John Wells

Service number: 25674 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment

Killed in action, August 11, 1917, in Flanders.  Aged 29.

Remembered at YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Husband of Lily Emily Wells, 90 London Road, Brandon.


Snipers killed many men in the war and John Wells fell into the sights of one enemy sniper.

John was born in Santon Downham during the late 1880s and was the youngest member of his family. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living in Manor Farm, situated at Church End, Brandon, with his 63-year-old widowed mother, his sister and a niece. Perhaps John’s father had run the farm previously but in 1911 it seemed that it was John’s responsibility, as the last son in the family home, to keep it in order. During this period of his life his mother and a sister were employed in one of the local fur factories. In January 1914 John married Lily Emily Dyer, and together they lived in ‘The Laundry Cottage’, in Santon Downham, and had two children, Edward and Joan, the latter was born shortly before he went off to war. At the time he recorded his employment as being an assistant gamekeeper.

In December 1915 John attested to join the Reservists, and Brandon Councillor Mr F.J. Mount witnessed his application, and at the end of May 1916 he was mobilised to fight. A period of training followed before he went over to France in December 1916, but the conditions were not kind to him and twice he endured bouts of scabies. On 10th March 1917, while he was in the trenches at Irles, in Northern France, he received a gunshot wound to his right hand and four days later he was admitted into the No. 10 General Hospital in Rouen for treatment. A month followed before he was fit enough to return to active service.

Later that year, on 10th August, John and his battalion were moved up to the frontline to bolster the British lines. As they arrived there were reports that the Germans were preparing to launch an attack and it was decided to employ the battalion in a counter attack action after the enemy had been repelled. By the very early hours of the next day the battalion were in position and at 4.15am the enemy began their artillery barrage before attacking the British lines. The German attack was overwhelming and it was not long before the British in the trenches sent up their S.O.S flares and John’s battalion were ordered to counter attack and retake the lost ground. The trouble was the lost ground was also the high ground and the German’s had set up their machine guns. The battalion did retake the lost ground but at a great cost of many men’s lives to the enemy machine guns and rifle fire. However the action was classed as a victory and the enemy had, eventually, been repelled.

Back in Brandon, the Thetford and Watton Times announced that an enemy sniper’s bullet had killed 29 year old John and that his youngest child, Joan, was merely ten months old. John’s mother had now lost her second son to the war. John’s brother, Samuel Wells, had been killed in 1915.