John Robert HANDYSIDE was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1886, the son of John and Jane Handyside. He was baptised on 15 September 1886 at St Anne’s, Newcastle on Tyne.
In 1901, John’s father was a ‘Blacksmith’s Labourer’ and the family lived at 15 Rippenden Street, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne. John was then 14 years old and had five younger siblings.
In 1911, John, now 25 and still single, was a labourer in an engineering works and still at home with the family. A family of eight in a three roomed house would have been somewhat crowded.
Sometime between 1911 and 1914 John moved to Rugby to work ‘… at Messrs Willans & Robinson’s, and lodged at the house of Mrs Hayward, 43 Lodge Road, Rugby’.
‘His enlistment was reported in the September 1914, ‘Supplementary List, No. 3.’ from Willans & Robinson Ltd. By January 1916, ‘The employees from Messrs Willans and Robinson’s with the colours consist of 15 officers (including one staff-captain) and 233 men, 248 in all. Of these, two officers and ten men have already been killed, …’
A later report confirmed that John ‘… enlisted as a gunner on September 3rd, 1914, and has now been promoted to the rank of Corporal.’ He enlisted initially as No. 11029 with ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. 71st Brigade was part of the New Army K2 and its service is summarised below.
‘LXXI Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, made up of 223, 224 and 225 Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column served with 15th (Scottish) Division. 15th (Scottish) Division was formed in September 1914, as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. In February 1915 the three six-gun batteries were reorganised to become four four-gun batteries and were titled as A, B, C and D. 71 Brigade proceeded to France in the second week of July 1915. They were in action in the Battle of Loos in 1915.
In spring 1916, they were involved in the German gas attacks near Hulluch and the defence of the Kink position. On the 22nd May 1916 the Brigade Ammunition Column merged with other columns of the divisional artillery to form the 15th Divisional Ammunition Column. On the 7th of June 1916 D Battery exchanged with C Battery, 73 (Howitzer) Brigade of the same division, each adopting the others name. 71 Brigade were in action during the Battles of the Somme, including the Battle of Pozieres, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the capture of Martinpuich, The Battle of Le Transloy and the attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt. The brigade was reorganised in early December 1916. C Battery was split between A and B Battery to bring them up to six guns each. B Battery, 73 (Howitzer) Brigade joined and was renamed C Battery, 71 Brigade. On the 22nd of January 1917 a section of two howitzers from 532 (Howitzer) Battery, 72 Brigade joined to make D (Howitzer) Battery up to six guns.
In 1917 they were in action in the First and Second Battle of the Scarpe, including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive. They then moved north to Flanders and were in action during the Battle of Pilckem and the Battle of Langemark.’
One of John’s three Medal Cards shows that he went to France on 8 July 1915, which agrees with the above 71st Brigade history.
During his earlier period in France, a later report mentioned,
‘Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.’
This may have been the occasion when, as a Corporal, another Medal Card noted that he was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’.
Sometime before the end of November, whilst he was an Acting Bombardier and still in ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and there were several [similar] reports.
‘ANOTHER RUGBY MAN AWARDED THE D.C.M.
‘Amongst those who have recently been awarded the D.C.M is Bombardier J R Handyside, D Battery, 71st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He received the distinction for conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications.’
‘11029 Bombardier J. R. Handyside, ‘D’ Battery, 71st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. For conspicuous gallantry from the 26th September to the 14th October, 1915, during which time his battery was in the open and constantly under a very heavy fire. He frequently volunteered to mend telephone wires under heavy fire, thereby successfully maintaining communications. Bombardier Handyside had been previously brought to notice for coolness and bravery on the 25th September near Loos, when he repeatedly volunteered to repair wires under very heavy fire, although he was suffering from the effect of gas fumes at the time.’
In addition, he was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, and was subsequently promoted to Sergeant and it might have been during the reorganisation of the 71st Brigade in early December 1916, that he was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to ‘C’ Battery, 70th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
70th Brigade was also part of the New Army K2, and also in the 15th Division, indeed the 70th, 71st and 72nd Brigades were largely working together and in May 1917, were generally in the Feuchy to Tilloy areas to the East of Arras. This was during the aftermath of the Battle of Arras which had been in progress from 9 April to 16 May 1917, with the 70th Brigade in the Tilloy area.
‘C/70 came up into the line’ on 15 May and the 16, 17 and 18 May were ‘quiet all day’ with an attack at 8.20pm on the 18 May which did not gain its objective. On 19 May, the War Diary recorded,
‘Quiet day. Preparation for attack. A/70 came into the line for the attack. Attack by the XVII corps. Our batteries assisted by shelling the enemy’s defenses on the Brigade front.’
Some time during this ‘Quiet day …’, 19 May 1917, John Handyside was ‘Killed in Action’.
John was buried in the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras in Grave: V. F. 13. There was no additional inscription on his headstone.
The Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery is the main CWGC cemetery in the western part of the town of Arras. The Commonwealth section of the cemetery was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918.
John R HANDYSIDE was awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates and in St. Philip’s Church, Wood Street, Rugby.
‘The memorial takes the form of a stone tablet framed in light oak, and bears the figures of our Lord, St John, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is in the south chancel of the church, and by its side, as a part of the memorial, is another picture of the entombment of our Lord. The Tablet bears the following inscription:- Like as Christ was raised from the dead even so should we also walk in the newness of life.’
His mother as Sole Legatee received John’s outstanding pay of £41-0-11d on 11 September 1917; then a further £1-2-0 on 13 October 1917; and a War Gratuity of £15-10-0 on 24 October 1919. She received a further Gratuity for his D.C.M. of £20-0-0d on 28 September 1921.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on John R HANDYSIDE was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, May 2017.
 The Medal Card mentions ‘London Gazette, 1/1/16 p.19 [or 9]’ although this has not been found.
 The London Gazette, 26 November 1915, Supplement: 29384, Page: 11896; also The Edinburgh Gazette, 1 December 1915, Issue: 12878, Page: 1822; also Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 1 January 1916.
 In April 1917, XVII Corps attacked east of Arras near the River Scarpe, but was bogged down in rain and snow.