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John Henry Brewer was born on 5 April, 1885 in Bamber Bridge, near Preston. His parents were John and Ann Brewer (nee Parker). John and Ann were married in St. Leonard`s Church in nearby Walton le Dale in 1871.

John`s other siblings were Jane Ellen (1871), Elizabeth (1874), Cecily (1876), Sarah (1878), Margaret Ann (1880-1880), Alice (1882), William (1888-1888).

In 1881 the family were living in School Lane, Walton le Dale and John`s father was employed as a gardener. Sadly, John`s mother Ann died in 1889 and two years later the 1891 Census shows John Henry with his father and sisters living at 31 Irvin Street, Preston

By 1901 John Henry had moved in with his married sister Sarah (Bodell) at 3 Harold Street, Preston while his father was boarding in Bootle Street with his eldest daughter Jane Ellen.

In 1902 John Henry went to join the Royal Navy signing on at Chatham. He told them he was 16 years old but he was actually 17. He was only 5`1” tall at the time, had dark brown hair, blue eyes and a dark complexion. In 1904 when the Navy considered him to be 18 years old John Henry signed on for 12 years` service as an Able Seaman. He spent the next couple of years training at various shore establishments and his conduct had apparently been good throughout.


Photo of John Brewer during his time in the Royal Navy


At some point early in 1906 he was sent to join HMS Illustrious. On the 3 April, 1906 he spent 10 days in the cells and later the same year he was back in the cells again, this time for 14 days. John Henry then seems to have decided that life in the Navy was not for him because on the 8 January, 1908 he went on the run from HMS Illustrious at Portland in Dorset. He managed to stay on the run until 14 June, 1910 when he was “recovered from desertion but not claimed for further service”. There is no indication as to where he was recovered from.

By 1911 John Henry was back in Preston and boarding at 11 Timber Street. The Census form indicates that he had been married for one year although there isn`t a Mrs. Brewer on the Census form. John was working on the railways as a porter at the time.

The head of the household was a married lady called Annie Ascroft who was born in Preston in 1887. There was no Mr. Ascroft living in the house at the time so as the head of the household Annie would have filled in and signed the census form herself. She declared she had been married for six years and had four children but two of those had died. At the time there was only one child with her, a daughter Margaret who was six months old. Annie was also working as a drawing tenter in a cotton mill.

A search of the records reveals that an Annie Hyde had married a George Ascroft on 25 February, 1905 in Preston and they had four children. The fourth child was Margaret who was with Annie in 1911.

Despite extensive searches there does not appear to be a death record of a George Ascroft or indeed a marriage record of a John Brewer to an Annie Hyde or Annie Ascroft. This may suggest that John Henry and Annie were living together as man and wife but of course this is by no means certain.

On the 3 April, 1912 a child John Thomas was born in Smith Street, Preston and the following year a girl named May was born. According to the electoral rolls in 1914 John Henry was living in Malt Street, Preston where a third child, another girl was born. All three children have the surname Brewer and the mother`s maiden name of Hyde.

Other than his Medal Index Card there are no surviving service records for John Henry Brewer either so it is difficult to ascertain when he actually enlisted. However, one of the newspaper articles does mention that he enlisted at the beginning of the war.


A portrait photograph of John Brewer taken during the War


The newspaper article below appeared in the Preston Guardian on 26 August, 1916 and says that John had seen service in the Dardanelles and that he had been wounded in the shoulder on 15 July (1916). His Medal Index Card records that he embarked on 30th November 1915 and theatre of war was France. The article also gives his home address as 7 Crescent Street, Preston and this is where his eldest sister Jane Ellen was living in 1911.


As the above article explains John had been awarded the Military Medal.

The Military Medal was presented to him by Lord French at an award ceremony in Preston in December, 1916 after John had been discharged from hospital. To mark the occasion the following photograph was taken and published by the Preston Guardian on 9 December, 1916.  The little boy in the picture is presumably John Thomas Brewer who was born in 1912 and he is wearing the Prussian Guardsman`s helmet mentioned above.


The caption reads: “Lance Corporal J. Brewer who was presented with the Military Service Medal with his wife and little son. The boy is wearing a helmet of the Prussian Guards.”

After his discharge from hospital John would have joined the 3rd Battalion for further training and to prepare him for possibly going back out to the front.

In April, 1917 four year old May Brewer died and she was buried in a public grave in Preston Cemetery. The details given for her next of kin state her father was John Henry Brewer of 6 Brunswick Street, Preston.

At some point after May`s death in 1917 John Henry sailed for France and subsequently joined the 1st Battalion.

On the 18 April, 1918 he was still with the 1st Battalion when they were in action in the area around Givenchy and involved in a counter attack to restore the 1st Division main line. There were numerous honours and awards given to the 1st Battalion for their gallantry around this time.

John Henry was awarded a Bar to his Military Medal for carrying in his Captain when wounded.


The above is an extract from a page in the 1st Battalion War Diary.

John`s award was also reported in the Preston Guardian and it would appear that he had also been promoted to Lance Corporal as well.


John Henry Brewer died of wounds on 4 June, 1918 and was buried in an area where there were a number of Casualty Clearing Stations.

A few days’ later two death notices appeared in the Preston Guardian, one from his wife and children in Brunswick Street and the other from his father and a sister Mrs. Taylor (Cecily) 29 Otway Street, Preston.


John Henry Brewer was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and is buried with honour in Pernes British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.


CWGC headstone image provided by David Brewer


Rank: Private
Service No: 17490
Date of Death: 04/06/1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Awards: M M

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to 17490 LCPL. J. BREWER. L.N.LAN.R

  1. david brewer says:

    Hi Janet
    I am amazed and exited. My Dad is the little boy with the pussIan helmet on. I have so much to ask you and to thank you for. I do hope we can chat. I visited my grandads Grave Out Of Respect And Had The Intention Of Looking For Some History. You seem to have done it!
    Kind regards and respect Dave

  2. John Thomas Brewer says:

    Hi Janet,
    What an excellent history of my Grandads life.A few years ago I researched his and the families history through Ancestry.com and pieced together mainly using census records the Brewer tree to the mid 1840s, seems that we are all a John or Henry or both. On the military side not aware of his Service antics in the RN only his Army record and the award of the MM and Bar and my two younger brothers havevisited his grave I did contact his old Regiment/Museum and was told all the records of the WW1 had been destroyed during WW2 and I drew a blank with the old newspapers.So well done you,we are in debt to you for filling in our Grandads life.Are you related to the Brewer’s or as you suggest its a growing interest.Like my Brother Dave would be great to know more if thats possible but if not a great THANKYOU
    Kind Regards
    John Brewer

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