Holding the Line
A quick mention in despatches for this lovely face which belongs to 19 year old 2nd Lt John Edward Paton, who would officially be Mentioned in Despatches in January 1915 for ‘gallant and distinguished service in the field’.
Sadly, he would never know of this himself.
The eldest son of John, a colliery owner and Justice of the Peace and his wife Susan who lived at Waun Wern, near Pontypridd, he had a little sister Susan and three small brothers Robert, Rolle and Graham, all of whom were too young to go to War.
His parents’ pride, John made a good run of things at school, first Copthorne and then Winchester.
He was due to go up to Pembroke College, Oxford in the autumn of 1914, just as the War got underway but instead took up a commission in the Monmouthshire Regiment.
The Monmouthshires were a Territorial regiment and so all were asked to sign the Imperial Service Obligation, which waived their right to serve only at home.
Here John proudly wears his Imperial Service Badge above the right hand pocket of his tunic, showing he signed away his right to stay safely home in dear old England.
A little silver badge with enormous consequences for John, as for so many.
He landed in France on 5th November 1914, just after his 19th birthday, and his 2nd Monmouthshires were involved in the celebrated Christmas Truce some weeks later. (Although two men of the Battalion were shot by the Germans after taking them cigarettes and tobacco; not everyone got the memo.)
He made it through that nervy Christmas Day, but John was holding the line with his men in the trenches near Le Bizet on the morning of Thursday 31st December when he was hit by a sniper’s bullet.
He died that afternoon, the first Officer of the Battalion to be killed in the War.
Almost inconceivable that six months previously, he had still been in his school uniform.
So this is for John: at the going down of the old year’s sun and in the morning of the new, We Will Remember Them.