Service: 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No: S/2245
Date & place of birth: 11 October 1882 in Liss
Date & place of death: 9 May 1915 (aged 32), at The Battle of Aubers Ridge at Richebourg – L’Avoue

John James Payne was born in Liss but was linked to Rogate as in 1891 he was living with his grandmother in Slade Lane. He joined the army at the age of 17 and served in the Boer War.

Family background

John James Payne was born in Liss on 11 October 1882. In 1891, while at school, he was living with his mother Emily Payne and grandmother, also Emily Payne, in Slade Lane together with his brother William.

On 9 January 1905, John James married Lydia Jane Locke of Liss at Rogate and on 14 June 1905 they had a daughter Emily, with a son Albert being born on 13 June 1907. On the night of the 1911 census, however, John James is recorded as being with Emily and James Penfold at Gravel Pit Cottage, Rogate while Lydia and Albert were with Charles and Sarah Locke [her parents] at Station Road, East Liss. His mother, Emily, appears to have married James Penfold, as on the night of the Census John James is described as a ‘Stepson’.

Military service

John James enlisted into The Royal Medical Corps on 24 November 1899 at the age of 17.

He served in South Africa throughout the Boer War, 1899-1902 where he gained the Queen’s Medal with three clasps and King’s Medal with two clasps. He re-enlisted as a Reservist in the 3rd [Reserve] Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment with the rank of Corporal in September 1908 and served until 1909 when he purchased his discharge.

He joined the 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment on 15 August 1914 and left for France in November of that year. The Regiment was involved in The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat. They also took part in the Battles of the Marne, Aisne, 1st Battle of Ypres and the winter operations of 1914-1915.

Early on 9 May 1915 the 2nd Battalion was in the front line waiting for the start of The Battle of Aubers Ridge at Richebourg-L’Avoue.

Death and commemoration

At 5.30am on 9 May 1915, the first wave of troops of the 2nd Brigade which included the 2nd Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment, went over the top to take up a position only 80 yards from the German front. This attack followed a British bombardment which had started at 5.00am and was intensified at 5.30 with the field guns switching to high explosive. Heavy German machine-gun fire cut the attackers down even on their own ladders and parapet steps. At 5.40am the British bombardment lifted and advanced by 600 yards and the infantry assault began. Advancing over No Man’s Land they were met by intense cross fire from German machine-guns with whole lines of men seen to be hit. The leading battalions suffered very significant losses. By 6.00am the advance had halted, with hundreds of men pinned down in No Man’s Land, unable to go forward or back.

The 2nd Battalion of The Royal Sussex Regiment suffered 551 casualties during the morning one of which was John James Payne. The Quartermaster-Sergeant of his Company wrote to Emily Payne, his mother, to say that he was struck in the head by a bullet, death being instantaneous. He added “I can say that your son was a hardworking and zealous soldier and was esteemed by us all, who sadly miss him”.

John James Payne is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial at Richebourg-L’Avoue and Rogate War Memorial.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project