John William BEARD
Rank: Private
Number: 10103
Unit: "D" Company, 1st Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 21 September 1916
Age: 26
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Jack Beard was born in the Portwood area of Stockport and, as a married man, still lived in the area. The family history website, FreeBMD, records that John got married between July and September 1907. He lived with his wife and two children at 29 Richard Street.

He worked as a doubler at the cotton mill of McConnells Ltd, Ancoats, Manchester and is listed in the company’s entry in the Manchester Battalions Book of Honour. The company entry also lists Walter Beard who was Jack’s brother. It also lists a Joseph Beard who is probably another brother.

In his spare time, Jack played football for the Portwood Swifts and was the Club Secretary. He enlisted in August 1914, within days of war being declared. Another brother, possibly Joseph referred to earlier, and Jack’s father also served in the army.

The Cheshire Echo, 25 August 1915, published a letter from Jack asking if someone would donate a “melodeon” (a type of concertina), to the Battalion. He said “I promise that every care shall be taken of such an instrument and also, the return of same, or its equivalent, when hostilities have ceased.” One was quickly donated by Mr Randles of Carrington Road, Portwood.

Jack was a stretcher bearer and went to help Walter Gibbons when he was wounded in May 1916. Walter died and Jack wrote to his widow.

Towards the end of September, Jack and his mates had been in the trenches near the village of Ginchy in the south of the Somme battlefield. On the 21st, they were relieved and moved a couple of kilometres away from the front line to near the Guillemont. The Battalion War Diary records “Still raining. Troops very worn out and wet and of no fighting value. Roads very heavy going but weather fine and men busy improving their bivouacs.”

Although they were well away from the front line, Jack was shot. It’s not known if it was an accidental firing of a weapon or a sniper, but his company commander wrote to Mrs Beard saying he had died instantaneously and had felt no pain. The officer recounted that Jack had been buried very near to where he fell “which was now quite a long way behind the front line”. In the course of the War, the front line regularly moved back and forward and previously safe areas would come under artillery fire. No doubt, Jack’s grave was lost during one of these bombardments and he is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing.

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