Tuesday, 23 May 2017

On this day in 1917, Private John Sansom died

Private 45783
9th Battalion
Devonshire Regiment
Died age 23
23rd May 1917
John Sansom was born in Ford, Devonport, in 1894, the fifth child and only son of William and Louisa Jane Sansom. William was a farmer and, given the size of the farms he had and the house servants he employed, it would appear that he was quite prosperous. After many years farming in the Morval area near Liskeard, the family moved to Whiteford in Stoke Climsland sometime before 1911. In the 1911 census, John, aged 17, is listed as working on his father’s farm. Although the address is given in several documents as Whiteford House, it is probable that the family was living in the ancillary buildings and not the original ‘big’ house.
The modern house at Whiteford which was the original farm manager's house and is probably where John  Sansom's family lived.
Devonshire Regiment badge

John Sansom’s service record has not survived but it is known that he enlisted into the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment at Liskeard. Details of his service in France are unknown and his death certificate records that he died of wounds received in warfare and the exact cause of death in given as ‘gun shot wound to the head and meningitis’. He died at the National Hospital in Queen Square, London, a hospital specialising in severe neurological cases.

Extract from John Sansom's death certificate
That John received his wound in France is a given but when and exactly where can only be surmised. His battalion was involved in some very fierce fighting and in April 1917 had great success with light casualties when it attacked Ecoust during the Battle of Arras. However, a month later, on and around 7th May, when they were involved in capturing part of Bullecourt, 382 men were killed and wounded. After this action the battalion left the front line and spent the rest of the month either in billets or in working parties. Given this chronology, it is reasonable to speculate that John Sansom received his wounds during the Bullecourt action and was subsequently returned to the UK for treatment. John’s final resting place was the graveyard in St German’s, where he shares a plot with his sister, Olive, who had died in 1912. Their parents lie close to them in a separate grave.
A not very good photograph of John Sansom's headstone in St German's graveyard. This was taken under adverse weather conditions and a return visited revealed that the headstone is now obscured by a fallen tree.
John Sansom was the owner of a quantity of shares in the GWR (Great Western Railway company) and probate of these was granted to his father and Jane Brenton in 1921.


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