(L to R) 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf
John was born on the 3rd January 1907 in Stalybridge, which was then in Cheshire. His father was called Edwin and his mother was Clara. He had an older brother called George Henry and at least one younger sibling, whose name was Mary. The family were members of the Church of England.
In 1911 Edwin was self employed as a butcher. He owned a shop at 19 Melbourne Street in Stalybridge, and lived above it with his family. They employed a domestic servant named Elizabeth Hopwood.
John was educated at Manchester Grammar School between 1917 and 1919. He then went to Ruthin School in Denbighshire, North Wales. This was a boarding school, so John lived there during term time. He was there for 4 years, until 1923. He was also a member of the school's Officer Training Corps. This organisation existed to give schoolboys experience of military life, without a requirement to join the Army afterwards. John picked up a 'fair' level of French during his time at Ruthin.
After leaving school John returned to Stalybridge. He followed in his father's footsteps and trained as a butcher. By 1927 he also worked as a cattle dealer. He lived at 'Woodbourne' on Mottram Road in Stalybridge.
On the 13th April 1927 John applied to be commissioned as an officer in the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Army (TA) based in nearby Ashton-under-Lyne. The headmaster of Ruthin School, Edwin William Lovegrove, wrote him a reference. He had 'no hesitation in recommending him'. John was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 26th May 1927. He was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 164 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.
Members of the TA kept their civilian homes and jobs, and trained as soldiers during evenings and weekends. They would also attend an annual training camp, lasting around 2 weeks. During this time John had to complete an Initial Course and pass an examination known as Certificate 'A'. He was attached to a unit of the East Lancashire Regiment to complete his Initial Course, and passed Certificate A at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne on the 21st January 1928.
We don't know why, but John resigned his commission on the 2nd September 1930. His comrades thought this was 'a pity', as he was 'competent and able to handle men'. He was considered to be 'competent in his military duties, but had the reputation for being a 'bit wild' and it has been said that he is of the type better in war than in peace'.
Resigning did allow John to spend more time with his new wife. John had married Mary Elizabeth Margaret Garth on the 7th April 1930 in Manchester Cathedral. He was a Master Butcher by this time, and gave his address as the Falstaff Hotel on Market Place in Manchester. They had 2 children; John Edwin was born on the 8th March 1931 in Manchester and Gillian Mary on the 7th March 1936 in Stalybridge.
During the 1930s John continued to work as a butcher and cattle dealer, purchasing livestock 'for show and export'. He also had some experience of farming. The Second World War broke out in September 1939 and by this time John was working as a commercial traveller. We don't know if this was related to his previous work. He lived at 11 Astley Grove in Stalybridge when the war began.
John applied to become an officer again during October. His application was accepted and he rejoined the Army on the 28th March 1940 at Recruiting Centre Number 87a at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. We don't know whether he volunteered or was conscripted. He was able to 'defer embodiment' for 3 weeks, until the 18th April. He was then assigned to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and given the service number 5116417. He had put on some weight since the last time he joined the Army, and now weighed 182 pounds.
We don't know where John was based during his first 3 months in the Army, although we believe it was the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Depot in Warwick. He was not an officer during this time, but his experience must have been clear as he was soon promoted to Lance Corporal. On the 5th July John joined the Officer Cadet Training Unit, Infantry Wing, based at Sandhurst in Berkshire, to begin his officer training.
John trained at Sandhurst for 4 months. His monthly reports show that he was expected to become a 'sound and efficient officer', although he was 'a little slow in decision'. He was graded as Category B and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 26th October 1940. He chose to rejoin the Manchester Regiment. After 2 months at the Infantry Training Centre in Preston, Lancashire he joined the 5th Battalion in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on the 28th December.
John served with the 5th Battalion for around 18 months. They were based in Southend, Essex and then moved back to Suffolk, where they were stationed at Orwell Park near Ipswich. He spent January and February 1941 at the Signal School in Catterick, Yorkshire and then the period between the 18th August and the 6th September on the 42nd Division Signal Duties Course at Wethersfield, which we believe refers to the military facility in Essex.
In November 1941 John and the 5th Battalion were in Bingley, Yorkshire. At this time the battalion was converted into 111th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (Manchester Regiment). They were no longer an infantry unit, who fought on foot, but now fought from armoured fighting vehicles such as tanks and armoured cars.
As part of this conversion, John was sent to the RAC Training Centre at Bovington in Dorset on the 10th November 1941. He was attending the Armoured Fighting Vehicles School for a Wireless Instructor's Course. This qualified him to teach his soldiers how to use the radio equipment installed in their vehicles. He returned to the 111th Regiment on New Year's Eve 1941.
The 111th Regiment was part of the 11th Armoured Brigade at this time, along with several other regiments. The Brigade ran a Driving and Maintenance School, which John attended between the 16th February and the 9th March 1942. He passed his training course there. On the 26th April he was promoted to Lieutenant, and on the 1st May he officially left the Manchester Regiment and joined the Royal Armoured Corps.
The British were fighting in North Africa during this time, and took heavy casualties. These men needed to be replaced, and many other jobs needed to be filled. Although the 11th Armoured Brigade was never sent overseas, many of its soldiers were, and this included John. He set sail for Egypt on the 25th August as part of reinforcement draft RWKYH. He arrived on the 22nd October and was soon assigned to General Headquarters Middle East Forces. He became the Hiring Officer there on the 21st December, and was promoted to Acting Captain.
We don't know anything about what John did in this job. He moved from General Headquarters to a lower level formation, XXV Corps, on the 7th January 1943 but kept the same job. This took him to the island of Cyprus. XXV Corps was not being used for front line fighting. We believe John was based in Cyprus for around 2 years. He left XXV Corps in March 1944 and was posted to the Middle East Pool of Hirings for Cyprus.
In September 1944 John was sent to join the Headquarters of the Military Liaison in Greece. Greece had been occupied by the Germans in 1941, but they had been forced to leave the country during September 1944. The British quickly landed troops and established a government, but the country soon descended into civil war. The British were involved in fighting in Athens until a ceasefire was signed in February 1945.
John was now a Temporary Major. He served as a Deputy Assistant Director of Hiring at Number 2 Claims Commission until the end of the war in August 1945, and we believe he remained in Greece until he returned to the UK. He was promoted to Temporary Major on the 14th December 1944 and Acting Lieutenant Colonel on the 30th May 1945. Again, we don't know anything about what his job involved.
On the 8th October John returned to the UK. He was sent home on leave from the 13th October until the 14th January 1946. On this date he was released from the Army.
John's conduct during the war was recognised on the 23rd May 1946 when he was Mentioned in Despatches for 'gallant and distinguished services in the Mediterranean Theatre'.
We don't know much about John's life after the war. He joined the 9th Battalion Old Comrade's Association and the Manchester Regiment Officer's Association and attended several reunions during the late 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s. During the 1950s and 1960s he was the licensee of a pub on Mottram Road in Stalybridge, until he retired.
By the late 1980s John and Mary lived at 35 Haydock Close in Stalybridge. John died on the 23rd March 1988 in Tameside General Hospital in Ashton. He was 81 years old. Mary was the same age when she died in January 1992.
John's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 1994.