Rank: Private
Number: 32729
Unit: 1/4th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 9 April 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

John was 2 when the 1901 census recorded the family living at 16 German Street, Heavily, Stockport. His father, also called John, was 29 and worked as a hatter. His 32 year-old mother was called Mary. John had an older brother and sister  - Arthur (6) and Jessie (2). The family later moved to 108 Chatham Street, Edgeley.

John was almost certainly conscripted into the army around 1916/17, when he became 18 and was originally assigned to the King's Shropshire Light Infantry (service number 35363). He never served abroad with this Regiment and will have been transferred to the South Lancashires at the end of training. His service number suggest that he was probably assigned to either the 7th or 8th Battalion of the Regiment and was transferred to the 1/4th in February 1918 when the other units were disbanded.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans launched the second phase of its spring offensives. The South Lancashires were in reserve billets at Locon (a village about 5 kilometres north of the French town of Bethune). It was a fine but misty morning and, at 4am, the German artillery opened a barrage on Locon and the surrounding area. 30 minutes later, orders were received for the Battalion to move forward. "C" Company was sent to nearby Gorre Wood, whilst the remaining troops were held at Locon until the early afternoon when they were also ordered forward to Mesplaux Farm.

At 2.40pm, the enemy infantry attacked the men at Mesplaux Farm. It was a desperate situation as there were insufficient troops to form a proper line of defence and a battalion of Seaforth Highlanders was hurried forward to plug the gaps. The History of the 55th Division records "Severe fighting took place during the rest of the day, especially around Mesplaux Farm and the enemy made numerous and determined efforts to break through. But the line held and evening saw the defensive flank complete and firm and the enemy definitely opposed by two lines of defence."

Meanwhile, the men of "C" Company at Gorre Wood had also been attacked but this seems to have been a weaker assault and the line was held with more ease.

The Battalion War Diary records that 9 men were killed in the day's fighting. As well as John, George Tallent had also been killed. George is buried nearby, but John's body was never recovered from the battlefield and identified.

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