Photograph of John in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR1/23/10
India General Service Medal (1854) with clasps 'Hazara 1888', 'Samana 1891'
John was born on the 7th December 1845 in Dublin, Ireland. We don't know anything about his family except that his father was a solicitor. This career must not have appealed to John, because on the 1st August 1866 he entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in Berkshire to train to become an officer in the British Army.
John seems to have done well at Sandhurst. Cadets were instructed in a variety of subjects, including Mathematics, Military History, Military Drawing and both French and German. John's progress in his studies was regarded as being 'Very Good', and his conduct at other times was 'Exemplary'. John passed out of Sandhurst on the 31st December 1867 and was commissioned as an Ensign in the 107th Regiment of Foot on the 8th January 1868.
This regiment was based in Bengal, India (today shared between India and Bangladesh). John travelled out to join them during July 1869 and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 18th August of that year. We don't know what John did during his time with the 107th Foot, but we know that the Regiment moved around India on garrison duties; for example in 1874 it was based at Secunderabad in what is now Andhra Pradesh, India.
John married whilst he was in India. His wife was called Ada Marie Leslie and their wedding took place on the 30th March 1873 in Bangalore. Their first child, Ethel Mary, was born on the 23rd January 1874 in Secunderabad.
On the 13th December 1874 John became Instructor of Musketry for the 107th Regiment. He was now in charge of training the soldiers of the Regiment in shooting, and ensuring that standards were maintained. His second daughter, Maud Leslie, was born in Secunderabad on the 26th October 1875.
In December 1875 the 107th Regiment left Madras and returned to the UK. The next year John took the position of Adjutant, on the 28th October 1876. In this role John was responsible for the organisation, administration and discipline within the Regiment. We don't know how long John served in this position. The 107th Regiment was based in Portsmouth at this time. John and Ada's first son, Charles Leslie, was born in Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight on the 8th June 1877.
On the 15th January 1879 John was promoted to Captain. We don't know why, but on the 12th April that year he transferred to the 96th Regiment of Foot based in Manchester. He exchanged places with Francis Dorling. He was the father of Francis Holland Dorling, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
John spent two years at Aldershot with the 96th Regiment before, on the 18th March 1881, he joined the Commissariat and Transport Staff to serve as a Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General (DACG). This unit was responsible for transporting supplies to the rest of the Army. John's new posting took his family and him to Malta, where his son Russell Lockhart was born on the 19th September 1882.
John was promoted to Major on the 14th February 1883. This meant a return to India and he took up a new role as the Deputy-Assistant Adjutant -General (DAAG) for Musketry, Bengal Establishment on the 30th September 1884. John's time as Instructor of Musketry for the 107th Regiment will have helped him in this job, as it had largely the same responsibilities, just over a much larger area and dealing with several different units.
John was still serving in this position when he went to war in 1888. Several of the tribes in the Hazara area of the Punjab were becoming increasingly rebellious, and it was decided to use the Army to put down the violence. John was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the Hazara Field Force that was formed in September. This force fought the tribesmen in the difficult terrain of the Black Mountain of Hazara until it was victorious and disbanded in November. Today this area is called Tor Ghar and it is in Pakistan.
On the 10th May 1890 John left his staff job and returned to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, based in Sealkote, now Sialkot in Pakistan. In May 1891 a tribal rebellion broke out in the Miranzai Valley on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. The 2nd Battalion was ordered to supply 300 men to join the Miranzai Expedition. John was in command of these soldiers. The fighting lasted from the 3rd to the 25th May 1891. Samana is the name of the mountain range that rises out of the Miranzai Valley. The British fought hard to capture it.
At some point during 1891 John remarried. We don't know when Ada died. His new wife was called Hilda Emmeline Harris. Their wedding took place in Simla in Northern India.
John was promoted again on the 18th March 1892. He became a Lieutenant Colonel and took command of the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The Battalion was stationed in several different areas of India during John's time in command; at Meerut near Delhi, at Chakrata on the edge of the Himalaya Mountains, and finally further East at Dinapore from November 1893.
After 3 years in command John left the 2nd Battalion on the 28th July 1895 and was appointed an Assistant Adjutant-General (AAG) on the Indian Staff. He was placed on half-pay, which tells us that although he did not have a job to go to, the Army did not want to lose his services. He was soon found a role in Bombay, now Mumbai, and was promoted to Colonel on the 18th March 1896.
We don't know anything about John's responsibilities as a Staff officer, or where he served. He took up a new job on the 8th July 1897, but stayed as an AAG. On the 2st February 1899 John was promoted again, to become a Deputy Adjutant-General (DAG) in Bombay Command. This job brought with it a temporary promotion to Brigadier General. John was described as a 'great linguist' and he was able to use his time in India to pass the Army's tests in several Indian languages.
It is not possible to stay in the Army forever, and on the 7th December 1902 John retired. He returned to the rank of Colonel and began to receive retired pay.
John had returned to the UK by 1906 and was involved with the Volunteer Force, the predecessor of the Territorial Army. He was given command of a Volunteer Infantry Brigade on the 1st of June, although we don't know which one. When the Volunteer Force became the Territorial Force on the 1st April 1908 John stayed in command of his Brigade. He finally reached the age limit and was forced to retire on the 7th December 1910. Just over a year later John was granted the honorary rank of Brigadier General.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914 John served again. He acted as a censor, as he was too old for active service.
John and Hilda had at least two sons. Cyril Bourchier was born in Murree, India in 1896, and Jocelyn Arthur was born in Poona, India on the 26th August 1901. They both became Army officers. Cyril joined the 52nd Sikhs (Frontier Force) in 1915. This later became the 2/12th Frontier Force Regiment. He served until 1946 when he retired as a Major. Jocelyn joined the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1921 and reached the rank of Brigadier. Just like his father he took an interest in musketry; he wrote the Army's new Small Arms Training Manual shortly after the Second World War.
John died at South Drive in Wokingham, Berkshire on the 25th March 1929. He was buried in the village of Hopton Wafers, Shropshire 3 days later. He was 84 years old. Hilda died on the 5th February 1955 at 139 Holland Park Avenue in Kensington, London. She was also 84.
John's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 2003.