The name of J McDermott is inscribed on the Stockport War Memorial amongst those who served with “other regiments” (usually indicating a regiment from outside the north west). Although it is impossible to be certain, research suggests that the above man, who was born in Stockport and enlisted in the town, is probably him.
The 1901 Census only records one person of this name born in Stockport and of likely age to be serving in the war. This nine year old boy was living with his parents, Owen and Ann, and his four brothers and sisters at 13 Kershaw Place. Nothing is known of the John’s early life but his service number confirms he was a regular soldier. The Battalion went overseas to France within a few days of war being declared on 4 August 1914, arriving there on the 16th.
He will have taken part in the early battles of the fighting – at Mons, Le Cateau, the Marne. The Battle of the Aisne is officially recognised as starting on 12 September and it saw the British forces start to counter-attack the Germans after many days of retreat.
On the 16th, the Light Infantry advanced at 1.45am with the intent of the crossing the River Aisne near Missy. However, the necessary pontoons were not yet available and the crossing could not be undertaken. It left John and his comrades in a very exposed position and, an hour before dawn, they withdrew to the relative safety of a belt of trees some 400 yards from the river. The enemy now knew exactly where they were and opened up with accurate artillery fire. There was no practical option but to dig in and wait.
The bombardment carried on all day. And, to add to the men’s misery, it rained heavily and the hastily dug trenches quickly became water-logged. No progress could be made and the Battalion was withdrawn from the front line during the night. John was, presumably, killed by the shellfire. His body was never recovered and identified.