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John Alfred Hull was born in Higher Walton in 1896 the son of a coal merchant and bookseller George Hull and Mary Crook. His parents married in 1892 and John was the eldest of six children, the others being; William (1897), Wilfred (1900), Alice (1903-1904), Joseph Benedict (1906) and Mary Winifrede (1911).
In 1901 John and his family lived at The Straits in Higher Walton where his father`s occupation is described as a coal merchant and journalist. The Hull family coal business was run by John`s Grandfather, John Hull in Blackburn, his father George later taking over the running of the business.
John`s father was also quite a renowned poet and dialect writer in the district, examples of his work often being published in the local papers, the Preston Guardian and Lancashire Daily Post. The Hull family were Roman Catholics and George Hull also published verse in a Roman Catholic magazine entitled `The Lamp`, other works included “The Heroes of the Heart, and other lyrical poems”.
By 1911 John was working as a clerk in the family business of coal merchants and book sellers. The family`s home address in 1911 was on Hoghton Lane in Higher Walton.
John enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in January 1916 and was issued with the service number 4742 which became 201932 in January 1917 when the Territorial Force was renumbered. His service papers no longer exist but we know that he joined the 2/4th Battalion at some point and sailed to France with the initial deployment of the Battalion on the 7th February 1917, the Battalion coming under the command of the 170th Brigade of 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division.
On the 11th June 1917 the 2/4th Battalion was in billets in Estaires where they remained for several days engaged mainly in company training. Later in the month they were alternating with the 2/5th Battalion LNL in the trenches at Rue de Bois. On the night of the 28th – 29th July “D” Company carried out a very successful raid on the enemy, the raiding party consisting of Captain Dawson, 2nd Lieutenants Jump, Driver and King and 135 other ranks comprising Nos.13, 14 and 15 platoons of which two composed the raiders and one the covering party.
John was a Signaller and he along with the other Signallers went out with No. 13 Platoon, their job being to lay cable behind the advancing troops in order to establish communication with the British lines.
Extract from the Battalion War Diary – Operations on the night of the 28th – 29th July 1917
“ZERO HOUR was fixed for 10.30pm. At 10.30pm precisely Nos. 13 and 14 Platoons left our front line trench and proceeded across NO MAN`S LAND which was very broken and reached the enemy front line about 10.50pm. No. 13 Platoon established Lewis Gun position and Platoon H.Q. Bombing section in their appointed places and the Lewis Gun section commenced to mop up the enemy front line. The remainder of the Platoon proceeded along enemy communication trench, which was easily located and proceeded down to point N.10. c. 20.15 where a sentry group of six Germans were posted. The enemy opened with bombs and our men retaliated with a salvo of bombs and then charged. One German was certainly killed and the remainder fled. Bombing was then heard in NO MAN`S LAND and a report was received to the effect that the Bombing section was being heavily attacked, so the Officer decided to withdraw to the enemy front line and there took up a position reinforcing the Lewis Gun and Bombing sections. Enemy party of about 25 strong had got between No. 15 and No. 13 Platoons. The party was in extended order and going towards his front line. When this party got close to 13 Platoon they opened with rifle fire and bombs. The enemy drew away to the left and disappeared over his front line trench. Two of the enemy were captured and 6 killed and a good number must have been wounded. The Platoon Officer then received the order to withdraw”.
Nos. 14 and 15 Platoons had similar encounters, although 14 Platoon appears to have suffered the most casualties losing all their N.C.O. `s, the majority wounded by bombing.
The War Diary continued;
“Owing to the Signallers with No. 13 Platoon having to partake in the fighting, they lost one D.3 Instrument, also several Lewis Gun Drums were lost. Signalling communication between the Raiding Parties, Company H.Q. and Battalion H.Q. were excellent”.
After the action on the 28th – 29th July 1917 John was awarded the Military Medal for “gallant conduct and devotion to duty”.
News of his award was later published in the Preston Guardian;
John continued to serve with the 2/4th Battalion but in March 1918 he was back in Preston, presumably on leave because on the 16th March 1918 he was presented with his Military Medal in a ceremony in front of the Town Hall in Preston. The Preston Herald reporting;
“The Mayor said he was very glad to have before him another hero and to participate in the presentation of a Military Medal. Private Hull was a man of their own Battalion, the 4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. As he had said on many previous occasions, they were always particularly glad to welcome home the heroes from that Battalion. He would tell them what Pte. Hull had done – He was a member of a bombing party going over No Man`s Land. He himself was in charge of the telephone, and they wanted to surprise the Germans. Curiously enough, the Germans were of the same mind, and wanted to surprise the British, and so they met. Naturally, there was something of a scrap, in which their friend had to give up telephone work and take part in the charge. It was altogether successful, and nearly the whole of his party managed to get home safe and sound, after giving a very good account of the enemy. Pte. Hull especially distinguished himself and was nominated for the Military Medal. He belonged to Walton le Dale, and, as Mr. Iddon, Chairman of the Walton le Dale Urban Council, was present, he asked him to pin the medal on the breast of the gallant soldier.
Mr. Iddon said he was only too pleased to come to Preston and help to honour another hero, who had done `his bit` in this great war. He knew the Soldier`s father very well, and was sure he had done great credit, both to him, to his friends in Walton le Dale, and to the country at large. He was not the first hero they had had at Walton le Dale however. One Walton le Dale lad had given his life at Mons and another at the Marne and several lads within the Walton le Dale District had got medals. He (Mr. Iddon) took a great interest in the Walton people, although he could say he was almost an old Prestonian, for he only left Preston about 43 years ago (laughter) after having lived in the town from boyhood. Private Hull deserved all they could do for him, for he was fighting for him and them, and they ought to honour him in every possible way they could. He hoped and trusted that he would be able to come back safe and sound to his private life, and be as great a credit to the country in his private capacity, as he had been as a soldier (applause). His `hearers` had no conception of what these men went through, they did their duty, and those left behind were not afraid to leave their destiny in their hands.
Sir George Toulmin M.P. said it might be interesting to note that on a beautiful day about three weeks ago, he was in a town on that part of the front from which Pte. Hull had recently arrived. It had been a beautiful town, but there was not a living civilian in it, and his `hearers` could hardly imagine what a town was like after an invading army had ruthlessly marched through it. Solitude prevailed in the great market square, with the exception of a soldier marching across it whistling “Count your blessings” (laughter). He thought he would like to mention that episode to the people safe at home, as an illustration of the cheerful and indomitable spirit of the lads who were fighting for us abroad. As the party passed through the town, a shell burst against the wall of the church, no further away than their own Parish Church, while another shell dropped close to the secluded part of the trenches through which they were passing. There was an awful hideousness there, but every care was taken for the safety of every soldier. He did not wish to harrow their feelings, but mentioned this to make them think of the sacrifices the men were making for them and how necessary it was for those at home to make every effort to sustain the soldiers properly. He (Sir George) had known the recipients father for a number of years and was delighted to see him so worthily honoured.
Mr. Iddon then pinned the medal on the breast of the recipient and three hearty cheers were given for him and three more for the Mayor”.
John Alfred Hull survived the war, eventually returning home where he married Mary Margery Marginson in Our Lady & St. Patrick`s Roman Catholic Church on the 1st December 1923.
As well as his Military Medal John also received the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service for his country.
John`s wife Mary passed away in 1974 and John eight years later in 1982.
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.
(This post has been visited 181 times in the last 90 days)
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- “I firmly believe I will pull through,” he proudly stated “The Germans can break my head, but they can never break my heart”
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