartmouth Observer (which began as the Dartmouth Advertiser), lasted only a few years. In about 1860, it was absorbed by the Dartmouth Chronicle, and Valentine became sub-editor of the Chronicle instead. In 1871 the Butteris family lived in Union Street and Valentine described himself as "Auctioneer and printer"; by 1881, they had moved to Charles Street and Valentine was a "Compositor and Journalist".
Valentine and Emma's oldest son Henry went into the printing trade like his father, as did Arthur. Both left Dartmouth for London. Charles became a salesman, working as a commercial traveller, and also left Dartmouth for Camberwell. Sidney joined the Post Office. In 1881, he was a Postmaster's Assistant. Frank seems to have struck out on a different path - he joined the Royal Navy in 1889 as an Engine Room Artificer, reaching the rank of Chief ERA by the time he was demobilised in 1919.
By the time of the 1891 Census, Sidney had moved to London, where he was living in lodgings in Camberwell and working as a telegraphist. Valentine and Emma had moved into Albert House, New Road, and was still at work as a "Journalist and Reporter". On 22nd December 1891, he died, still "in harness", and was buried at St Clement's Townstal. The Dartmouth Chronicle wrote:
Our obituary this week records the decease of Mr Valentine Butteris, who for above twenty years was on the staff of the Chronicle. He will be remembered by many of our readers as the author of the series of papers by the "Hermit of the Tower" which excited much interest during the Church Controversy in the incumbency of the Rev J P Foster. He was a hater of all cant and hypocrisy, and denounced it in scathing terms. He may be said to have passed away in harness, as his last contribution, "The Old Buffers Club", appeared in these columns only a fortnight since. He was for some years in business as a printer and auctioneer, and started a paper known as the "Dartmouth Advertiser" which however had but a short career. With his decease a well-known figure in the local history passes to the great majority.
Emma continued to live in Albert House until she died in 1917, with her son Frank (when not at sea) and her unmarried daughter Ellen. Henry also returned from London to live at Albert House after he retired and was widowed.
On May 30th 1892, Sydney married Martha Isabella Menzies, at St Mary Magdalene Peckham. She was the daughter of Thomas and Margaret Menzies. Thomas Menzies had come to London from Scotland. When Martha was born he was the clerk at a biscuit factory; by the time of her marriage, her father's occupation was described as "commercial manager". Sydney and Martha made their home in South London. Their first child, Margaret Eden (after her grandmother), was born in 1893 in Dulwich; Sydney Thomas, also in Dulwich, in 1894; and John George (or Jack) in 1896. In the 1901 Census, Sydney, Martha and the three children were recorded at 254 Whitehouse Lane, South Norwood. Sydney continued his career in the Post Office. In 1901 he was a Counter Clerk and Telegraphist.
By 1911, the family had moved further out of London to Sydenham. Sydney was now a telegraph overseer in the Post Office. Margaret had followed her father and was at the forefront of modern communications as a telephone operator with the "National telephone company"; Sidney Thomas was a boy clerk in the Civil Service. Jack, aged 14, was still at school. There had been two further additions to the family - William Alfred Henry, in 1907; and Reginald Frank, in 1910.
Jack's service papers have not survived but his service number, "G/2669", indicates that he joined as one of Kitchener's volunteers, for war service only, most probably in late September/early October 1914. "Soldiers Died in the Great War" records that he lived in Norwood and enlisted in Lambeth, in The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. He was not quite eighteen, the minimum age for enlistment in the Army. The Divisional History states that the 7th Queens "were practically all Surrey men".
The 7th Battalion of The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment arrived in France on 27th July 1915, totalling, all ranks, 971 men, 31 horses (including 8 attached from the Army Service Corps), 42 mules and 3 Lewis machine guns. They were part of the 55th Infantry Brigade and the 18th (Eastern) Division, and were early arrivals on the Somme, where the British were taking over the line from the French.
By 8th August they were in billets at Dernancourt, south of Albert, on the Ancre. The following day they went into the trenches occupied by 1st Norfolk Regiment, for their first instruction about life in the front. Their first deaths on the Somme occurred well before 1916 - on 12th August, "A" Company was "entrenching at night under rifle and machine gun fire" and two men were wounded, one of whom (Pte T Brimblecombe) died the following day; and on 13th August, three men were wounded by "the accidental discharge of a rifle in a shelter in the trenches", one of whom (Alfred Allan Vokes) died of his wound. They took over the trenches on their own on 22nd August, and remained there until 4th September, during which they suffered 4 killed and 17 wounded.
On 14th September they went back into the line at Becourt, near the "Tambour", a part of the front line opposite the village of Fricourt, which was part of the German defensive line. This was an area where both sides were attempting to mine each other's front line - the 9th Devons would later occupy the same area (see the story of Robert Willing).
So called "rest periods" often involved "mining fatigues", shifting earth for Royal Engineers tunnelling companies. On 15th September, at 3.15 in the afternoon, the Germans exploded a mine, and a shelter was reported to have fallen in burying some of the men. Captain Hebeler and Lt Howard went to investigate but were hit by a trench-mortar bomb, killing Lt Howard and mortally wounding Captain Hebeler, who died the following day. On 20th October, seven men attached to 55th Brigade Mining Section were killed when cut off in a sap leading to a mine and were gassed; and on 5th November, at 5am, the Germans exploded a mine which destroyed a British listening post and killed three men; six miners were also killed.
The 7th Queen's continued in this part of the line through December and January. On 27th January the War Diary included a summary of "various casualties occuring in the Battalion since embarkation":
|Total||Returned to Duty||Actual Wastage|
|Died of wounds||-||2||-||-||-||2|
(remained at duty)
It will be seen that the main cause of loss of men during this period was sickness, though the number of men killed was more than one per week.
February was a fairly quiet month. The Diary records that the 55th Company Machine Gun Corps joined the Brigade on 12th (other records say the 13th). The Brigade Machine Gun Company, part of the Machine Gun Corps, brought together the machine gun sections of the infantry Battalions in the Brigade, namely:
- 7th Bn Queens (Royal West Surreys)
- 7th Bn Buffs (East Kents)
- 8th Bn East Surreys
- 7th Bn Queen's Own (Royal West Kents)
When the guns and gun teams were withdrawn from the battalions, they were replaced by light Lewis machine guns - the War Diary shows that when they arrived in France in July 1915, 7th Queen's already had three. By 1st July 1916, numbers of Lewis machine guns at Battalion level had increased to 16, with a detachment of four guns for each company.
In the announcement of his death in the Dartmouth Chronicle (see below), Jack Butteris was described as "machine gunner". However, he does not appear to have been a member of the Machine Gun Corps, which suggests that he was a member of one of the Lewis gun sections in the Battalion. For more on the 55th Brigade Machine Gun Company, see the story of Robert Hunt).
In March, the 7th Queen's marched to Bois de Tailles and then on to Suzanne, to a new role, protecting the Somme marshes. Here the Battalion was at the southernmost point of the British sector of the line, their neighbours the other side of the river being the French. Shortly after their arrival in the sector, on 3rd April, two men were killed and two wounded, as the Battalion was relieved in the trenches. The Battalion suffered further casualties on 2nd May (one killed, two wounded, one of whom died of his wounds) when an enemy shell pierced the roof of a shelter at Fargny Mill. Fargny was the very end of the British line, being a small hamlet on the river, south-east of Maricourt. The German line was a very short distance away, at Curlu.
On 4th May, the Battalion went into billets in Bray, apart from one company left in Suzanne. The following day one man was accidentally drowned "whilst washing at the River". All Companies were "on fatigue at night laying water pipe from Suzanne to Maricourt". They remained "on fatigue" for most of May. As this illustrates, much of the task of the men brought early to the Somme was to prepare the massive infrastructure required - not just strengthening the front line trenches, but building ammunition dumps, billets, camps, railways, casualty clearing stations and hospitals, improving roads, and in this case, ensuring a regular supply of clean water, essential for both men and animals.
On 23rd May, the Battalion left Bray and went by train from Maricourt to Piquigny, west of Amiens (the War Diary says that "the sick and the lame proceeded to Picquigny by Barge"). The Battalion began the process of training for the attack and there was much coming and going amongst the officers (the Diary says very little about what the men were doing). On 9th June they made the reverse journey from Picquigny to Mericourt and went into billets at Billon Wood and Bronfay Farm, between Suzanne and Carnoy. On 11th June they were in the line nearby. Despite the build up going on elsewhere, things were fairly quiet - during this time they suffered four wounded only. They went into billets in Bray on 23rd June for their final preparations, as the preliminary bombardment for the major action began.
At this point, there is a gap in the 7th Queen's War Diary's day by day account, but a separate report provides an account of what happened on 1st July.
The 18th Division, of which the 55th Brigade was a part, was part of XIII Corps, which was responsible for the southernmost sector of the British assault at the Somme. Next door to the right were the French. Next door to the left was 7th Division, part of XV Corps (and amongst them, Robert Willing in the 9th Bn Devonshire Regiment). In this sector, the line ran west-east, before turning south around Maricourt to run down to the Somme, where the 7th Queen's had spent much of the previous few months.
As elsewhere along the Somme front, the German "front line" was considerably more than a line, being a fully developed trench system consisting in itself of three lines about 200 yards apart, linked together by communication trenches and incorporating several villages, which had become fortresses. All was well-constructed; in the trenches there were many deep dugouts able to accommodate an entire garrison, whilst the cellars of the houses in the villages had been strengthened, extended and connected to form an extensive underground system. Also within the front line system, or close to it, were trench-based strong points. In the sector faced by the 18th Division, there were several such strong points, such as the Glatz Redoubt and the Pommier Redoubt, constructed so as to break up any attack across the front line. Behind them was the fortified village of Montauban. However, the front line had been disturbed by previous mine warfare in front of Carnoy earlier in 1916, and so instead of a continuous line, there was instead a mixture of barbed-wire obstacles and machine-gun strong points in the old craters.
Behind the front line system was a second-line system, of similar proportions and complexity. In this sector, the second-line system ran along the Bazentin Ridge, between the villages of Longeuval and Bazentin. The aim on the first day, however, was to take the whole of the front line system, including Montauban, as far forward (ie northward) as a long trench called Montauban Alley, which connected back to the German second-line system. The first objective was the trench called the Pommiers Line, which was ordered to be held "at all costs".
All three of the 18th Division Brigades were in line for the assault, 54th on the left, 53rd in the middle, and 55th on the right. The 7th Queen's were the leading Battalion on the left of 55th Brigade, with 8th Bn East Surreys on the right. Next to 7th Queen's on their left was 8th Bn Norfolk Regiment, of 53rd Brigade.
Lewis machine guns sections advanced with their companies. It is not known to which company Jack belonged, and there is no reference to the machine gun detachments of the companies in the War Diary.
In this sector, the preliminary British bombardment had been successful, and very little front line German artillery was still functioning. Nonetheless there was still stiff resistance from the German front line.
The War Diary provides the following "short report" of the action on 1st July from Major Kemp Welch, the Battalion's Commanding Officer, dated 9th July 1916:
While holding the Brigade battle front for two days immediately before the assault, the Battalion had lost 40 Casualties and had become somewhat exhausted owing to enemy shelling and lack of sleep owing to constant clearing of front trenches owing to our bombardment and other activities ...
7.30am: At zero the whole Battalion moved forward. Heavy rifle and Machine Gun Fire was at once opened on the Battalion, coming from the east end of the Crater area, and Breslau Support and Back Trench. "D" Company [on the left] suffered very severely from machine gun fire from the Craters, only about 20 men reaching Breslau Support...
7.35am: "B" Company ... joined "A" and "D" in Breslau Support. The three platoons on the left of this Company suffered very severe casualties from rifle and machine gun fire in the Craters ... "A", "B" and "D" companies were, from this time onward, hotly engaged in Breslau Support ...
7.50am: "C" Company [which was the Battalion reserve] advanced ... the right platoons suffered very severely particularly from Machine Gun fire from point 91.
7.55am: "C" Company joined remainder of Battalion in Breslau Support ... the severe losses suffered by the left flank ... caused a wide gap ... which was not filled till late in the afternoon ... From now onwards the Battalion .... was definitely held up by Back Trench. The East Surreys, on the right, moving on at about 8.45am, the connection [with other British units] was not maintained to either right or left.
8.30am: No news received at Battalion Report Centre from any Company. Captain G H H Scott, commanding fourth company, went forward to attempt to find his Company and report situation, but was unfortunately killed before reaching German lines.
9.15am: Message received at Battalion Report Centre that East end of Craters remained untaken. Stokes Gun brought into action and Craters reported to be cleared of the enemy at 9.40am.
The resistance from the position in the Craters also caused problems for the 55th Machine Gun Company, who were attempting to advance behind the infantry. See the story of Robert Hunt. According to the Divisional History, 7th Buffs had the task of clearing the Craters:
The 6thBavarians, who defended the craters, fought finely, and it was one and a half hours before their resistance was broken. It was the crater that saw most of the bayonet fighting. Dead British and Boche [sic], in couples, were found afterwards, each man transfixed by the other's bayonet.
A runner was then sent forward from Battalion Report Centre to try to find out what was going on, who was able to return with a reasonably accurate report at 11.30am. Major Kemp Welch then went forward himself.
His report continues with what he found:
11.45 am: ... About 100 men of the Battalion were in Breslau Support ... they were not in touch [with other units] on either flank ... the advance was being held up by enemy holding Back Trench. They appeared to be of considerable strength with Machine Guns and kept up continuous rifle fire at any man who showed himself in Breslau Support. A Stokes Gun ... was with the Battalion, but out of action due to missing base plate. This gun was not ready for action until after 1pm ... No reinforcements had been received ... A few men of the Battalion had got mixed with the East Surreys and moved up with them to Pommiers Line.
12.45pm: A platoon of the Royal Sussex Pioneers ... was brought into line with the Battalion.
1.0pm: Lt D R Heaton collected a bombing party ... and advanced up Middle Avenue. On reaching point 91 they bombed the junction of Back Trench and Middle Avenue and simultaneously the Battalion [plus the Pioneers and two platoons of D Company, 7th Buffs] advanced to the attack from Breslau Support. The Germans holding Back Trench at once left their trenches and surrendered, numbering about 160 ...
By 2pm the Battalion had reached the Montauban-Mametz road and men who had got mixed up with the East Surreys rejoined, bringing the strength of the Battalion on this line to about 200. Part of Montauban Alley, the Division's objective, had been taken but part was still in enemy hands. On the left, there was as yet no contact with 53rd Brigade, and 7th Buffs (East Kents) sent over two further platoons to help fill the gap.
By 5pm another base plate had evidently been found for the Stokes Gun, for it came into action, and artillery fire was also brought in. With this assistance the rest of Montauban Alley was taken. At 6.45pm, according to Major Kemp Welch, 7th Queen's made contact with 53rd Brigade and "the Battalion now consolidated the length of Montauban Alley which it had gained and occupied it during the night".
The 18th Division had achieved their objectives, and was able to link with the neighbouring 7th Division on their left, who had also achieved theirs.
Death and Burial
Due to the missing pages of the 7th Queen's War Diary, we have no information about what happened during the days immediately following the attack. There appears to be some confusion about the date and circumstances of Jack's death.
The Dartmouth Chronicle of 14th July 1916 carried the following announcement and short piece:
Butteris - July 2nd, Killed in action, Jack G Butteris, machine gunner, second son of S G Butteris, late of Dartmouth.
Killed in Action - We regret to hear that Jack G Butteris, machine gunner, second son of Mr S G Butteris, late of Dartmouth, nephew of Mr H Butteris, Albert House, Victoria Road, was killed in action in France on the 2nd inst.
"Soldiers Died in the Great War" agrees on the date of death - 2nd July 1916 - but states that he died of wounds. Jack's Medal Index Card states that he died of wounds on 4th July 1916 and a Graves Registration Report Form (of 1919) records his date of death as 4th July 1916. However, CWGC records now give his date of death as 2nd July 1916.
Jack is buried in Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, which was opened up between June and November 1916. The CWGC website states that Daours, east of Amiens, became the location of a group of casualty clearing stations in the preparations for the Somme offensive. This suggests that Jack was not killed in action immediately, but wounded during the action on 1st July, and brought to one of these stations. Evidently he did not survive his wounds.
We have recorded his death as taking place on 2nd July 1916, as this matches the most immediate contemporary record and also current CWGC records.
In December 1914, "Mrs and Miss Butteris, and Mr F Butteris" were listed in the Dartmouth Chronicle as residents of Albert House, Victoria Road. However, the immediate connections of the Butteris family with Dartmouth appear to have ceased with the death of Emma Eden Butteris in 1917, aged 89, and Henry Butteris, Jack's eldest uncle, in 1919. Frank and his sister Emma Ellen left Dartmouth, and moved to South London, to be closer to their remaining family, including Jack's parents Sydney and Martha.
Jack is commemorated on the War Memorial in Beckenham, Kent, and on the London WW1 Memorial, a virtual war memorial for all Londoners lost in action during the First World War.
A "Book of Life", recording all members of the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment who gave their lives in both world wars, is in Holy Trinity Guildford.
The War Diary for the 7th Battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment was accessed on the website of The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, where it is free to view. The website also contains much other information about the Regiment.
Divisional History: The 18th Division in the Great War, by G H F Nichols, publ W Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, available online through the British Library.
Information Held on Database
|Forenames:||John ("Jack") George|
|Military Unit:||7th Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment|
|Date of Death:||02 Jul 1916|
|Age at Death:||19|
|Cause of Death:||Died of Wounds|
|Action Resulting in Death:||Battle of the Somme|
|Place of Death:||Daours, France|
|Place of Burial:||Daours Communal Cemetery Extension|
|Born or Lived in Dartmouth?||No|
|On Dartmouth War Memorial?||No|
|On St Saviour's Memorials?||No|
|On St Petrox Memorials?||No|
|On Flavel Church Memorials?||No|
|In Longcross Cemetery?||No|
|In St Clement's Churchyard?||No|
|On a Private Memorial?||No|
|On Another Memorial?||Yes|
|Name of Other Memorial:||War Memorial in Beckenham, Kent|