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Dewhurst 1John Dewhurst or Jack as he was known was born in Preston in 1894 the son of Thomas and Alice Dewhurst (nee Brindle). His parents married in Preston in 1890 and they had nine children including Jack although two daughters died in infancy.

  • Alice Ann (1891-1892)
  • Joseph (1892)
  • John* (1894)
  • Charles (1896)
  • Mary (1897)
  • Agnes May (1899-1900)
  • Frederick (1900)
  • Alice (1903)
  • Winifred (1905)

Thomas Dewhurst was a fishmonger and fruit dealer and in 1911 he was living at 187 Ribbleton Lane in Preston with his wife Alice and his seven children. John was employed as a weaver and his elder brother Joseph was an assistant in a cotton factory.

After war broke out John went to the recruiting office in Preston to enlist. He was given the service number 2254 and posted to “C” Coy of the 1/4th Battalion. His brother Joseph also enlisted and was allocated the number 2566 and he joined “B” Coy of the same Battalion.

Both brothers sailed to France with the 1/4th Battalion on the 4 May, 1915. The total strength of the Battalion being 31 Officers and 1,003 non-commissioned officers and men. A week after landing in France the formation became the 154th Brigade in the 51st (Highland) Division.

Just over a month later on the 15th June, 1915 Jack was severely wounded whilst attacking enemy positions between Rue d`Overt and Chapelle St. Roch during the Battle of Festubert.

Extract from the Regimental History

At 6pm on the 15th June the attack was launched by the 4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful, the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held.

Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History, “great praise” is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine gun fire. There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”

Jack`s brother Joseph survived the attack and afterwards he penned a letter to the Daily Post in Preston with a moving account of the events leading up to his brother`s death.

“Brother`s story in a letter” – written by Private Joseph Dewhurst

Private John Dewhurst (21) of 187 Ribbleton Lane, Preston, a well-known salmon fisher was one of the members of the 1/4th L.N.L. Territorials who fell in action last month. He belonged to C Company. His brother Joseph (23), of B Company, describes his death in a letter in which he says; “It is very hard luck, but I can say he died a good Catholic, and he had all done for him that a French and an English priest could do. We went into the charge at 6 o`clock on the Tuesday evening, and it lasted until daybreak. It was simply awful but we came out of the trenches and went to the rallying post. The first thing I did was to look for Jack. I could not see him, but as stragglers kept coming in I did not give up hope. I had been waiting about three quarters of an hour when he came in. I rushed up to him and shook hands, and nearly cried for joy. After that the battalion fell in and marched away to our billets for a well-earned rest; but the men were so tired we didn`t quite reach the place we intended. We rested about six hours, and then moved on again.

This time we landed all right and the people at the farm at which we halted fairly did their best for us. I got a couple of poached eggs, some bread and butter and two basins of hot coffee, and I don`t think I ever tasted a better meal, it was so good just then. When we arrived at our billets we got down to a long sleep. I was quite happy and light hearted, thinking what a blessing it was to be able to write home and say that we had both come through all right.

I was having my dinner on the Thursday when one of our chaps said to me, “Have you heard about your Jack being wounded?” I said I saw him at the rallying post and he was right as rain then. You see I didn`t know then that he had had to go back into the trenches and I would not believe he had been hit. One of the men who had been in hospital sick told me Jack passed away on June 16th. I would not believe it until he told me some of the bomb throwers had to go back to help some of the other regiments.

The village where Jack was buried was five miles away. He is buried in the next grave but one to that of Lieut. Haldane, Lord Haldane`s nephew, and behind a Catholic Church. I put a card on his grave and went into the church to say a prayer for him. When I came out one of the first chaps I met was one of the bomb throwers, who told me as they were going up to the trenches again, they were shelled. Four shells missed, but one fell right in the middle of them, a piece hitting Jack in the left leg. They took him to hospital but they could not stop the bleeding and he died the day after…..

We are in the trenches now but this is a quiet part of the line and we are not doing so bad. All that trouble us are the snipers”.

Jack Dewhurst was buried with honour in Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery, Lacouture. After the war he was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service for his country.

Rank: Private
Service No: 2254
Date of Death: 16/06/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Additional family information

200627 (previously 2566) Sgt Joseph Dewhurst survived the war and disembarked on the 19 March, 1919. Joseph was also awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

Paul McCormick
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