Private, 17604, 23rd Company, Machine Gun Corps
Killed in Action on 27 October 1916 near Méaulte, Somme, France, aged 24
Buried in Grove Town Cemetery, Méaulte, Grave II.B.16

Grove Town Cemetery, Méaulte

Private John Stevenson was born in Hartfield in 1892. It is possible he may have lived at Furnace Farm, Newbridge, Coleman's Hatch. He was the son of Leonard John (1870-1920) and Elizabeth Stevenson, née Divall (1868-1925). They had married in East Grinstead in 1892, but by then John may already have been born. In 1901 the couple were enumerated in Lancashire with John and a daughter Winifred, born in 1896 at Hammerwood, Sussex, listed. In 1911 the family was enumerated in Kent with two further daughters, Violet, born in Newton, Lancashire in 1902 and Mary, born in Lee, Kent in 1904. John's brother George Stevenson (who was baptised in 1893 and seems to have been brought up by his grandparents) was killed in action near Laventie, Pas de Calais, on 5 July 1916. John's parents died soon after the war in the London area: his father died in March 1920 in Greenwich and his mother died in March 1925 in Lewisham.

John's mother, Elizabeth, was the eldest of seven children. Her sister, Ada (1874-1957), was married to Jesse Wheatley (1874-1924), a tile maker, and they lived in Hartfield in 1911. (Ada's brother, Reginald Divall, died at Ypres in 1917, while one of Ada and Jesse's children, Charlie Wheatley, died shortly after the war while serving with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth.) Elizabeth's brother, Robert, was a coachman in Ringmer in 1911, and another sister, Maude, was a caretaker in Eastbourne, married to Alfred Young, a plumber.

John's uncle Harold was listed in the 1911 census as a musician serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment based in India. He had originally enlisted in 1906. He was a butcher by trade prior to enlisting.

John Stevenson's pre-war occupation was as a regular soldier. He enlisted at New Cross, London. He is listed in the 1911 census as serving in the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment as a private.

The 23rd Machine Gun Corps Division was established in September 1914 as part of Army Order 388 authorising Kitchener's Third New Army, K3. The units of the division began to assemble at Bullswater (68th Brigade) and Frensham (69th and 70th Brigades and RE) in Hampshire in September 1914.

In the Battle of the Somme the 23rd Division was involved in The Battle of Albert in which the division played a part in the capture of Contalmaison, and the Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, and Le Transloy, in which the division played a part in the capture of Le Sars.

In September 1916, the 34th and 2nd/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at this point, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields.

He died of wounds on 27 October 1916 near Méaulte, Somme, France, aged 24, and is buried in Grove Town Cemetery, Méaulte: Grave II.B.16. He is listed on the war memorial in Hartfield.

Graves Registration Report Form, containing John Stevenson's details

Record of John Stevenson's personal effects

In Albert, at the Hotel de Ville, on the wall by the entrance is a plaque (photo below) commemorating the Machine Gun Corps. It was unveiled just before the Second World War, and commemorates the 13,791 of the Machine Gun Corps who died, and the 48,258 wounded or missing during the Great War.

Commemorative Plaque Dedicated to the Machine Gun Corps, Albert

Carol O'Driscoll