John Geoffrey Astill: Tuesday 27th August 1918
John enlisted in Finsbury as Private 23440 and was first with Durham Light Infantry, before transferring to the 6th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. He was killed in action and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial.
The 6th Dorset’s staged an attack on the village of Flers in the early hours of 27 August. John may well have fallen in this attack, which was planned for 1 am, but as changes with the plans were still being explained at 1 am, and the Battalion only moved off at 3:30 am. They were instructed to push on regardless of what happened to others.
The attack began “with great dash”. Some 200 prisoners, 10 machine guns and a couple of trench mortars were captured. However both flanks were exposed and when a violent counterattack came at 7 am the Dorset’s were pushed back, nearly to their starting point. Two officers and 40 men were killed and the surviving men were so tired they fell asleep where they were.
Vis-en-Artois Memorial is 10 kilometres south-east of Arras on the Road to Cambrai in France. This Memorial bears the names of 9,850 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known graves.
John’s family home was 28 Baskerville Road, although his parents John Edward and Bessie, were to move to 16 Morella Road. In 1901 the family lived at 12 St John’s Road where they kept a drapers shop. John was born late 1897, and his sister Violet Mary ~ 1899. They were baptised at St Mark’s Battersea Rise. They also had a younger sister Sybil Enid, born ~1902. In 1911 the family kept a live-in servant.