yeovil at War

John Lionel Bailey

Died at Arras, in the German Spring Offensive of 1918


John Lionel Bailey was born in Yeovil in 1894. He was the son of Cheese Dealer William Bailey (b 1847) and his wife Ellen (b 1857). On the night of the 1901 census William was listed at 1 Greyhound Yard, off South Street behind the Greyhound Inn, with son William, while Ellen, with two sons John and Alfred, were visiting in Twerton, Bath, Somerset. In the 1911 census William and Ellen were listed at South Street with their four children; 17-year old John, 12-year old Alfred, 7-year old Iris and 4-year old Stanley. John gave his occupation as Cheese Dealer and clearly worked with his father.

In the summer of 1814 John married Elsie P Raymond at Yeovil and they set up home at 2 Westlands (today's Westland Road).

John enlisted in the army at Taunton in October 1916 although he was recorded as Lionel John Bailey instead of John Lionel. In any event he became Private Bailey (Service No 19355) of 3rd Company, 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

In the summer of 1915 the Guards Division was formed and the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards moved to 1st Guards Brigade. In July 1916 the Division left the Salient to take part in the great Allied offensive of the Somme. It was at this time that John Bailey joined his regiment at the front.

On the 15th September all three Coldstream Battalions were in the front line of assault, the first and only time the Regiment has gone into action as a whole. The losses in the three Coldstream Battalions amounted to 40 Officers and 1326 other ranks.

The winter of 1916-17 was spent in trench warfare on the Somme and in the summer and autumn of 1917 the Regiment played a prominent part in the Battle of Passchendaele.

In November 1917 the Guards Division moved south from Flanders in readiness for the next Allied offensive. During the Battle of Cambrai the 2nd Battalion took part in the confused fighting around Gouzeaucourt which defeated a major German counter attack. The great German offensive of March 1918 saw the Guards Division now engaged in the area south-west of Arras. John Bailey was wounded during this prolonged battle (around the time another Yeovil lad in his Battalion, Edwin Aldworth, was killed). John was evacuated to one of the several military hospitals around Etaples, and on 11 April 1918 he died from his wounds. He was aged just 24.

John Lionel Bailey was interred in Etaples Military Cemetery, Grave XXXIII.G.14A. His name (as Lionel John) is inscribed in the County of Somerset Book of Remembrance in St Martin's Chapel, Wells Cathedral, page 174, and his name is also inscribed on the War Memorial in the Borough.



Two men of the Coldstream Guards having a drink from a forward water supply. There is a large camouflaged metal water tank next to the men, with a sign reading 'DRINKING WATER ONLY.' A pile of sandbags has been carefully stacked beside the tank. There is a pipe coming out of the tank, with a number of taps running along its length.


Men of the Coldstream Guards and a newly captured German 5.9" gun.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of John Bailey.


WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps) gardeners tending the graves of the war dead at Etaples. The wooden crosses would later be replaced by white headstones.


Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

During the First World War, the area around Etaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals. It was remote from attack, except from aircraft, and accessible by railway from both the northern or the southern battlefields. In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. In September 1919, ten months after the Armistice, three hospitals and the Q.M.A.A.C. convalescent depot remained. The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the earliest dating from May 1915. 35 of these burials are unidentified. The cemetery, the largest Commission cemetery in France, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.