(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
John was born on the 17th October 1898 in the village of Harlington, near Luton in Bedfordshire. His father was called John Frederick and his mother was Matilda. We believe he was their youngest child. He had 4 older siblings: Frederic William, Charlotte, George Thomas and Matilda Mabel.
John senior worked on a farm. In 1901 he specified that he was a cattleman, but in 1911 he simply wrote 'labourer'. He raised his family in Harlington. In 1901 they lived on the village square, although we don't know their exact address.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and John will have been eligible to join the Army after his 18th birthday. He was assigned to the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 54434. This suggests he joined the regiment in early 1917. We don't know if he had served with other units before this. Under conscription it was not unusual for soldiers to be assigned to units with no connection to their local area.
We don't know when John was sent overseas, or which battalion of the Manchester Regiment he joined. The war ended in November 1918 and the Army started to demobilise soldiers. It still needed men to fulfil all of its peacetime commitments though, so in early 1919 it began offering large financial incentives to encourage soldiers not to leave.
It would appear that John took advantage of this offer. In early 1919 he joined the Machine Gun Corps and was given the service number 141098. Again, we don't know anything about where he served.
Shortly after the end of the war the National Publishing Company began an attempt to print a roll covering every man who had served in the First World War. They invited veterans or their families to send a short account of his or her service, for a fee. Not all veterans took up this offer, and the details they included were not checked for accuracy. John or his parents sent this biography to the Company. It was published in Section V, Luton, of the National Roll of the Great War:
Lane, J. A., Private, Machine Gun Corps
Volunteering in February 1916, he was drafted to the Western Front in the following July, when he went into action on the Somme. Subsequently he fought in many other important sectors, including those of Ypres, Arras and Cambrai, and throughout his service overseas did good work with his unit. He was demobilised in October 1919 and holds the General Service and Victory Medals.
Bute Cottages, Harlington, near Dunstable.
The rest of John's life remains a mystery. He lived in Bedfordshire for the rest of his life and died in the Luton area between April and June 1981. He was 82 years old.
His medals, and the pin they are mounted on, were purchased from 'a reputable London dealer'. After 'a number of years' the buyer donated them to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in March 2011.