John was one of two brothers who were killed during the War. He was born on 5 August 1891. His younger brother, Gerald, was killed in 1918 whilst serving with the Cheshire Regiment.
They came from a comfortable middle class background living at Macauley House, Davenport Crescent, Stockport. Their father was managing partner in the family firm of solicitors, Sidebotham and Sidebotham, with offices in Stockport and at 7 Brazennose Street, Manchester.
John was educated at Stockport Grammar School and at Shrewsbury School before attending Hertford College at Oxford University. He was a member of the Officer Training Corps at both school and university. He also captained the University lacrosse team between 1911 and 1913. After graduation, he joined his uncle's firm, James Greaves & Co. , shippers and merchants, in Manchester as a shipping clerk (in 2006, the company was still trading from offices in Brazennose Street). In his spare time, John played hockey for the Alderley Edge Club.
When War was declared in August 1914, John was quick to enlist. He joined up with other Old Boys of Shrewsbury School, on 9 September, as a private in the 5th Battalion of the Shropshires. His enlistment papers show him to have been just over 5' 5" tall and weighing 123 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. John had given his religious denomination as Church of England.
He was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal, on 16 November. As with many young middle class men, he was selected to become an officer and his application for a commission in the 6th Battalion was personally supported by the Colonel of the 5th. By January 1915, he had received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and was one of the officers who went overseas with the Battalion in July 1915.
On 25 September, the Battalion was in action for the first time at the Battle of Loos. During the attack, three shells burst near him and, whilst he was not injured, he was concussed (the local Stockport newspaper later wrongly described this as "shell shock"). His batman was killed. Aftern the Battle, he reported sick - suffering from headaches, dizziness and pain behind the eyes. He was evacuated away from the battlefield and, on the 27th, was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in London. It was not until 20 November that an Army medical board passed him fit for return to duty. He rejoined the Battalion on 23 December.
On the night of 11/12 February, the Battalion took over positions along the canal which leads north from the Belgian town of Ypres towards the village of Boesinghe. They took over from their sister Battalion, the 5th, and it's recorded cheerful greetings were exchanged as many men would know each other. This may have given the Germans an inkling that a relief was underway and, at 2am, they opened up a heavy artillery barrage on the Shropshires' positions, in the hope of catching them away from the protection of their trenches. John was in the Company headquarters in a large Nissen hut which had been built into the canal bank. It and the surrounding area were struck by several high explosive shells. He, three other officers and the Sergeant Major were all killed in the hut and another 19 killed outside. Many more were buried by the explosions and it took several hours to rescue them.
The dreaded telegram arrived at Stockport soon afterwards. It read "Deeply regret to inform you Lt J F Sidebotham , KSLI, was killed on 13 February. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy." A couple of months later, the War Office wrote to say that John had been buried "behind the canal bank at Ypres". A military chaplain, the Rev R Bulstrode had officiated. John had left few personal effects but a cheque book, letters and a photograph were returned to the family.
Towards the end of the War, many small front line burial areas starting to be closed as the land was returned to civilian use. In late 1918, the following letter was sent by the Graves Registration Organisation of the War Office to Mr Sidebotham "I beg to inform you that in the process of exhumation for the purpose of concentration of graves in cemeteries, the grave of Lt. J F Sidebotham was located at a point about 1500 yards south east of Boesinghe and his remains have been re-interred in White House St Jean Cemetery, north east of Ypres. The new grave has been duly marked with a cross bearing all past (illegible) and registered in this office. The removal has been undertaken with every measure of care and reverence and the re-burial conducted in the presence of a military chaplain."
In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commissioned collated its casualty information, Mr & Mrs Sidebotham were living at 45 Gayton Road, Harrow.