John William HALLWORTH
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 15286
Unit: 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 13 June 1917
Age: 35
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, leper, Belgium

John Hallworth is listed on the Cheadle Hulme Memorial as serving with the 5th battalion, but recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 7th Battalion. Research suggests that the official record appears to be the correct information.

He had been born in Stockport, the son of Thomas and Margaret. The 1901 Census shows the family living at Ivy Cottage, High Lane. John, then 18, was one of six children at home and was working as a postman. He continued with this job until he enlisted in the army, probably in the autumn of 1914. For the previous 14 years, his delivery round had been in Cheadle Hulme. In his spare time, he was Treasurer of the Cheadle Hulme Mission Club for Working Men. The newly formed 7th Battalion went overseas in July 1915 and John's first major action will have been at the Battle of Loos in September.

He was wounded in the thigh in July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme and travelled through the casualty evacuation chain eventually reaching a hospital in Bournemouth.

It's not known when John returned to his Battalion, but he will have been in action on 7th June 1917 near Oosttaverne, south of Ypres (now Ieper), as part of the Battle of Messines. The Battalion's War Diary records that the men were issued with hot soup and rum whilst in their assembly trenches. At 3.10am, mines were exploded under the German lines and the men left their trenches to attack. They advanced in single file and moved quickly, even though it was very dark and difficult to check they were going in the right direction. The enemy opened up with an artillery barrage to try and break up the attack but there were few casualties. By 11.30am, they had taken and consolidated their objectives.

Over the next few days, the men were employed on improving the captured trenches and digging new ones. On the 11th, other Battalions successfully attacked again capturing more ground. On the night of 12/13th, the Battalion moved back into the new front line. The War Diary notes that throughout the day, they were subject to enemy shelling which caused a number of casualties. During the following night, a raid was carried out on the enemy trenches. This was to examine buildings and dugouts in No Man's Land. No prisoners were captured as the enemy quickly retreated. During this 24 hour period, John was one of six members of the Battalion who were killed.

His officer later wrote saying that he had been killed by a shell and that death had been instantaneous and painless. He had only been with them for a short while (presumably on return to the Battalion) but during that period he had made himself thoroughly liked and respected by the men. He was buried close to where he was killed but during the remainder of the war the grave was either destroyed by shelling or its location lost. John is now commemorated on the nearby Memorial to the Missing at Ieper, along with 52000 other men who died in this sector and have no known grave.

Many families lost a son during the War and, for each, it will have been a great personal tragedy. A few families lost two sons and, for a very small number the grief of losing three must have been unbearable. But this is the grief that  Thomas and Margaret had to bear. Two of their other sons, Herbert and Thomas, were also killed. 

John is also commemorated on the High Lane Memorial and further information about him, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

(Note: Research into the Battalion's activities in June 1917 by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website). Updated: February 2008.

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