Humphris, John Harold
Son of John Alexander Humphris, schoolmaster, and Mary Ann Humphris, of 85 Belmont Road, St. Andrews Park. Older brother of Eric Randle and Douglas William. Both Eric and Douglas did not attend BGS, but they both served in the War. Humphris was working as an insurance clerk prior to the War.
Humphris was born on 22/11/1892, and attended the School from 1904-1907. He served as a Private in the Army, with the Gloucestershire Regiment 1st/6th Bn.. Humphris sadly lost his life on 23/07/1916, as a result of the War.
Humphris is remembered on Thiepval Memorial, France, Pier and Face 5A and 5B.
“Bishopston at War”
His first major action was on the Somme at the battle of Albert (1-13th of July). His Division was placed on the northern flank of the Fourth Army’s sector under Lieutenant General Aylmer Hunter-Weston’s VIII Corps. Three divisions of the Corps attacked around the village of Serre on the first day, while the 48th (South Midland) Division held the one-mile (1.6km) gap between the Third and Fourth Armies. The attack proved to be a complete disaster as the 3 attacking Divisions were mown down by the still intact German defences. The 48th Division was fortunate to be able to avoid these heavy losses, although 2 of its Warwickshire Battalions suffered heavily in the attack on the Quadrilateral. However compared to the other Divisions it was still relatively intact and 3 days later it moved with the rest of VIII Corps to Gough’s Reserve Army. Attention now focused on the capture of the Bazentin Ridge (14-17th of July), in which the 48th Division was given the task of capturing of the village of Ovillers.
Building on minor advances made by the 12th and 25th Divisions on the 7th of July, and aided by the major attacks taking place to the south, the 48th Division advanced across no man’s land to capture Ovillers on the 16th July. Its capture and the foothold the British had obtained in the German second position on the 14th of July, meant that the chance now existed for the German northern defences to be taken in the flank in what was to become the battle of Pozieres Ridge (23rd of July – 3rd of September). The plan called for the Australian 1st Division to attacak Pozieres from the south, advancing in three stages half an hour apart, while north of the Albert-Bapaume road the 48th Division would attack the German trenches west of the village. The attack of the 48th Division on the German achieved some success but the main attack by the Fourth Army between Pozieres and Guillemont was a complete and costly failure and the ridge was only taken at great cost by 3 Australian Divisions six weeks later.
As for John’s Battalion, after marching along the railway through Ovillers, they formed up for an attack on the German trenches west of Pozieres at 00.50 hours on the 23rd July, taking casualties from shell fire as they moved forward. They continued moving forward steadily, until they came under very accurate machine gun fire about 70 meters from their objective and the leading waves were cut down. The subsequent waves carried on the attack but few got through, although an NCO and 6 men did manage to return having bombed their way along part of the German defences. Most of the officers and men in the leading wave were killed and the remaining attackers were forced to dig in to form a new line of joined up shell holes until relieved the next day. Of the 300 men in the attacking companies only 142 were unwounded and all but one of their officers was killed. Although Pozieres itself was taken by the Australians, the wide attack failed. This was later put down to poor artillery preparation which failed to knock out the defending machine gun posts.
Sadly John did not live to see this victory [the capture of Pozieres] as he was killed in the intense fighting on the 23rd of July, leaving some £65 to his father. Unfortunately his body was never recovered and his name was therefore listed on the Thiepval Memorial.