LANCE CORPORAL JOHN SANDERSON
Lots of people here today will know the names Basra and Amarah, we will come back to them later.
John was born on 30 November 1895 on the farm that the family worked on at EAGLAND which is near Garstang and was baptised in St John’s Church, Pilling, on December 15th, 1896.
His mother and father were Mary and James and he was to be the 3 of what was to become seven children, five boys and two girls.
He lived on the farm until 1900 when the family moved down to Pleasington where his Dad had taken a job as a bailiff at Woodfold Park off the Billinge End Road.
He most probably would have gone to school at the recently opened Feniscowles Primary School until the age of 12. While living here he had a new brother and sister.
He enjoyed working with horses to the extent that at the age of 15 he went to work as a groom all the way down in Cheshire at Crouchley Farm, near Lymm.
When war broke out in 1914, he was 18 years old and joined up, probably at Preston into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
After completing his training at Aldershot, he was posted to the 6 Battalion and set sail for Egypt.
In October 1914 Turkey, whose empire then stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Balkans, joined the Central Powers. Two East Lancashires Battalions were already in Egypt guarding the Suez Canal when in May 1915 they were ordered to the Gallipoli Peninsula. In July the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashires joined them for the landing at Cape Helles. The Allies were trying to force their way through the Dardanelles but, as on the Western Front, at once become involved in trench warfare made additionally difficult by Turkish possession of the commanding heights of the area.
John landed with the 6th Battalion at Suvla in August to open a second beachhead on the peninsula and it was here that, on the 8th, in their first major battle the 6th South Lancashires, with 6th Gurkhas, captured Hill ‘Q’ on the crest-line of the vital Sari Bair ridge. This success, which could have resulted in victory on Gallipoli, was not exploited or even supported and an eventual retreat was inevitable. Fierce fighting followed in which the Lancashire Battalions were overwhelmed and almost wiped out, losing in all 41 officers and around one thousand five hundred men.
John was one of the survivors of the 6th Battalion which then held a sector of the Suvla front in appalling weather until they were evacuated at the end of the year back to Alexandria.
All the survivors were assigned to the Suez Canal Defence Zone, but in February three battalions , veterans of Gallipoli ,including John in the 6, sailed for Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) where an Anglo-Indian force of ten thousand men was besieged by forty thousand Turks at Kut-al-Amara.
The relief force arrived in Basra and were then sent piecemeal to the front line because of a lack of transport. The winter fighting conditions were amongst the worst of the war. Temperatures fell below freezing, the Tigris burst its banks and flooded the trenches while huge shallow lakes in the desert moved as the wind direction changed. The mud was glutinous which jammed weapons.
The relief force made some progress up the River Tigris heading towards Kut, capturing Turkish defensive lines at Hanna and Falahiya and getting as far as Amarah which became a hospital centre, but repeated and desperate assaults on very strong positions at Sanna-i-Yat failed with heavy casualties.
On 29 April 1916, after 147 days, the garrison at Kut surrendered. It was the longest siege in British Army history and the worst defeat for the British Army since Yorktown in 1781.
We are not sure how John died; it might have been of wounds but more likely disease which was rife in that area. Many of the men died from dysentery, typhoid or malaria.
John is buried in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Amarah.