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First Name: John Henry Last Name: CANN
Date of Death: 18/09/1914 Lived/Born In: Paddington
Rank: Private Unit: Royal West Surrey (Queens)1
Memorial Site: La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France

Current Information:

Born-Stoke Newington

The Battle of the Aisne 13th September -28 September

After the Germans were defeated on the Marne they fell back to the River Aisne, closely pursued by both the British and the French. The new German line was a very formidable defensive position. To attack it  meant  having to cross the Aisne and then climb up a 500 foot high ridge on top of which was the Chemin des Dames, a road that gave the Germans an easy way to move troops along the top of the hills. On 13th September the Aisne was crossed by both British and French troops but after that progress became slower, until there was no progress at all. Both sides dug in and the fighting settled down into trench warfare. The fighting on the Aisne continued for two weeks at the end of which both sides realised that frontal attacks on entrenched positions were both costly and non-productive, not that this deterred them from continuing with this tactic throughout the war.

On 17 September, the Germans kept up a heavy bombardment for 3 hours on the part of the line held by 1st Division on the Aisne. They then sent forward a company, under cover of mist and rain, to an abandoned trench from which they could enfilade the line. 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens), 3 Brigade and 1st Northamptonshire, supported by 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps were ordered to turf them out.  1st Northamptonshire crept up unnoticed and in one rush cleared, the trench. A group of Germans, led by two officers, approached 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps with rifles slung and hands up. Rising to meet them some of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps were shot by the Germans firing from the hip and several were wounded.  When some 300-400 Germans tried this again against 1st Northamptonshire, the m/g’s of 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps mowed them down almost to a man. But there was a price to pay. Between them, 1st Royal West Surrey (Queens)  and 1st Northamptonshire suffered 200 casualties. Although the date of death of Private Cann is recorded as 18th September, it is more likely that it happened during this action on 17th September. 

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