Had it not been for this project, John Bull's service to his country may never have been officially recognised. Due to an unknown error at the time, his death was not properly recorded by the Regiment. As such, there was no information to pass on to the War Graves Commission when it started its work in the early 1920s. His body was never found and identified but, as the Commission knew nothing of him, his name was excluded from the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now overlooks the 1916 Somme battlefield.
The starting point for his story was the inscription of the name "J Bull" and "E Bull" on the Heaton Mersey and Stockport War Memorials. Ernest Bull was easy to identify in official records but there was no mention of J Bull. The 1901 census identified that he must be Ernest's older brother John.
The family lived at Harwood Road, Heaton Mersey. John and Alice Bull had seven children - John (then 14), William (13), Abraham (11), Thomas (9), Edward (7), Ernest (4) and Alice (1). They had only moved to the area, from Gloucester, in the late 1890s, and the five older children had been born there.
Research into the Bulls continued and a small item was discovered in the Stockport Advertiser in its edition of 21 July 1916. "The brothers Bull of Heaton Mersey have been very unlucky and much sympathy is felt for their parents. We understand Private Ernest Bull is in hospital at Rouen suffering from rather serious wounds. Private Abraham Bull has also been severely wounded and is in hospital in France. Private William Bull is wounded and in hospital in Bristol. Another brother has been missing for two or three weeks." The detective worked continued and another newspaper report mentioned that one of the four brothers was in hospital in Chester and that the other three were serving with the Manchesters. This all helped to confirm that the missing brother must be John and that he was a Manchester Regiment soldier.
Further enquiries then identified John Bull's service number as above. In turn this provided the information to confirm that John had enlisted into the second of the Manchester Regiments "Pals Battalions" at the beginning of September 1914. He was assigned to No. 10 Platoon, "C" Company. Some details of the Battalion's recruitment and training can be found here.
John and his comrades went overseas in November 1915 and he would be killed on 1 July 1916 - the first day of the so-called "Big Push" on the Somme.
As with many of his comrades that day, John's body was never recovered and identified but unlike the vast majority of his comrades, he was officially overlooked when the country's Debt of Honour Register was drawn together. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission rightly requires a heavy burden of proof before it will change or add to records supplied by the Army over 90 years ago. But there is one piece of official documentation which inarguably confirms a man died in battle - and that's his death certificate. Army officialdom had not completely forgotten John Bull and it has been possible to obtain a copy of his certificate. This was submitted to the Commission on 29 September 1916 and, a month later, confirmation was received that his name had been included on the online Register. In due course, his name will be added to the 73,000 names which appear on the Thiepval Memorial. All of these men died before 1917 during the fighting on the Somme. None has a known grave.