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CAPTAIN JOHN LESLIE GREEN VC

John Leslie Green was born in Buckden on 4th December 1888 to John George and Florence May Green of The Hoo, Church Street and baptised at St. Mary's Church, Buckden on 12th January 1889. He had 4 siblings. 

By 1901, he was living in Hoddesdon and attending Felsted School, his parents having moved to St. Marks Lodge, Cambridge and his grandfather Frank and uncle Francis having moved from Field House to Coneygarths, Buckden.

 
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John left Felsted around 1905 to study medicine at Downing College, Cambridge. He ws a keen all-round sportsman, excellent at golf and tennis but excelled as an oarsman, representing his college (see photograph of him in rowing fours there in 1910, on left).  He later trained at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London and his first position was House Surgeon at Huntingdon County hospital .  Although he qualified as a doctor in 1913 he had still to complete his studies at Cambridge when war broke out in August 1914.  By the time he had finished all his medical training he was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP). 

He was appointed a Royal Army Medical Corps sub-lieutenant on 28th September 1914 and was initially attached to the 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, his brother’s regiment, and then a Field Ambulance unit before joining the 5th Battalion, Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regt. (Sherwood Foresters) as their medical officer.

His only brother, Second Lieut. Allen (aka, Alan) Edward Green, 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, aged 19, was killed at the Battle of Loos on 13th October 1915.

 

On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the 46th Division was tasked with capturing Gommecourt Wood and then linking up the 56th (London) Division which had been allocated the objective of Gommecourt Park, to the south. This was a diversionary attack, designed to draw German forces away from the battlefield further south. The VC was awarded to Green for his actions during the attack at Gommecourt on 1st July 1916.

The British Army were faced by well entrenched German troops who occupied fortified positions atop a ridge which overlooked the British positions. The British manned positions below which were a natural sump for water coming off the ridge, thus the area & approach line to the German positions were waterlogged & as a consequence very muddy. The first wave of the assault, which included the 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, left their start position, following a lengthy barrage, at 07.30hrs. They immediately came under heavy & concentrated fire resulting in numerous casualties.Two machine gun sections had moved forward but were all killed within 150 yards of their start off point.

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Their Commanding Officer, the Brigade Machine Gun Officer, Captain Frank Bradbury Robinson, the only survivor, continued on only to be wounded & to fall on the German barbed wire. Captain Green went forward & managed to remove  Robinson from the wire, dress his wounds & remove him back toward British lines. During this time both men were under constant attack. Both Green & Robinson managed to reach the British forward trench where the latter was wounded again & Green was mortally wounded. Captain Robinson died two days later at 20 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).

 

The citation for the VC as it appeared in the London Gazette of 5th August 1915:


"For most conspicuous devotion to duty.Although himself wounded, he went to to the assistance of an officer who had been wounded & hung up on the enemy wire entanglements, & succeeded in dragging him to a shell hole, where he dressed his wounds, notwithstanding that bombs & rifle grenades were thrown at him the whole time. Captain Green then endeavored to bring the wounded officer into safe cover, & had nearly succeeded in doing so when he himself was killed".

  

(Bombs, in the above, refers to hand grenades). 

Press here for a copy of London Gazette,  number 29695 dated 4th August 1916.

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War diary notice of the Assistant Director of Medical Services of the 46th Division:


"I have to record a sad lesson to us all. Captain Green MO (Medical Officer) to 5th Sherwood foresters had stopped to dress a friend's wounds in the abdomen close to the German first line wire. Captain Green was also hit but he was struggling back to our lines with his wounded comrade when a bullet killed him instantly, piercing his brain. Now, I repeat that in a charge, no one should stop to assist the wounded.... Captain Green was a valiant &  capable officer".


All units of the British Army were required to maintain a diary, essentially a daily account of that units activities, actions, movements etc. These diaries are retained by the National Archives at Kew & are open to public view. 


The Medical Officer (MO) or Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) was responsible for the health of a battalion in war & peace, not unlike a GP. He had a few RAMC Nursing Orderlies to assist him. During war time he would be responsible to maintaining the Regimental Aid Post (RAP) which was positioned close to the area of combat. All wounded were collected by the battalion/regimental stretcher bearers, of whom the MO would have trained in first aid & stretcher bearer skills, to the RAP. The injuries were assessed, dressed & then passed down the evacuation chain to the Advanced & Main Dressing Station manned by elements of the relative Field Ambulance, then on to the CCS & General Hospitals. The MO was to remain at this position & not to wander around the battlefield looking for the injured as many more wounded would be at the RAP awaiting assessment. The issue of MO's 'going out' was not uncommon as can be seen with Captain Green.

 

He married Edith Mary Nesbitt Moss MB BS of Stanifield Hall, Lincolnshire on 1st January 1916 (he was killed 6 months later to the day) and they lived at Birchdene, Houghton, Hunts; they had no children.   He is commemorated in Houghton Village Hall and Leslie Green Road is named for him. Edith was a doctor at a London military hospital and she remarried after the war.

Capt. John Green was one of the 19,240 British and Commonwealth men killed on the First Day of the Battle of The Somme (1st July 1916).  

He was one of ten men awarded the Victoria Cross on the First day of the Somme.

Capt. Green’s body was recovered in March 1917 and was buried in Foncquevillers Military Cemetery, France, grave III. D. 15.




Acknowledgements:


Barry Jobling

Museum of Military Medicine in Aldershot

Thanks to Dave Larks from findagrave.com for permission to display the picture of  his headstone.

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