John Johnston (Jack) Cranidge

kings royal rifle corps badgeRifleman, C/12983, 12th (Service) Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, died of wounds, 29th March 1918, aged 23.

Born at Crowle in June 1895, Jack was the third youngest of the eight children of Peter and Caroline Cranidge (nee King). His father was running a maltings at the time of Jack’s birth but shortly afterwards became the landlord of the Mason’s Arms in the High Street.

When he enlisted in the army at Crowle on 9th December 1915, Jack was working as a grocers’ assistant at the Crowle Co-operative Stores. He originally asked to enlist as a driver in the motor transport section of the Army Service Corps. Instead the army also posted him to join Ralph Jaques in D Company, 21st (Service) Battalion (Yeoman Rifles), King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

Jack served with the Yeoman Rifles in their first campaign at Flers where Ralph Jaques lost his life and in subsequent actions at Messines and the Menin Road. In the summer of 1917 he spent a short time in hospital in Etaples, suffering from a swelling of his joints, but was well enough to rejoin his unit in November 1917 prior to their transfer to Italy. The Yeoman Rifles only spent a short time in Italy, returning back to France in February 1918, just in time to be disbanded in the March 1918 reorganisation of the army. Following the reorganisation Jack was posted to the 12th (Service) Battalion, KRRC.

Five days later, on 21st March, the 12th KRRC were in reserve on the Somme, between Vaux and Rumignon, when Operation Michael broke through. The unit then played a major part in the defensive actions that followed, known as the First Battle of the Somme as the British tried to hold the massive German attack.  Covering the retirement of the forward divisions, the 12th KRRC held their position to check the enemy advance to the Somme River on the 23rd March and then fell back to assist in holding the Somme crossings until ordered to retire on the 24th. On the 26th and 27th March they held off more attacks during in the Battle of Rosières, before going into reserve at the end of the month.

Although the army declared Jack missing in action on 21st March, news of what happened to him had actually already reached Crowle in a letter from his friend Rifleman Arthur Wells, another Crowle soldier in the KRRC. Arthur said that he had been told that Jack had died shortly after being hit on the head by a piece of shrapnel, either on the 28th or 29th March. His body was never recovered and John Cranidge was accepted dead by his unit on 29th March. One of the 885 men the KRRC lost in the retreat from Vaux. He is commemorated with many of them on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing.

Despite the news from France John’s family never gave up hope and it was only in July that they decided to hold a memorial service for him at St Oswald’s. John was the third member of the Church Choir to die in the war and it was during his memorial service that the Vicar announced that the Church wished to do something to commemorate them. Initially it was conceive to create a memorial window in the chancel ‘above where the three members used to sit’, but the fund was such that they are now commemorated on a memorial lectern in the church.

Four of Jack’s brothers also served in the War, one of whom, Margrave, was badly gassed. Arthur Wells was wounded in the action and sent home to Lincoln Hospital.

jack cranidge inscription on memorial lectern in St Oswalds Church