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  • Claire Jordan

The View from a Hero's Headstone

Captain John Leslie Green was a Cambridge-educated pre-War doctor serving in France with the RAMC but attached to his brother’s Regiment, the South Staffordshires, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

His brother, 19 year old 2nd Lt Alan Edward Green, had been killed in action at Loos ten months earlier.

John and the men he was charged with caring for were attacking Gommecourt Wood that terrible morning, but it bristled with implacable machine guns and protected by impenetrable barbed wire entanglements.

Hit by flying metal himself as he moved forward, he spotted a fellow officer, Captain Frank Robinson, badly wounded and hung up on the barbed wire, unable to move. Any second he would be hit again.

Determined to save his friend, John got himself to Frank under a welter of bullets and shrapnel and used all his draining strength to pull Frank free of the vicious barbs, dragging him into the scant cover of a shell hole.

Here, bleeding uncontrollably himself, John dressed his friend’s wounds.

Seeing now that Frank was helpless and that he would have to somehow get them both to safety, John now climbed back out of the crater, the enemy machine guns never letting up, shells and hand grenades falling like rain around him, and dragged Frank out after him.

John now picked up the dead-weight of his friend and began to carry him towards the British line, towards home.

Frank was hit again; John kept going.

As the screws turned ever tighter, maybe Frank now also represented his little brother he couldn’t save, all the Boys he couldn’t save.

Eventually, he stumbled and laid Frank down to fumble a field dressing onto the new wounds, but finally, the German bullets found his head and 26 year old John fell for the last time.

The man he had fought so hard to save was eventually rescued and treated but died from his wounds two days later.

Captain John Leslie Green was buried at Foncquevillers, the imprint of the Victoria Cross he was posthumously awarded carved into his headstone, and here he lies in this beautiful place, still looking after his Boys.

Captain Green VC

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