Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

John Doyle

John Doyle :

John Doyle : (L to R) 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal

(L to R) 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal

John was born on the 28th July 1904 in Heywood, Lancashire. His father was called Richard and his mother was Rose. He had at least one sibling, a brother called Richard. The family were Roman Catholics.

We don't know anything about John's early life, but by the time he was 18 he had begun to work as an upholsterer. It would appear that he wanted more from life though, because on the 18th August 1922 he travelled to Bury and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment.

When he enlisted John was 5 feet 4 1/4 inches tall and weighed 115 1/2 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. He was given the service number 3518059 and travelled to the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne to begin his training.

During his training John obtained the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education on the 26th September, and was promoted to Unpaid Lance Corporal on the 24th November. He lost this rank when he was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Guernsey on the 5th December. He joined A Company.

John must have made a good first impression when he arrived in the Channel Islands, because after just over a year's service he was again promoted to Unpaid Lance Corporal on the 13th December 1923. That May he had obtained the 2nd Class Certificate of Education.

Six days after he became an Unpaid Lance Corporal John began to be paid in his new rank. In October 1924 he left the UK with the 1st Battalion and became part of the British Army of the Rhine, based in Cologne. We don't know what John did during this period. The 1st Battalion gained a reputation for competitive shooting; this and other sports seem to have been the major focus for the battalion during this period. John was promoted to Corporal on the 11th July 1925.

That December the 1st Battalion moved south to the town of Konigstein im Taunus near Frankfurt. There was a great deal of snow when they arrived, so the battalion's baggage had to be moved from the railway station to the barracks by sleigh! They would stay there until November 1927, but by then John had already left. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 15th March, so he left Europe behind and joined them in Rangoon, Burma.

On the 7th September 1927 John was promoted to Lance Sergeant. Early the next year John and the 2nd Battalion moved to Maymyo in the Burmese jungle by sailing up the Irrawaddy River. Maymyo was a hill-station, surrounded by jungle. John was promoted to Sergeant here on the 28th April 1928. At this time he was a member of C Company.

After 18 months in his new rank John led his men as they moved from Burma to Secunderabad in India. They arrived in early December 1929.

John had joined the Army for 7 years Regular service, to be followed by 5 in the Army Reserve. This time had expired in August 1929, but as he was overseas the Regular Army was allowed to keep him for up to an extra year, with the time taken off his Reserve service. He was sent back to the Regimental Depot on the 16th April 1930 and transferred to the Reserve on the 30th.

As a Reservist John was able to find a home and a job, but could be called back to the Army in an emergency. None occurred though, so John's Army service ended on the 17th August 1934.

John returned to the upholstery trade. He married a woman named Ann, although we don't know when. By 1936 the family were living at Eaglenook, on High Road in Cowley Peachey near Uxbridge, Middlesex.

On the 16th April of that year John rejoined the Army. He became a member of the 8th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. This was a Territorial Army unit, so John will have trained with them in the evening and at weekends, whilst keeping his civilian job during working hours. He had grown since his previous enlistment; he was now 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.

It would appear that John had not forgotten his Army training. This saw him reach the rank of Corporal less than a month after he had reenlisted. Later in May he attended a course on rifle drill, and by July he was qualified as an instructor. He was promoted to Sergeant shortly after the end of this course. In late July and early August John attended a Physical Training course at Shorncliffe in Kent and passed with a 'satisfactory' grade. He also qualified as an instructor.

During 1937 John passed courses in Tactics and Intelligence. He attended the 8th Battalion's 2 week long annual training camp in every year of his service. On the 1st November 1938 he was promoted again, to Warrant Officer Class II, and appointed a Company Sergeant Major (CSM).

Throughout 1939 the possibility of another war with Germany became more likely. The Government ordered the Territorial Army to be doubled in size, so a 2nd 8th Battalion (2/8th) was formed that June. John was transferred to it, keeping his position as CSM.

Just 6 weeks later John decided to rejoin the Regular Army. He left the Middlesex Regiment and returned to the Manchester Regiment. We don't know why he decided to do this. He had been working as a draughtsman when he rejoined the Regulars.

John was posted to the Regimental Depot when he rejoined on the 15th July. War was declared on the 3rd September.

We don't know what John did during the first 18 months of the war. He did not leave the UK and remained assigned to the Depot. On the 5th April 1941 he was sent on a Number 1 Course at the Western Command Southern Junior Leaders School. We don't know what he was taught there, but a 'Number 1' was the soldier in command of the crew of a Vickers Machine Gun, so this could have been the subject. Whatever he learned, John passed the course and returned to the Depot on the 5th May.

At the end of that month John left the UK for the final time. He was sent to Malaya. The 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was based in Singapore, but we don't believe John joined them.

The details of what John did in Malaya are not clear, but we believe he joined the 1st (Perak) Battalion of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force as an instructor. They were mobilised on the 1st December 1941, just a week before the Japanese invaded. This invasion was followed by an extremely rapid advance towards Singapore. The garrison's position was hopeless and it surrendered on the 15th February 1942.

We don't know what happened to John. He is listed as 'missing feared drowned' on the 16th, so it is possible he was aboard a ship that attempted to escape from Singapore but was sunk by the Japanese.

By October 1942 the Army considered John officially dead. His wife Ann was informed on the 21st October. At this time she lived at 461 Dedworth Road in Windsor. We believe they had 2 children, although we don't know their names or how old they were when they lost their father. In October 1957 one of John's children, a daughter, contacted the Manchester Regiment Gazette in the hope that its readers might be able to help her mother find out how John died. We don't know whether or not she was successful.

As John has no known grave his name is one of 24306 on the Singapore Memorial in Kranji, Singapore. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in February 1987.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council