John was born in Stockport, the son of George and Hannah. George had married Hannah Savage in 1885 at St Mary’s Church, Cheadle. David was born two years later and he would be followed by Elizabeth, George and Gertrude. In 1901, the family was living at 29 Richardson Street, Heaviley, where George earned his living as a coal agent.
Nothing else is known of David’s early life but in 1912 he got married. His bride was May Jackson and they married at Flowery Field Christian Church, near Hyde. They probably lived together in Hyde as David enlisted into the army there (and is commemorated on the War Memorial at Hyde Town Hall as well as the one at Stockport). When he joined up, he was assigned to the newly formed 13th Battalion, which had been raised at Winchester in October 1913. After training, David will have gone overseas in the summer of 1915.
When the Battle of the Somme opened on 1 July 1916, David and his comrades were miles away near Arras. They were moved as part of the planned reinforcements and arrived on the Somme on the 5th. Over the next two weeks they undertook periods in the front and support lines but were not called on to undertake any attacks. On the 16th, they were relieved from the front line and moved back to the second line support trenches north east of the hamlet of La Boiselle in the heart of the battlefield. The Battalion’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that the German artillery shelled their positions in the evening and they suffered several casualties. The pattern of shelling continued over the next two days with further deaths.
On the 19th, the Diary records “Enemy artillery still active. Were relieved in the evening by 3rd Australian Infantry. Enemy sent over a large number of gas shells which had a sweet odour unlike the usual lachrymatory shells which smell like mustard plants. These had a slightly suffocating effect which was more noticeable in the dugouts. The effect on the men was small.”
The effect of the gas may have been small, but the effects of the continued shelling took the lives of another five Riflemen, including David.
After the War, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, May had moved to 71 Holmfield Road, Blackpool.