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 Billnge 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
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
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.
2003 British troops returned to Amarah and in June of that year, citizens of
Amarah took up arms against patrolling British forces, killing six soldiers
each in two separate attacks,