Private 24087 John Henry Coker
2nd Grenadier Guards
Killed in Action 25 September 1916
Son of Walter and Mary Coker, of 80, Cotterells Rd., Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 8 D.
Born: Hemel Hempstead.
The 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards landed at Le Havre on 15 August 1914 and were transferred to 1st Guards Brigade, Guards Division on 20 August 1915.
On September 24th 1916, John Henry Coker, 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, advanced from Benfay Woods. Despite the fact that ‘a good deal of shelling was going on’ during their relief, there were only ‘a few casualties.’
The morning of September 25th, however, Coker found himself immersed within battle as barrages opened and the Germans began to retaliate. Within five minutes, it was clear that the British Artillery was not working to purpose and the usage of bombs being thrown from the Germans had led to the death of many Officers on the front line. Furthermore, many Germans were also said to have been killed.
At around 1.35pm, the 2nd Battalion of the Grenadiers continued to advance, and numerous Germans ‘emerged from dugouts’. The Battalion were reported to have taken numerous Germans as prisoners, and many were also killed.
They continued to advance at 2.35pm, through the village of Les Boeufs, and were met with ‘little opposition.’ They gained the eastern edge of the village and ‘consolidated.’ However, as they were consolidating, they were “sniped at heavily by a few Germans” who were located in a trench in a hollow to their right; this resulted in a great deal of casualties for the Battalion.
As the day progressed, the village was ‘severely shelled by heavy guns’. The “sniping and shelling” was said to have continued for the duration of the night and into the morning. Moreover, during the afternoon of the 26th, they were “heavily shelled”. The Germans had begun their counter-attack about half a mile to his left, and that they had also started to dig ‘along the ridges’ to the Battalion’s front.
War Diary, 2nd Grenadier Guards, WO 95/1215
By Shivani Thakrar, Megan Clarke and Lizzie Ellis
30 June 2015
Coker's name on the Thiepval Memorial(Photo: Richard Grayson, 27th March 2012.)