(L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
John was born between January and March 1897 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His mother was called Mary and we believe he was her only child. We don't know his father's name.
In 1901 John lived with his grandfather, who he was named after, and his aunts Martha and May. They lived at 8 Sedan Street in Pendleton, Salford. John was an iron worker and Martha and May both worked as loom winders in mills.
John senior died in 1902 and by 1911 Mary and John lived at 42 Wynne Street, off Frederick Road in Pendleton. They lived with Martha, who had been widowed in 1907, and her daughter Ethel Anderson. John had found work as an errand boy for the Calico Printer's Association.
John was a member of the Moravian Church on Old Road in Dukinfield. He regularly attended Reverend W. Titterington's Bible study class, held on Sunday afternoons.
The First World War broke out on the 4th August 1914 and John joined the Army in Ashton the next day. At the time he was an iron worker and lived at 196 High Street in Stalybridge with his father. When he enlisted John was 5 feet 6 inches tall. He had 'good' vision and physical development. He was accepted into the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 1994.
The 9th Battalion sailed to Egypt on the 10th September, arriving on the 25th. John had originally been assigned to D Company, although the battalion was reorganised during the voyage. In Egypt they trained and guarded the Suez Canal until May 1915 when they took part in the invasion of Gallipoli. At some point during the early fighting there John was promoted to Lance Corporal.
John wrote to Reverend Titterington on the 7th August describing his experience of Gallipoli. He had seen 'some very severe fighting...You are quite safe in the trenches so long as you keep your head below the parapet. When you are on lookout duty you have to use a periscope'. The Army moved units between the front and the rear areas quite often, to John these movements were 'when the fun begins; bullets start flying around you, then come the shells. You can hear the shells coming, but, of course, you do not know where they are going to burst, so you get under the best cover possible.'
On the 18th June John had been involved in an attack, which he described to Reverend Titterington. His Company 'had orders to charge a Turkish trench about 60 yards away. This was done, but with the loss of a few lives. Our boys got in one part of the enemies trench, but had to retire because we were overwhelmed and were being mowed down by machine gun fire. When I got back to the trench and all was quiet I sat down and thanked God for being spared from injury...Then I sat down and lit my pipe to keep me from getting too excited. It is wonderful how a good smoke relieves your mind'.
The 9th Battalion (which had been renamed the 1/9th Battalion) moved to the rear on the 23rd, and 5 days later John was taken ill 'with fever'. He believed this was due to 'being in the trenches with dead all around us'. John was sent to hospital on the island of Lemnos for 3 weeks, but he had still not recovered so on the 21st July he was sent to Malta aboard the hospital ship Neuralia. We don't know which hospital John was treated in, but it was 'a large one, and has fine surroundings'. 'From what little bit of Malta and its scenery I saw I think it is a lovely place'.
We don't know how long it took John to recover from his illness. Once he had he returned to the 1/9th Battalion. They left Gallipoli in December 1915 and spent the next year defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish attack, and then taking part in the early stages of the advance into the Sinai. They were sent to France in March 1917. Members of the battalion, along with the other soldiers in Territorial Force units, were given new service numbers in March 1917. John's was 350533.
At some point John was transferred to the 1/5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. It is likely this happened in February 1918 during a reorganisation of the Army that aimed to have more soldiers in fewer battalions, rather than fewer soldiers in more battalions. The 1/9th and the 2/9th Battalions joined together, and around 210 surplus soldiers were sent to the 1/5th and 1/6th Battalions.
John will have fought to stop the German Spring Offensive of March and April 1918, and then taken part in the Allied advances known as the Hundred Days Offensive. At some point he was promoted to Corporal.
The Hundred Days Offensive began with the Battle of Amiens between the 8th and 12th August. During this battle John carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal for it and this was announced in the London Gazette on the 11th February 1919. The citation for John's award has not survived, so unfortunately we don't know what he did to earn it.
John served with the 1/5th Battalion for the rest of the war. We don't know when he was demobilised, but by that time he held the rank of Sergeant.
John's father also joined the Army; he had enlisted by August 1915. We don't know which unit he served with.
Between October and December 1918 John married Elsie Jones in Salford. They had 2 daughters; Lily R. between January and March 1920 and Elizabeth between October and December 1924. We don't know where they lived or what John did to support his family.
Elsie died aged 48 between April and June 1944. John continued to live in the Salford area, and between October and December 1953 he married Agnes Dyson there.
At some point John and Agnes moved to 42 Auburn Road in Denton, Lancashire. John died there on the 10th January 1962. He was 65 years old. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in February 1987.