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John Marsden was born in Preston on the 30th September 1892 the son of Robert and Margaret Marsden (nee Fazackerley). John`s father was originally from the village of Claughton near Garstang and his mother had been born in Leyland but the couple married in St. Thomas` Church in Preston on the 30th August 1890. The marriage details note that Robert`s home address at the time was Aqueduct Street in Preston and Margaret, who was the daughter of publican Richard Fazackerley, was living at the New Ship Inn on Water Lane in Preston. John had five brothers and two sisters; Richard (1891), Robert (1894), William (1897), Lucy Ann (1899), Ellen (1901), Francis (1906) and James (1910).

In 1901 John and his family lived at 40 Fleetwood Street in Preston but by 1911 they had moved to 26 Blanche Street which was just a few minutes` walk away from what was then a thriving Preston Docks. John`s father was employed by Preston Corporation as a carter, brother Richard was a crane driver and William was an apprentice biscuit baker whilst John`s occupation was described as a ship`s foreman.

At some point between 1911 and the outbreak of war John was working as a fireman on board the Steamship `Timbo`, the Timbo was used for transporting general cargo and regularly sailed between Preston and Liverpool;

Steamship Timbo

After the outbreak of war John enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and he was issued with the service number 13833 and posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion. Sadly John`s service papers no longer exist so it`s difficult to know the exact date of his enlistment but his number suggests that it was probably in early September 1914. The 8th Battalion remained at home in training for a year before word came in early September 1915 that they would shortly be sailing for an `unknown destination`.

John went by train from Aldershot to Folkestone with the Battalion and then sailed from there to Boulogne on the 25th September 1915. After the Battalion`s formation they became part of the 74th Brigade of the 25th Division but a month after landing in France they were transferred to the 7th Brigade in the same Division. At some point during his service John was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

Towards the middle of April 1916 the Battalion was sent up to the trenches at Mont St. Eloi in order to relieve a Battalion of the 46th Division. Opposite this part of the line the enemy was beginning to show considerable activity, bombardments at times being exceptionally heavy, during the month of April the Battalion had 5 men killed, 2nd Lieutenant A. Marshall and 30 other ranks wounded. On the night of the 18th-19th May the Germans attacked and succeeded in capturing some posts around what was known as Broadmarsh Crater. The 8th Battalion LNL was then ordered to provide a party one hundred strong to make a counter attack on the evening of the 19th May in an attempt to recover the lost ground. The British guns bombarded the Crater until 9.15pm, when the barrage lifted the Battalion`s parties went `over the top`.

Extract from the Battalion History

No. 1 Party, 20 strong under 2nd Lieutenant Howard, was to crawl forward in two lines, each of ten men, to within 20 yards of the enemy position, and was then to charge home with the bayonet, rifle fire and the bombs which each man carried, only being used if absolutely necessary.

No. 2 Party, 20 strong under 2nd Lieutenant Tatam, was to leave the front trench when No. 1 Party commenced to charge, carrying a good supply of bombs, and also sandbags for consolidating the position when recaptured. To this party ten more men were attached whose duty it was to see that a good supply of bombs was kept up, passing these along to the men in front by a small trench running to the right of the crater.

No. 3 Party, 50 men, under 2nd Lieutenant Walsh. These were to be held in reserve and to be employed to follow up and complete the work of consolidation. A Lewis gun was to provide covering fire from a block half-way up the small communication trench running up to the right of the Crater; this block was between the British and German trenches.

On the attack opening, No. 1 Party left the trench and 2nd Lieutenant Howard skilfully led his men unobserved to within 20 years of the enemy position, then charging with a cheer. The Officer was almost at once wounded by a bomb, Sergeant Powell took charge of the party which gained the lip of the Crater, holding it under heavy fire. 2nd Lieutenant Walsh then arrived from the rear and took charge of the further operations. The Germans had now decamped, leaving behind ammunition and rifles. The enemy guns, however, now opened a terrific bombardment of our trenches, this went on for some three-quarters of an hour, casualties only light.

Once the position had been taken consolidation began and a constant stream of bombs was hurled into the enemy trenches; in the early morning of the 20th May, the original party was relieved by another one under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Kewley and the consolidation work continued.

During these operations the Battalion casualties amounted to; killed or died of wounds, 2nd Lieutenants L.C. Tatam and C.C. Howard and 7 other ranks; Captain A.T. Marsden, 2nd Lieutenant G.R. Kewley and 18 non-commissioned Officers and men wounded; four men declared missing.

It was during these operations at Broadmarsh Crater that John was wounded whilst in charge of the Lewis gun. In recording the events, the War Diary goes on to name a number of Officers and men who it states “deserve mention in connection with this operation”, Corporal John Marsden was one of those named;

“Corporal Marsden, who though wounded in three places, continued to work his Lewis Gun”

John was later evacuated back to England for treatment. After recovering from his wounds he would have been discharged, given a short period of leave to return home before joining the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion in readiness for a return to the front. Unfortunately without his papers we do not know when he embarked for the front for the second time. However, a newspaper article appeared in the Preston Guardian on the 13th December 1916 in which it states that John had written to his mother to inform her that he had been awarded the Military Medal, the decoration having been presented on his return to the Battalion;

John remained with the 8th Battalion until they were disbanded on the 16th February 1918. After being disbanded a number of men were sent to reinforce other Battalions of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and some were sent to Entrenching Battalions, unfortunately there is no information as to where John went. He survived the war and was finally discharged to Class Z on the 11th January 1920, his rank on discharge was W.O. Class II.

After the war he was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to go with his Military Medal.

On the 12th August 1925 at St. Andrew`s Church in Ashton on Ribble, John married a war widow, Susannah Haggars (nee Clough), her first husband Thomas Haggars had been killed in action in March 1918 and they had two children together.

When the national population census was recorded in 1939 John and Susannah were living at 26 Blanche Street in Preston. John had obviously returned to working on Preston Docks, his occupation being described as `marine dredger` and the couple had at least two children.

John passed away in 1966 aged 75 years and Susannah died in 1980.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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