Lieutenant John Herbert Fitzmaurice

6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

who died on 25 March 1918

  

Family History

John Herbert Fitzmaurice was born in Leicester on 23 June 1898 to John Rupert Fitzmaurice and his wife Isabel (nee Bennion). He was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Weeford Staffordshire on 9 August 1898

St Mary’s Weeford and notification of John’s baptism

John’s sister, Mary Isabel was born in 1899. In 1901 the family lived at Westcotes Drive, Leicester and was attended by a domestic servant and a children’s nurse. Sadly mother Isabel died in the summer of 1905 at Gorleston, Surrey. John Snr married his second wife, Maria Adelaida Wood on 4 July 1907 at Petersham, Surrey. By 1911 the family had moved to Cliveden on Manor Road, Oadby where the household included a cook, a housemaid and a ladies maid.

Cliveden, Manor Road, Oadby now owned by the University of Leicester

John Rupert Fitzmaurice was the chairman of Cliffe Hill Granite Company, Markfield, a highly successful quarry which supplied granite throughout the UK. Many of the homes in the Charnwood area are built of Cliffe Hill granite. Excavation at Cliffe Hill Quarry had been started in the 1870s by John Herbert’s grandfather but abandoned until John Rupert Fitzmaurice acquired the company in 1891. The quarry was reopened and soon large contracts were secured from railway companies and the company went from strength to strength. The quarry continues to produce today under the name of Midland Quarry Products

Cliffe Hill Granite Quarry, Markfield in 1925

John Herbert Fitzmaurice was educated at Shrewsbury School between 1912 and 1916. He was regarded as a high-flyer, becoming a Praeposter (prefect) and head boy of the Modern Side (the arts and languages). His obituary in the Salopian Magazine describes him (as) ‘a boy of distinct ability and promise, having a definite gift for languages, for which he won the Dukes French Prize. In athletics, running was his strongest point and he would probably have won his Gentleman’s colours in 1916 had he not been stopped from running on medical grounds. He was one of those who did good to those around him by his cheerful outlook on life, and by his keen sense of humour with which he was blessed, and such cannot easily be spared. (The Salopian Magazine Vol.XXXV111 No.10 April 5th 1919, No.356). After leaving school, John sat his Preliminary Chartered Accountants Examination. He gained the highest mark nationally and was awarded the Society’s prize.

  

Members of Shrewsbury School Officer Training Corps, Field Day 1915

 

Military Service

John’s enlistment date is not known but it is likely, as a former member of Shrewsbury School’s Officer Training Corps, that he attended a three month course at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst before applying for a commission.

John received a commission in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on 23 November 1917. He joined his regiment in France on 27 December 1917. On reaching the front line he would have commanded men twice his age with previous battlefield experience. The mortality rate among junior officers, such as John, was particularly high.  They were first over the top armed with only a revolver, they lead hazardous trench raids across no-mans-land and their distinctive officer uniforms made them vulnerable to snipers. The lives of these young officers is described in detail in RC Sherriff’s 1928 play Journey’s End. Set in an officer’s dugout near St Quentin, between 18 and 21 March 1918, it describes the suspense endured by the men awaiting the start of Operation Michael. John’s experience would have been very similar to the character of 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh.

On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched Operation Michael, the first phase of their spring offensive. 2nd Lieutenant John Herbert Fitzmaurice was reported missing in action on 25 March 1918 after five days of fierce fighting at St. Quentin. His body was never recovered and he is Remembered with Honour at the Pozieres Memorial, Picardy, France. John was the last of seven very young infantry officers from Oadby to be killed. He was just nineteen years old.

Memorials

John is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, the Oadby War memorial and is one among 321 young officers remembered on the Shrewsbury School Roll of Honour.

Pozieres Memorial, Picardy, France

 

War Memorial, Shrewsbury School

We are grateful to Dr. Robin Brooke-Smith, Archivist, Shrewsbury School for his assistance with research and photographs