John Eustace was born in the Marple area in 1882. He joined the regular army about 1900, serving with the King's Own until about 1909. In October 1906, he was awarded the Good Conduct Badge and, the following February, was promoted to Lance Corporal. He left the army after completing his term of service but was recalled, as a reservist, when War was declared.
The 1st Battalion arrived in France on 23 August 1914 and did not take part in the British first engagement at Mons the same day. However, it was thrown into action only three days later at the Battle of Le Cateau. John would have taken part in the remaining major battles over the next two months and this early service made him one of the "Old Contemptibles".
The Second Battle of Ypres opened on 22 April 1915 when the German Army first used poison gas as a prelude to an infantry attack. The part of the battle that took place between 24 April and 4 May is also known as the Battle of St Julien (after the village around which it was fought, just to the north of the town centre of Ypres). When the Battle opened, John and his comrades were in billets well to the rear and were not brought forward until the 30th, when they took over a section of the front line near the village of Wieltje.
On 1 May, the King's Own men were ordered to cut passages through their own barbed wire to allow an attack by the Indian Sirhind Brigade and a French Brigade to attack a position known as Hill 29. The attack failed and, in fact, no attacking troops came through the Lancasters' positions.
The next day, the Germans again used gas against the positions held by the King's Own and the neighbouring Battalions of the Essex Regiment and Lancashire Fusiliers. Most men were forced to withdraw but the Battalion's War Diary notes that about 100 stayed in the trenches. The German infantry then attacked in what was described as a half-hearted way which was stopped by rifle and machine gun fire. They managed to briefly take a position called "Listening Patrol Farm", but were driven out after being charged by a small party from the King's Own.
The Battalion's War Diary records that there were heavy casualties from enemy artillery but that British artillery already shelled Listening Post Farm, presumably believing it was still held by Germans. It is believed that John was badly wounded sometime during the day, having been hit by shrapnel.
He will have received attention from the Battalion's Medical Officer, just behind the front line before being evacuated to a mobile army hospital (a Casualty Clearing Station), some miles behind the front line. After his condition was stabilised, John was further evacuated and was at 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, when he died about two weeks later.
Further information about John, including a photograph, is included in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.