The son of Robert William Camm and Harriet (nee Washington) he was one of nine children. Jonathan was born circa 1891 and was one of the first local men to enlist, doing so on September 11th at Biddulph. Jonathan would have been a popular figure as his occupation was given as Cinematographic Operator. This would have been at Barber’s Picture Palace – without doubt a popular venue. At enlistment he gave his address as 4, Slater Street. In 1911 the family had lived at 3, Lower John Street.
Jonathan’s ‘burnt service records’ have survived, providing us with a more detailed account of his military history. A few weeks after hostilities commenced on August 4th 1914, Jonathan enlisted at Biddulph into the 1/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment and training was undertaken in at camps in Luton, Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford. Training complete and now attached to the 46th North Midlands Division, a move into war was made on March 3rd 1915.
Sailing from Southampton the troops landed at Le Havre, moving forward they spent the first few months in the Ypres salient, enduring at the end of July, the enemy’s liquid fire attack at Hooge. Early October saw a move to the battlefield of Loos where the North Staffords were met with a landscape similar to that at home, with mining villages set in the countryside. Jonathan served in no. 4 platoon, “A” company, in his battalion.
On October 13th 1915 the 1/5th North Staffords were one of the battalions of 46 Division who were ordered to attack the Hohenzollern Redoubt in an attempt to retake this strong German defence. This was a black day for North Staffordshire; the attack was a blind assault across no man’s land. The men left their trenches but immediately ran into murderous machine gun fire, resulting in many North Staffords being shot down.
Sadly, on that afternoon 1/5th Battalion had over 500 casualties; 219 killed in action including eight brave Biddulph men, one of whom was Private Camm. Private John Thomas Booth, another Biddulph soldier who had also enlisted on September 11th – presumably immediately before Jonathan as his regimental number was 3333 (Jonathan’s being 3334) also died that day. Perhaps they had been pals in Biddulph – enlisting and dying together.
At the age of 24 years Jonathan Washington Camm fell in battle. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. He is also remembered on all of the Biddulph war memorials.
Mike Turnock & Elaine Heathcote