John SKARRATT
Rank: Private
Number: 21384
Unit: 9th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 23 March 1918
Age: 33
Cemetery: Jeancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Aisne, France

John came from a large family which originated from West Bromwich and which had come to live in Stockport around 1887. The 1901 Census found the family living at 39 Lomas Street, Edgeley. John, senior, worked as a mechanic at a cotton mill and was married to Annie. The future soldier was their eldest son, although he had two older sisters, Mary and Clara. All three had been born in the Midlands. Five other children had been born since they came to Stockport - George, William, Sarah, Gladys and Lucy.

George and William would also serve in the War and not return home. In the first few months of 1913, John married Annie Etta Butterworth and they are thought to have set up home at 24 Wellington Street, Gorton. Like his brother George, John was serving as a police constable with the Manchester City Police. When War was declared, he was one of the "Pals" who joined the Manchester Regiment and was assigned to 13 Platoon, "D" Company, 22nd Battalion and will have first seen action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

At some point, John was probably wounded or otherwise away from his Battalion for a considerable time due to sickness. When he had recovered, he was transferred to the 9th Battalion which will have been in greater need of replacements. The fact that he retained his original service number means that this was after the beginning of 1917, but it is not possible to be more precise about when he changed battalions.

On 21 March, the long awaited German attack was delivered with overwhelming force. Within hours, the British Army was undertaking a desperate fighting retreat along a wide front. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are sparse details of the day recorded in the Battalion's War Diary. It records, however, that at 4.30am, they were ordered to "battle stations". They had to move into their designated position through a heavy gas bombardment which caused about 30 casualties. It then says, simply, "the battalion went into action and continued in action till April 1st."

In fact, although the 9th Battalion was kept in reserve, there was desperate fighting and, by the end of the day, the Battalion had been forced to retreat to avoid being cut-off. Nearly 70 men were dead.

The next day, after regrouping, it moved forward again to fight off another enemy attack. By now, the battalion had become very scattered and proper command was impossible. It was, therefore, withdrawn and the men were ordered to make their way, as best they could, to Beaumetz.

On the 23rd, the Battalion took up a defensive position on the banks of the River Somme at Eterpigny, where it covered the withdrawal of other units, before blowing up a bridge and withdrawing. It is probable that John was killed by enemy shellfire sometime during the day.

   
           
   
     
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