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John Marsh was born in Preston in 1882 the son of John and Alice Marsh (nee Fairclough). His parents married on Christmas Day 1877 in the Parish Church of St. Peter in Preston. He had two sisters; Margaret Ellen (1878) and Ann (1880) and two brothers; William (1887) and Henry (1894).

The Census recorded in 1891 shows John and his family living at 23 Mill Hill in Preston, his father`s occupation noted as a `cotton twister`. The family was still at the same address in 1901 although the house had been renumbered to 25. John`s father was now a `Chapel Keeper` whilst John had started work as a porter in a dry-salter’s warehouse and his brother William was working in the slipper works.

In 1910 he married Jane Gregson in the Central Methodist Chapel on Lune Street in Preston and shortly afterwards the 1911 Census shows their address as 12 Waterloo Terrace in Ashton on Ribble, Preston. John was still working at the dry-salter`s and Jane had a job in a mill working as a weaver. In the December quarter of 1911 the couple registered the birth of their only a child, a son, and they named him George.

Later information suggests that John enlisted in January 1915, joining the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the service number 18992 and at some point afterwards he was posted to the 7th Battalion. At the time of his enlistment his home address was 25 Mill Hill in Preston and he had been working as a clerk at Messrs. G. & R. Dewhurst`s Arkwright Mill in Preston. John sailed to France with the 7th Battalion as a member of “C” Coy on the 17th July 1915, the Battalion coming under the Command of the 56th Brigade in 19th (Western) Division.

By the 30th July 1915, according to the Battalion War History, the Battalion had settled into billets in the village of Paradis, two and a half miles south of Merville, having taken over from the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers. From there a letter was sent by a Private F. Eccles to a Mr. Wrigley in Ashton on Ribble, the letter was written under the date 6th August 1915;

“INTERESTING LETTER FROM AMONGST THE RUINS”

The following letter has been received by Mr. Wrigley, St. Andrew`s Avenue, Ashton on Ribble from Private F. Eccles, one of the “Preston Pals” (“D” Coy, 7th Battalion), who writes under the date August 6th, from “somewhere in France”, as follows; “I was pleased to receive your welcome letter this evening, and, as I have nothing to do at present, will answer it straight away. Well, in the first place, we have not been in the trenches yet, but are expecting doing so in the course of a day or two. We have had a pretty decent time, taking things on the whole, since being in France, with the exception of one or two days, when we have had some very rough marches, and carrying full packs, but that would not be so bad if the weather was not so hot during the day. The last ten days we have done practically no work at all. The food is not bad at all, and plenty of it, but it is the same every day, and it gets stale; jam, cheese and bacon for breakfast and tea, for dinner, the old stew and potatoes. We get a fair amount of bread and biscuits guaranteed to break the teeth; butter we get two days a week, 1lb to ten men; but of course we buy some luxuries, such as eggs and milk also butter. We are now within two miles of the trenches, and, very close to the big guns, which don`t half make a report when they go off. Last night a football match was in progress between our Regiment and the R.G.A., but it was not finished, owing to the gunners being called to stand by their guns, they had to give up the game and make a bolt, they had only about 200 yards to go to them.

Some of our Battalion are in the trenches now, and the others are going in in turns, so we shall not be long, none of the `Pals` have been in. I heard about a letter being in the papers last week that we were roughing it. If we do not rough it any worse than this I shall not worry much. At present some of us are sleeping under a hedge as there is not enough room in the barns at our billets, but we have rigged up bivouacs, which keep us warm and dry at night. We have an oil sheet each, and two of us make a kind of tent by fastening ours together, then we get some straw for the ground, our kit bags make a decent pillow, and the overcoats make our covering; we have no blankets at all. There is a canal close by, where we can get a swim, so it is not a bad place after all. There are plenty of old ruins round about here, a few churches included, as there have been a few battles round about. We have travelled through a good deal of France, but we never get anywhere near any big towns, always avoiding these.

I don`t know that there is anything I am short of but a few English cigarettes; what we get here are not enough to keep me going by a long way, and the French are like poison, I cannot smoke them at all. I should be very pleased indeed if you would send me some over. He adds a postscript, which says  “Shall have had my spell in the trenches by the time you receive this”.

The latter part of August 1915 was spent at Le Sart and then on the 31st the Battalion marched to billets at Les Lobes, just to the north of Locon, the Brigade forming part of the Army reserve. On the 13th September the Battalion marched to the neighbourhood of Locon, taking over reserve billets at Rue de Chavattes from the 10th Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment. The 19th Division (including the 7th Bn LNL) was now busily preparing to play a part in the Battle of Loos (25th Sept. – 15th Oct.).

Extract from Battalion War Diary 25th – 26th September 1915

RUE DE L`EPINETTE

25th September – “Stood to arms at 4.30am; messages re impending gas and smoke attacked received at 5.07am. At 5.50am an intense bombardment began and between 5.50 – 6am the whole front of the Brigade was covered with white smoke. The bombardment continued violently till 6.30am. The Battalion was in Divisional Reserve – but could in case of urgent necessity be called on by the Brigadier – but was not required for any action.

From 1 – 5pm, dug-outs were improved and fresh ones made. It rained very heavily from 4pm till about midnight, but all the Battalion had some kind of shelter. A large number of enemy shells fell close to the Battalion Headquarters on night 24th/25th but only three of them exploded. Enemy used shrapnel between 8am – 9.30am, wounding one man in B Company.

26th September – Major P.A. Edwards left the Battalion to join the 1st Battalion. Major M. Browne joined the Battalion as Acting Second in Command. Working parties of 50, 25 and 25 men were provided at 8pm for Battalions in the front line. The enemy showed considerable activity at 2pm and again at 7pm”.

Sadly, at some point during the following day John was looking over a parapet when he was struck in the head by a sniper, his date of death confirmed as 27th September 1915.

John was later buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery;

Le Touret Military Cemetery – Photo taken August 2015

It is not known whether any of John`s personal effects were returned to his wife in Preston. After the war Jane would take receipt of her husband`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals, she would also receive his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Jane Marsh chose to have her husband`s name remembered on the Preston Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston. The submission form and RoH are shown below;

Original submission form used by John’s relatives to have his name added to the Harris Museum RoH

The Harris Museum and Library Roll of Honour

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 18992
Date of Death: 27/09/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘C’ Coy, 7th Bn.
Cemetery: LE TOURET MILITARY CEMETERY, RICHEBOURG-L’AVOUE

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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