John Morton Field
2nd Lieutenant, Royal Sussex Regiment
John Morton Field lived at 98 Christ Church Road, Tulse Hill and was a student at Alleyn’s until 1908. During his school years, he was House Prefect and a School Prefect and was actively involved in sports, playing for the School football and cricket 1st XIs. After leaving Alleyn’s, John worked in an insurance office until the outbreak of war in August 1914 encouraged him to enlist in the war effort. After being attested, he joined the Honourable Artillery Company and was sent for service overseas on the Western Front. During his time overseas, John saw action in France and displayed a natural ability to lead in trying circumstances during a number of British operations at the front. This resulted in him obtaining a commission in Royal Sussex Regiment and he joined 7th Battalion as a 2nd Lieutenant after completing his officer training. John continued to serve on the Western Front with this rank until April 17th 1918 when he was killed instantaneously by the explosion of a German mine. He was known by his battalion as a good and promising soldier and he is buried at Vernelles Cemetery.
On 16th April 1915 he sent the following letter home, which was published in the June1915 Edward Alleyn Magazine:
"On Monday night we left for the trenches in bright weather. The Germans seem rather lively here at the present time. About midnight we heard an airship travelling up the lines: some men saw it and it turned out to be a Zepplin dropping bombs on the towns just behind the lines. Some time after it had passed us we saw shells bursting in the distance. We were in the fire trenches for forty-eight hours. The line at this point runs just by a small wood through which trickles a brook of clear water. We used this for washing and, after being boiled as well, for tea and cocoa. The trench next to ours runs through the wood and has some wonderful dug-outs; it is somewhat like a rabbit warren on a large scale.
On Tuesday the Germans were again lively; in the evening we each filled a few sand-bags and also placed some barbed wire in position in a gap between two trenches. Wednesday was rather dull and some rain fell. At one time we amused ourselves by firing some shots at the German parapet, and they waved a flag in reply. In the afternoon the Germans fired heavy shells on some cottages lying a few miles to the left. We were relieved at 10pm to spend twenty-four hours in billets at the chateau. We had just turned in when the batteries in the distance opened fire. It is not very pleasant to hear the big guns and see the flashes in the night time; we naturally thought it was an attack and began to get anxious. After a while news came along that the Germans had mined and blown up about thirty yards of one of the trenches situated about five hundred yards to the left of those occupied by our regiment. Our men said they felt the shock and that our artillery did splendid work, opening fire very quickly and accurately. I believe the casualties, although serious, were not as heavy as one would have expected. We went up to the trenches for another twenty-four hours on Thursday evening, and you may be sure we were very watchful. Friday began by being fine but seemed very long, and at dusk rain fell and it turned out a pitch-dark night. We were not relieved till about 10.30, and then owing to darkness and rain had a very trying march back to billets, which we reached at 1.30"