On this day 100 years ago Captain John Marsden was killed in action leading an attack on Cologne Farm and the Quarries

Captain John Horace Marsden (1879-1917)

John Horace “Jack” Marsden was Commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment shortly after the outbreak of the Great War and joined the 2/6th (Territorial) Battalion at their Headquarters in the Empire Hotel at Buxton in November 1914.

He was quickly made the Battalion’s first Transport Officer and preceded with them to the Harpenden training area in the spring of 1915. By this time the 2/6th Battalion were Brigaded with other Sherwood Foresters Territorial Battalions into the 178th (2nd Sherwood Foresters) Brigade of the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division.

April 1916 saw the 2/6th Battalion boarding the Mail Steamer Ulster at Liverpool docks and heading to Dublin to help supress the Easter Rising, where they would suffer their first casualties.

Following a summer of flying column activity the 2/6th Battalion returned to England for final training before embarkation to France and the Western Front.

After a Special Service held at Salisbury Cathedral on 11th February the 59th (2nd North Midland Division) embarked from Folkestone and arrived in Boulogne on 26th February 1917.

Attack on Vendelles and Jeancourt

[2/6th Battalion War Diary]

Following a period of final training and acclimatisation the 2/6th Battalion participated in their first action of the War on the 31st March when they were called upon to attack the villages of Vendelles and Jeancourt during the German retreat to the Hindenburg line. By this time Joseph had been promoted to Captain and was commanding a Rifle Company.

The 2/6th Battalion captured all their objectives and in doing so Captain Marsden showed “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”.

Attack on Cologne Farm and the Quarries

[2/6th Battalion War Diary]

[2/7th Narration War Diary]

A month later on the 27th April the Sherwood Foresters Brigade was called upon to assault a German strong point known as ‘Cologne Farm’. The 2/6th Battalion formed the right flank and were instructed to attack and hold an area of former quarry workings. Details of this action are scant, but it is clear that the 2/6th Battalion achieved their objectives; however, this came at a heavy price.

Captain Marsden and thirty-six Officers and men were killed in action or missing presumed dead and numerous others were wounded, some fatally.

The bodies of John Marsden and fourteen other Derbyshire men killed in action that day were removed and buried in a small cemetery behind the British lines. Their bodies now lie next to each other in a ‘Sherwood row’; comrades in arms united in death.

The bodies of thirteen men were not recovered at the time and they are now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing

1953 ReburialsIn 1953 a single isolated grave was found containing the bodies of six men from the 2/6th Battalion and they were subsequently reburied.

On 18th June 1917 the London Gazette announced that Captain John Horace Marsden had been posthumously awarded the Military Cross:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his men in the most gallant manner and succeeded in capturing nine prisoners. He has at all times set a splendid example of courage and determination”

2017 Commemorations

Brampton Brewery in Chesterfield were kind enough to brew a special beer for Captain Marsden

Chesterfield School Memorial


(not by whom but in what manner)


In affectionate remembrance of the loyal and faithful


Who died in the Great War

“In sacred sleep they lie. Say not that the brave die”

The recently renovated Commemorative Plaque lists the names of 83 Old Cestrefeldians who died during the Great War including John Horace Marsden and at least 20 other Sherwood Foresters – 8 of whom served with the 6th Battalion

Bramton Brewery Memorial

Located at Chesterfield FC’s Memorial Garden at the Proact Stadium

2 thoughts on “On this day 100 years ago Captain John Marsden was killed in action leading an attack on Cologne Farm and the Quarries

  1. Luke Marsden

    A very interesting piece. All the time I was at school I didn’t know John was related even though I saw his name up on the plaque. Thank-you for bringing his actions to light.


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