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Picture of John Devitt
John Devitt
Private - Service Number 45481

John was the son of Michael and Ellen Devitt. He was born on the 23rd of January, 1875, and after schooling worked as a labourer. He was 42 when he enlisted as a private on the 9th of January, 1917. He joined the Auckland Regiment 2nd Battalion and after training, embarked for France. On the 21st of March, 1918 the Germans launched a massive offensive. After making peace with communist Russia, the Germans moved whole divisions across to the Western Front for one last attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived. The plan involved driving a wedge between the British and French forces and forcing the British back to the sea. The German army fell on the British 5th Army and swept it back over the Somme battlefield of 1916, heading for Amiens. The 2nd Battalion Auckland Regiment was part of the reinforcements rushed into the gap in the line between the 4th and 5th Corps. From the 26th of March, the 2nd Battalion bore the brunt of the German attack at Mailly-Maillet and was involved in fierce fighting at La Signy farm. On the 30th, the Battalion launched a surprise attack. It began a 2pm and there was no preliminary artillery bombardment. At zero hour a shrapnel barrage hit the German front line and the Battalion leapt out of the trenches and over the 200 yards of no man's land. The Germans were taken by surprise and the Battalion reached the German front line before they were able to fire back. Fierce fighting forced them to retreat. In one incident, a German machine gun opened up on a group of Waikato men and fourteen of them were all shot through the head where they stood. At the end of the attack the New Zealanders occupied the high ground and forced the Germans back down the valley. This was a very successful attack with 140 Germans killed, 150 prisoners and 42 machine guns and 2 mortars captured. John was killed that day as was William Rutter another CHS old boy. John is buried in the Euston Road Cemetery Colincamps Block IV Grave B8.