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John Buckles was baptised on the 12 September, 1897 in the parish church of St. John`s in Preston and was the eldest child of Robert and Frances Ann Buckles (nee Ball). Robert and Frances married in St. Paul`s Church in Preston on the 25 February, 1897 and they had six children including John although one son died; George (1900), Charles (1902), Nicholas (1904-1904) and twins Annie and Robert (1905).

In 1911 the family was living in four rooms at number 4 Bradley Street in Preston. John`s father was a brewer`s labourer and his mother was working as a cardroom rover in a cotton mill. Thirteen year old John was also employed in a cotton mill as a weaver`s tenter while his younger siblings were all at school. At the time the family also had a domestic servant named Mary Ann Heaton.

John`s paternal side of the family had a long association with the pub trade in Preston, his grandfather Charles Buckley had been the landlord of at least three establishments over a twenty year period, the Prime Jug, the Bowling Green Inn on Ribbleside and also the Market Inn in the centre of town until his death in 1901.

John had only just turned 17 years old when he enlisted into the Army at Preston on the 28th October 1914 although he lied about his age declaring that he was 19 years and 2 months old. Prior to his enlistment the Buckles family had moved to 291 Lancaster Road in Preston. John had been employed by Messrs. Daish, Salter & Co. which was a business providing high class quality grocery and provisions including wines and spirits.

He was allocated the original number of 3117 which would later become 200920 and posted to the 4th Battalion. The following month he joined the 2/4th Battalion.

Between the 5/3/15-12/5/15 John found himself in trouble on no fewer than five occasions, mainly for talking on parade, late falling in and absences from the 7am parade for which he received two or three days confined to barracks for each offence.

John was sent to France on the 8 August, 1915 when he was just about 18 years old, sailing with a batch of reinforcements. By the 22 August, 1915 he had joined `D` Coy of the 1/4th Battalion who at the time had just come out of the trenches and were in billets in Aveluy. The 1/4th War Diary notes;

“22/8/15 – We received a draft from the 2/4th Battalion L.N.L. Regiment of 101 other ranks”

He managed to keep out of trouble for a few months until January 1916;

  • 4/1/16 – Untidy on guard (long hair) – 2 days confined to barracks
  • 8/1/16 – Absence from parade – 2 days CB
  • 16/3/16 – Irregularity on duty i.e. not being alert when 3rd man on sentry – 3 days CB
  • 29/12/16 – Dirty rifle on inspection – 3 days CB

and then John committed a more serious offence;

  • 5/5/17 – Drunkenness (field) – he was awarded 14 days Field Punishment No.1.

A couple of months later on the 21 July, 1917 he was treated in a field ambulance for shrapnel wounds to his left arm, the wounds were not too serious and he re-joined the Battalion the same day.

On the 31 July, 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) began and the following day 1 August, 1917 John was severely wounded with gun-shot wounds to his abdomen. Sadly, he died of his wounds in No. 32 Casualty Clearing Station the same day. He hadn`t quite reached his twentieth birthday.

The following article appeared in the local paper a short while after his parents had been informed of their son`s death.


A number of his personal possessions were returned to his family in Preston and these included; letters, a pipe, wristwatch, cigarette case, matchbox cover, one knife, cap badge, photographs and cards.

John was buried with honour in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery in Belgium.

He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his parents later signed for.

Two memorial notices for John appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post on the 2 August, 1920, one was from his family and the other one was from his sweetheart, a young lady by the name of Cicely Birch who lived in Marsden Street in Kirkham.

Buckles 2

Cicely Birch later married widower William Henry Bickerstaffe in St. Michael`s Church in Kirkham on the 3 July, 1924 which was seven years after her `sweetheart` John Buckles was killed.

Rank: Private
Service No: 200920
Date of Death: 01/08/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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