At 30, John would be one of the older men in his unit. He had enlisted at the beginning of September 1914 and had originally joined the 18th Battalion - the third of the Pals Battalions formed by the Manchester Regiment.
He was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Ashworth of 181 Higher Brinksway and worked for the local cotton bleaching firm of Melland & Coward, Vale Road, Heaton Mersey. On 12 February 1910, he got married at Christ Church, Heaton Norris. His wife was 23 year old Elizabeth Ellen Hayes. They are thought to have set up home at 25 Northgate Road and would have two children together.
When John enlisted, he was assigned to No. 8 Platoon in the 18th's "B" Company and went overseas with the Battalion in November 1915. Some details of their recruitment and training is here. During his service, he was wounded on two occasions. At least one of these was quite serious and kept him away from the Battalion for quite a while. When he had recovered and was ready to return to duty, the 20th Battalion will have been in greater need of replacements and this is when he will have been transferred.
On 7 October 1917, he was in camp near Ritz Trench at Hooge Crater, just outside the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). The unpublished history of the Battalion, held by the Regimental Archives, records "This Sunday morning was one of heavy driving rain, the mud was very deep and the troops wet through on arrival. Dinner was provided at Ritz Trench. Afterwards the Battalion proceeded to relieve the 2nd Borders and 8th Devons in the line."
Rain and mud had characterised the Third Battle of Ypres since it started on 31 July. Conditions for the men had got worse day by day and battalions would now normally undertake only two or three-day tours of duty in the trenches. There was heavy shelling throughout 8 October. This was repeated on the following two days and, by the time they were relieved on the evening of the 10th, 34 men had been killed or posted as missing. Thomas Astley was amongst them.
John had been badly injured on the 10th and died the next day a little way behind the front line. The 2nd Lieutenant in command of his platoon wrote to Elizabeth "I myself, unfortunately, was away on a course during the time they were in the line. Your husband, one of the best men ever in the platoon, died at the Aid Post, after being hit. He was unconscious and suffered no pain. His loss is keenly felt by myself and by his comrades in the platoon and I sincerely extend my heartfelt sympathy to you on this terrible loss."