After training at Caernarvon and at Penkridge Bank Camp near Rugeley, the Accrington Pals made a recruiting march through East Lancashire before moving on to Ripon for musketry training. It is easy to imagine the pride that John and the other men of the Chorley company must have felt as the battalion paraded on the Coronation Recreation Ground at Chorley on 30th July 1915.
The Chorley company's experiences over the period extending from the battalion's departure for Egypt on 19th December 1915 up to the opening day of the Battle of the Somme are related in Percy Allsup's diary.
In the Accrington Pals' fateful attack at Serre on 1st July 1916, John would have gone over the top at 7.29am from either Campion or Monk Trench with the third or the fourth wave of the attack. Both waves came under intense fire from machine guns and artillery, suffering up to 50% casualties before even reaching the British front line. John's part in the advance ended when he was hit in the left thigh by gun fire. Invalided home to England, he was admitted to 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth on 6th July. Having recovered sufficiently to be fit for service at Home, John was posted first in September to a Training Reserve Battalion and then in October to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment.
As early as November John was posted back to France where in the following month he re-joined the 11th Battalion with the number 35450. John was promoted to Lance Corporal on 23rd May 1917, and probably took part in the successful attack at Oppy-Gavrelle on 28th June. On the morning of 5th September 1917, two companies of the 11th East Lancashires were caught in a mustard gas shell bombardment, shortly after completing a tour of the front line trenches in the Acheville Sector, east of Vimy. John - one of 119 casualties from the gas attack - was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital on the following day. Three days later he was in hospital at Warrington. Bronchitis brought on by inhaling the gas ended John's army service, and on 22nd May 1918 he received his discharge. The bronchitis was assessed as being a 20% disablement for life, for which John was awarded a weekly pension of eight shillings and eightpence (43½p).
John Roden died in 1968 at the age of 74.
© Andrew C Jackson 2003
Compiled from the army service record of John Roden (TNA document WO363/R1020), and with the kind help of John's grand-daughter Sue Sweeney.