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John William Garstang was born in Farnworth near Bolton on the 24th March 1896. His father Collins Garstang was born in Preston in 1864 and when of working age he moved into lodgings in Burnley and then found employment in a local cotton mill. Whilst in Burnley he met and later married a local girl, Naomi Tomlinson, the couple married in 1893. Their first child, Florence, was born in the Burnley District in 1894 and at some point over the next two years the family moved to Farnworth where John was born.

By 1899 John and his family had returned to his father`s hometown of Preston to live at 179 New Hall Lane where Collins Garstang was working as a warp dresser in one of the many cotton mills. By 1901 John also had two younger brothers, Fred who was born in Preston in 1899 and then Harry in 1900.

Ten years later when the 1911 Census was recorded the family had moved again, this time to number 1 Great Townley Street, located just off New Hall Lane. The Census also shows that John was working as a cotton weaver along with his sister Florence and his 12 year old brother Fred. Later information notes that John was working as a weaver at Redmayne`s Cotton Mill on New Hall Lane.

On the 26th June 1915 he attested into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was issued with the service number 4162 which would later become 201567. His medical on the day describes him as 19 years and 3 months of age, 5`2” tall and weighing 100lbs, the Medical Officer also noting that he will `physically develop`. He was then posted to the 3/4th (Reserve) Battalion LNL. Strangely, although the Medical Officer had passed him fit to serve, a month later he was declared `temporarily unfit` due to the poor condition of his teeth.

John completed his training and was then posted to the 2/4th Battalion LNL and embarked for France with the Battalion on the 7th February 1917, the Battalion coming under the command of 170th Brigade of the 57th (West Lancashire) Division. After landing in France the Battalion marched to Meteren via Bailleul where they were billeted from the 11th to 13th of February. The Battalion was then sent to relieve the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifles in the trenches at Sailly Sur la Lys.

John remained with the Battalion for the following year until the 8th February 1918 when he was admitted to a field hospital with stomach problems, his service papers noting `constipation`, probably caused by the poor diet, both constipation and dysentery were prevalent amongst the troops. He remained out of action until the 25th March 1918 and after being declared fit for duty he was posted to the 1st Battalion LNL, joining “B” Company on the 3rd April 1918. The 1st Battalion at this time was at Souvenir Farm which was located on the front line, the Ypres-Staden rail line to the North with the town of Besace to the South. John stayed with the Battalion and after having been granted home leave from 1st to 15th August was, on his return, promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) on the 28th August 1918, the Battalion at this time being out of the line and billeted in the village of Predefin.

On the 16th September 1918 the Battalion marched to Vermand where they relieved the 1st Battalion Gloucester Regiment in the line on the right hand flank of the Brigade centre. Two days later on the 18th September the 1st Battalion as part of the 1st Brigade was scheduled to take part in an attack in conjunction with the 34th French and 6th British Divisions. The aim being to attack and capture the high ground held by the enemy, so as to form a `jumping off place` for the attack on the Hindenburg Line, which ran just outside St. Quentin to the canal at Bellenglise.

The attack went ahead as planned but sadly John was killed during follow up attacks on the 19th September 1918. The casualties between the 17th–24th September 1918 amounted to; 2 Officers killed, 7 wounded and 1 missing, and of the other ranks; 48 killed, 180 wounded, 9 missing and 21 gassed.

The local paper the Preston Guardian later published the news of John`s death, the piece also noting that his family had also moved house to 287 New Hall Lane in Preston;

John`s mother Naomi Garstang later acknowledged receipt of a few of her sons` personal possessions; 1 wallet, photographs, letters, a tie pin, notebook and his Identity Disc.

After the war Collins Garstang took receipt of his sons` British War and Victory Medals and his family would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his service and sacrifice.

Sadly, as with many other men, John`s body was never found and he has no known grave and so his name is remembered on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial located in the Pas De Calais on the main road between Arras and Cambrai.

John is also commemorated on the Preston Roll of Honour in the Harris Library. The panel bearing his name and the original submission slip are shown below;

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 201567
Date of Death: 18/09/1918
Age: 22
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “B” Coy. 1st Bn.
Memorial: VIS-EN-ARTOIS MEMORIAL

Ron Crowe

Ron Crowe

Ron has had an interest in WW1 for most of his adult life, reading many books and accounts of the war. He has visited most of the western front on several occasions and visited the various museums, including the Verdun battlefield. He volunteered for the St Marys project at MoL, and having enjoyed the experience felt he would like to do more. These lost stories of old soldiers needs to be brought back to life both for relatives to see what their great grandfathers did, and the modern young generation to see the sacrifices made by them for them
Ron Crowe

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