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John William Riley was born in Kirkham, Lancashire on 10th July 1887. He was the son of Henry and Mary Elisabeth Riley (nee Bradshaw). His parents had married on the 4th September 1886 at St Michael’s Church Kirkham, the same church that John William was baptised.

On the 1891 census, aged 4 he is living with his parents and younger brother Joseph aged 1, at 71 Marsden Street.

On the 30 December 1891, Henry and Mary’s final child Henry is born, but sadly dies 2 days later, followed by Mary on the 10th January 1892, who dies of septicemia.  Henry is left to bring up the two children.

Family memories

Later that year, on 24th December 1891, Henry married Maggie Holmes at St Michael’s Church. They have eight more children, Hesketh (died in infancy), William Henry (Harry), Emma Ellen, Roberts Edward, Annie (died in infancy), Hesketh (my grandfather), Grace (died in infancy) and Christopher.

In 1901 John William is aged 13 and employed as a cotton spinner, living at 46 Freckleton St, Kirkham with his father Henry and his wife Maggie and his siblings, Joseph aged 12, William aged 5, Emma aged 3 and Robert aged 9 months.

In 1911 the family were living in a five roomed house on Chapel Lane in Kirkham.  John William is aged 23 and employed as a farm labourer. His father Henry is employed as a bread baker, Margaret his wife works at home.  Joseph aged 21 and William Henry  aged 14, work in the cotton mill, Emma Ellen aged 12 works part- time in the cotton mill/school, Roberts Edward aged 10, Hesketh aged 6 and Christopher aged 1.  Also living with them is Maggie’s niece Emma Gertrude McCall who is aged 18 and also works in the cotton mill.

John William Riley joined the North Lancashire Regiment, his service number was 21034 and he was part of the 6th Battalion, and sailed to Gallipoli to join them on 14th November 1915. The Battalion was then sent to Mesopotamia in January 1916.

Private Riley died of wounds following a period in the trenches near the Hai Salient in Mesopotamia on 17th January 1917 aged 29.  He was buried in the Amara War Cemetery, plot: XXVII. F. 3. and is also remembered on the Kirkham War Memorial (photo below).


At the time of John’s death, his next of kin, his father Henry was now living at 14 Marsden Street, Kirkham. His younger brother Hesketh, named his son John William Riley in his honour.

Unfortunately his service papers have not been found.

Rank: Private
Service No: 21034
Date of Death: 17/01/1917
Age: 29
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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