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202244-private-john-berchman-poultonJohn Berchman Poulton was born on the 2nd September 1889 in Preston the son of Joseph and Ann Poulton (nee Turner). He was one of nine surviving children born to his parents after they married in Preston in 1880, the others being; Edward (1880), Joseph Francis (1885), Thomas Ignatius (1887), Vincent (1890), Mary Catherine (1893), Alice (1895), Joseph (1897) and Frederick (1901).

After living in Schleswig Street just after John was born his parents moved the family to 1 Dove Street in Preston. Joseph Poulton was employed by the GPO at Preston and in 1901 he was a head mail messenger. John`s eldest brother Edward was a bookkeeper and his brother Francis, a bookkeeper`s assistant.

In 1911 John and his family still lived at the same address in Dove Street, his father now described as a Postal Official. John was working in a grocery shop as an assistant, Thomas and Vincent were both draper`s shop assistants, Catherine was a machinist (tailoress) and his sister Alice was assisting her mother at home. The two youngest, Joseph and Frederick were both attending school.

John`s service papers have not survived so information about his enlistment is unknown, however, he did at some point enlist into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was initially given the number 5135 which when the Territorial Force was renumbered in January 1917 became 202244. At the time of his enlistment he was employed by Messrs. E.H. Booth & Company, a grocery business located on Fishergate in Preston. John was posted to the 2/4th Battalion and as he embarked for France after January 1916 it`s possible he sailed to France with the 2/4th on the 7th February 1917.

On the 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) began and had almost immediately become bogged down in the mud caused by heavy rain. Further attempts to advance were made over the coming weeks, but objectives for the first day were still in German hands. On the 26th October a further attempt to capture the village of Passchendaele itself, was planned.

The men were in their trenches by 4.30am, 70 minutes later, the British artillery barrage opened on `No Man`s Land` and the German front line, effectively preventing the Germans from manning their front line strong points. The men went “over the top” keeping only 25 – 30 yards behind the protection of the barrage.

The Regimental History records “Despite the mud and water-logged shell craters, the line advanced steadily behind our own barrage and under slight enemy machine-gun fire until about 6am. At about 6.20 the troops were finally held up at the Green Line, a barrier of machine-gun fire being opened up by the machine guns in the pill boxes immediately in front of a farm building. This strong point held 30 men who were killed or wounded by Lewis gun and rifle fire and bombs”.

During the above advance, about forty enemy aircraft repeatedly flew over the troops at low altitude causing some casualties.

The Regimental History continues “From 6.30 the troops were compelled to lie low in water-logged shell holes owing to the sweeping machine gun fire and constant sniping from men posted in trees, shell craters and pill boxes”.

Although pinned down, the North Lancashire’s drove off a German counter-attack with Lewis gun and rifle fire, but they realised that the Battalion on their left had not been able to advance. The unit on the right had advanced but had been forced back. This now left the men in a dangerous position.

The History continues “Communication with Battalion HQ was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress; telephone communication was only possible with the Battalion on the left. Heavy rain began to fall about midday. The right and left flanks were up in the air, most of the Lewis guns and rifles were out of action and the men reduced in number and exhausted through exposure and being in water-logged craters for two days and two nights. For the above reason, it was considered necessary to withdraw to the original line and this was effected by 9pm. During the withdrawal, most of the wounded were brought back to our lines”.

In this day`s battle the 57th Division encountered very severe losses in which the 2/4th Battalion bore it`s full share. 3 Officers were killed, 58 other ranks killed or died of wounds and 38 men were missing.

After the Battalion`s involvement in the action on the 26th October 1917 a number of men were awarded the Military Medal, John Berchman Poulton being one of them. His award was for “rescuing wounded under heavy shell fire”. A list of the soldiers recommended for the MM for their gallantry on the 26th October 1917 appears in the Battalion War Diary;

  • 18069 Sergeant W. Lees
  • 200657 Sergeant H. Smith
  • 200817 Corporal A. Linford
  • 200785 Corporal T. Wareing
  • 202327 Corporal F. Nutter
  • 201185 Private (L/Cpl) T. Lowe
  • 200692 Private R. Ashcroft
  • 203769 Drummer E. Goodier
  • 200917 Private R. Smith
  • 202224 Private B. Poulton
  • 201164 Drummer J. Mills
  • 200827 Private (L/Cpl) T.W. Brown
  • 200707 Private (L/Cpl) W. Bibby
  • 200880 Cpl J. Atherton – Bar to MM

On the 29th December 1917 the Lancashire Daily Post published the announcement of John`s award;


“Private J.B. Poulton, LNL Regiment has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action in France. He is 28 years of age, and prior to enlisting was employed by Messrs. E. H. Booth & Co., Fishergate, Preston. The deed for which he gained the decoration was rescuing wounded under heavy shell fire.

His widowed mother resides at 1 Dove Street. He has also received a Divisional Diploma congratulating him on his gallant conduct and devotion to duty on another occasion, signed by the Major-General commanding his Division in France. He is a member of St. Ignatius` congregation”.

John was back in Preston in early 1918 and he married Mary Winifred Lambert in the March quarter of that year. He did return to the front because the 1919 Absent Voter`s List shows him as being absent when the list was recorded, his home address at the time was 137 Church Street in Preston. As well as his Military Medal, John was also awarded the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his war service.

John and Mary went on to have their own family and in 1939 they were living at 18 Southern Avenue in Preston, John was employed as an assistant grocer.

John passed away on the 24th October 1958 at 18 Southern Avenue in Preston aged 69 years and his wife Mary died in 1979.


John`s younger brother Vincent also joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Sadly, he was killed in action at High Wood on the 18th August 1916 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion LNL. 13158 Private Vincent Poulton, to read his story, click here

Janet Davis
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