John William SWANN
Rank: Private
Number: 11655
Unit: B Company, 11th Battalion CHESHIRE Regiment
Date of Death: 2 October 1915
Age: 39
Cemetery: Rifle House Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium

John was born locally between July and September 1875. In the late autumn of 1896, he married Ann Molloy and they would have 5 children together. He is reported to have served in South Africa with the Cheshire Militia and, as he is not listed on the 1901 Census, was probably serving abroad at this time.

By the time John volunteered for the army in August 1914, the family was living at 10 Bury Street in the Lancashire Hill area of Stockport. He worked for Roscoe's, a local coal merchant.

The Battalion assembled for training at Codford in Wiltshire. The Regimental History records "A very motley crew they were, in every sort of civilian garment, not excluding bowler hats and shorts. Route marches with sticks instead of rifles, many hours of digging, night marches and football, made the men fit. But the hours were long, the loads too heavy and discontent spread. Conditions became worse with the approach of winter. Blankets were scarce and the men were sleeping in the mud. A neighbouring Battalion actually deserted and one night serious trouble narrowly averted."

The men of the 11th Battalion were quickly relocated to Bournemouth and then to Flowerden Camp near Winchester. By June 1915, they were at Aldershot and on 25 September, John and his comrades left for France, landing at Le Havre.

The newly arrived inexperienced troops were put in the care of another Battalion and, on 2 October, were receiving instruction in trenches north east of Ploegsteert Wood (just north of the French town of Armentieres, across the border into Belgium).  The Battalion's War Diary sadly records that at 5am "Battalion sustained first casualties - Pte Swann of "B" Company being shot in the head and killed almost instantaneously". John's war had lasted just 8 days. His mates would quickly learn that the first rule of survival was to keep your head down in the trench and avoid being shot by snipers.

Captain Bates later wrote to Ann "I am forwarding to you at the earliest opportunity, photos, etc found upon his body and have arranged for the internment of his body in a correct and proper manner....".  When the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information in the early 1920s, Ann was still living in the Stockport area but had moved to 6 Hayfield Street, Portwood.

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