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John Stuart Worthington was born in one of the former weaver`s cottages on Fisher`s Row, Cop Lane in Penwortham (near Preston) on the 27th July 1897 the son of James and Margaret Annie Worthington (nee Ratcliffe). His parents’ marriage had taken place in the Parish Church of St. Mary in Penwortham on the 8th September 1890, the marriage details noting that his father was a railway porter at the time. John had just the one sibling, a brother Ernest, born in October 1891.

John and his family lived on Fisher`s Row in Penwortham for many years, in 1901 his father`s occupation was a railway goods checker. In 1911 and still at the same address, John`s brother Ernest was also employed and working as a grocery assistant at the local Co-operative store. The family had also taken in a `boarder`, 30 year old Matthew Tattersall who was single and a joiner by trade.

John`s service papers have survived and they note that he was called up for service three days after his nineteenth birthday on the 31st July 1916, his home address was still at Fisher`s Row in Penwortham. He was single and he declared that he had no previous military experience. The Medical Officer recorded that he was just short of 5`10” tall and he had a 35” chest. John was issued with the service number 5673 which in January 1917 would become 202644. His papers also confirm that John had expressed a preference for the Royal Field Artillery but it seems the Army thought otherwise and the following day he was posted to the 5th (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

After a few months of training John embarked for France with a batch of reinforcements on the 3rd December 1916, the following day he arrived at the Infantry Base Depot in Etaples where he would undergo a further short period of training. He was then posted to the 1/4th Battalion LNL on the 21st December 1916, joining them in the field two days before Christmas. When John arrived the 1/4th Battalion was just coming to the end of another stint in the trenches around Ypres, the War Diary noting that on the 23rd December 1916, `36 other ranks joined from Base Depot`. On the evening of the 24th December 1916, having been relieved by the 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment, the Battalion marched back to Ypres town and into billets at the prison where they would remain over the Christmas period.

During 1917 the Battalion, coming under the Command of 164th Brigade of 55th (West Lancashire) Division, was involved in the Battles at Pilckem, Menin Road and towards the end of the year at Cambrai. The red rose of Lancashire badge pictured below was the emblem used by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, this particular one is on display in a museum in Albert, no doubt found on the battlefield and clearly the worse for wear, they were often used as battlefield grave markers.

On the 16th November 1917 which was four days prior to the opening of the Battle of Cambrai (20th November – 30th December 1917), the Battalion relieved the 1/5th King`s Liverpool Regiment in the Guillemont Sector.

By the morning of the 18th November 1917 the Battalion was arranged as follows;

Front line; “D” Company under Lieutenant Shippobottom, in CAT Post

 “C” Company under Lieutenant Lonsdale in GUILLEMONT FARM sector.

Supports;  “B” Company under Captain Buckmaster, in DUNCAN and DOLEFUL Posts.

Reserve;    “A” Company under Captain Houghton, in KEN LANE with Battalion H.Q.

On the 18th November 1917 at 5.30am the enemy opened a hurricane bombardment of the Guillemont Farm sector and out of 80 Officers and other ranks who had been occupying the twelve advanced posts, only Sergeants Hartley and Hogg and about half a dozen men remained alive, all the rest, including the Officer Lieutenant J.O. Firth were killed and buried under the debris. The enemy, numbering about 200 then entered the Battalion line and began to work forward, Lieutenant Lonsdale and the survivors of “C” Company managed to hold them until “A” Company under Captain Houghton and Lieutenant Adamson came up to reinforce. The Germans began to fall back having lost at least 20 men to the bayonet. Lieutenant Shippobottom was killed by a bomb after some of the enemy had managed to enter “D” Company`s trenches and Lieutenant Hornby was wounded, the total number of casualties as a whole amounting to 80 men. Sadly, Private John Stuart Worthington was one of them, his date of death confirmed as 18th November 1917.

John`s mother later took receipt of some of her sons` personal effects, these included; letters, photos, a silver watch and his wallet.

John`s body was recovered from the battlefield where he fell and he was laid to rest in Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery Extension.

After the war his family took receipt of the British War and Victory Medals that John was entitled to and they would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Private John Stuart Worthington is remembered on his parents` grave in St. Mary`s Churchyard in Penwortham.

He is also commemorated on the Penwortham War Memorial which is not far from the church.

Rank: Private
Service No: 202644
Date of Death: 18/11/1917
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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