Rank: Private
Number: S/21078
Unit: 6th Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders
Date of Death: 12 May 1916
Age: 39
Cemetery: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

John has a service number consecutive to Samuel Adshead, also from Hazel Grove. It is interesting that they were in separate Battalions and, whilst regimental records indicate that Samuel journeyed to Inverness to enlist in the Highlanders, John's place of enlistment is recorded as Stockport.

John was born in Salford, the eldest child of James and Sarah Openshaw. In the mid 1880s, the family moved to the Stockport area, living in Offerton. When the Census was taken, in 1901, the now large family was living in a four roomed house at Dodge Fold, Hazel Grove. James, then 48, worked as a fitter at a bleach works. Sarah, with young children to look after, was not working. She was 40. John, 24 on the Census, worked as a labourer in a print works. His younger siblings were Alice (21), Albert (5), Arthur (8), Harold (8 months), Harry (16), Minnie (7), Ruth (11) and Sarah (15). All had been born in Offerton, except Sarah who, like John, was born in Salford.  

A few months after the Census, in the late autumn, John married Bertha Swindellls at St Thomas' Church , Norbury, Hazel Grove. She was 20 and worked as a card room operator in a cotton mill.

John enlisted into the Army in late 1915. Like Samuel Adshead, he doesn't appear to have had Scottish ancestry so, perhaps, there was an added excitement in enlisting by joining a kilted unit.

At about the same time as John was joining up, the 6th Camerons was taking part in the Battle of Loos in Northern France. Much of the local industry was coal mining and parts of the Battle were fought amongst the slag heaps. The area around one heap, known as the Hohenzollern Redoubt, was a heavily fortified German stronghold and many lives were lost in capturing it. The dangerous conditions meant that there was no option but to bury many of the bodies in the trench system, rather than being evacuated to the rear.

In May 1916, the Battalion, now with John as a member, was back at Loos and was occupying the Redoubt. Life was still very dangerous, as the trench system was interlocked and, in parts, it was easy to throw grenades into a section occupied by the enemy. Snipers, on both sides, were particularly active.

The official Battalion History records that at 4pm on 11 May 1916, the enemy launched a ferocious bombardment on the front line of the Battalion to the right of the Highlanders. The German infantry then attacked capturing about 500 yards of the front line. A platoon of the Highlanders was immediately sent to assist by carrying up supplies of grenades to the neighbouring troops (the 13th Royal Scots). Two companies were also moved forward to the reserve trenches to be in close support. The shelling continued to be heavy and several casualties were suffered at about 1am on the 12th. John was one of six men killed during the 12th. It is possible that John's body may simply have disappeared in the shelling or that he was buried in the trench system by his mates. In any event, the location of his grave, if there was one, is no longer known and his name is inscribed on the nearby Memorial to the Missing at Loos. It commemorates over 20000 men killed in this sector during the War and who have no known grave.

Further information about John can be found in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.

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