John was named after his father. This was possibly the John Horrocks who, in 1893, married Hellen Plant in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. Nothing else is known of John, junior, except that he worked for Stockport Tramways in the tram sheds and enlisted into the army in October 1915, joining the newly formed 7th Battalion.
After training, John and his comrades went overseas in May 1915. John’s first experience of a major action will have come on 30 July. For weeks there had been stiff fighting around Hooge, just outside the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). On the 19th, a large mine had been exploded under the German trenches. The explosion formed a crater 120 feet wide and 20 feet deep. It was immediately occupied by British infantry. During the night of 29/30th, the 7th KRRC took over the garrison of the crater, now forming part of the a new British front line.
At 3.15am, there was a mighty explosion and jets of flame shot out from the German trenches. A new weapon of war – flamethrowers – were being used for the first time. The Germans took full advantage of the complete surprise and drove in a strong infantry attack, capturing the British front line and driving out the garrison.
For his actions on that day and on others, John received recognition from the Divisional Commander, Major General Couper. It was a formal recognition card (a lesser version of being “Mentioned in Despatches”). It read “For gallant and meritorious service. The Major General Commanding has noted with pleasure the gallant and meritorious conduct of R5826 Rifleman J Horrocks, 7th King’s Royal Rifle Corps in Ypres Salient, on June to November 1915, which has been brought to his attention by his commanding officer.”
Not long after this, John was wounded in both legs. He will have received treatment from the Battalion’s own medical officer just behind the front line and would then have been evacuated to a field hospital some miles away, probably at Poperinghe. Once his condition had been stabilised, he will have been evacuated back to the UK. In due course, he was transferred to a military hospital at Gosforth near Newcastle where he died at 1am on 2 March.
His body was brought back to Stockport and was buried on 8 March, with military honours. The coffin was covered by a Union Jack and carried on a gun carriage drawn by six horses.