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John Ashworth was born at number 10 Buller Avenue in Penwortham on the 8 August, 1897 and was one of five children born to his parents Joseph and Dorothy Ashworth (nee Smith). They were married at St. Michael`s and All Angels, Howe Bridge, Atherton near Leigh on 3 October, 1891.

John`s mother was originally from Great Broughton in Cumberland but prior to her marriage to Joseph she had been working as a parlour maid for a colliery proprietor in Atherton. Joseph was a joiner by trade and he came from Penwortham near Preston.

After the couple married they moved to Preston to live in Brixey Street in Broadgate which was just over on the Preston side of the River Ribble. Their two eldest children Thomas (1892) and William (1893) were both born at Brixey Street then Joseph and Dorothy moved across the river to live in Buller Avenue in Penwortham. Their only daughter Edith was born there in 1894 and after John arrived they had another son James in 1905.

In 1911 Dorothy was with her five children in Buller Avenue in Penwortham, her husband Joseph isn`t listed so he may have been working away at the time. John who was thirteen years old by now was working for the Post Office as a telegraph messenger, Thomas and Edith were both cotton mill workers and William was a clerk in a biscuit works.

Prior to his enlistment John had left the Post Office and had gone to work at the Co-op in Penwortham. We cannot be sure when he actually enlisted because his service papers are not available but his service number of 2622 suggests that it is likely he signed up on in September 1914.

After a period of training the Battalion received orders in mid-April 1915 to prepare themselves for embarkation for service overseas. On the 4 May, 1915 he boarded the SS Onward at Folkestone with the 1/4th Battalion and sailed for Boulogne.

The Battalion had been in France for just over a month when they were sent into their first major action 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.

Sadly, this is where John Ashworth was posted as missing. A letter from one of his fellow soldiers later confirming that he saw John wounded in the back by shrapnel.

When the Battalion were relieved and had reached Le Touret only 243 men answered the roll call. After their first general action a total of 431 men had either been killed, wounded or were missing.

The news of the 1/4th Battalion`s first major engagement in the war soon reached the people of Preston and the local papers were full of praise for the Territorials with headlines such as “Fighting Lancastrians” and “Historic Charge of the 4th L.N.L.” appearing daily.

Letters from men who had witnessed and survived the action also started to appear; the following is an extract of one such letter sent to the Daily Post in Preston by Privates J Moss and R Howarth.

“We soon found out that this time we had come to a very hot shop, for before many hours were out we had added considerably to our list of dead and wounded. The bombardment was terrible and we quickly found that the enemy were prepared in great numbers against us, yet our men went out to the charge like true Britons. Our men took the trenches with very depleted numbers.

What a blessing for us the enemy proved such cowards. They were huddled in their dug-outs crying for mercy…….when the day broke we were relieved and as we met in small batches in the road and returned to camp we realised what the night had cost. All were looking in vain for their dear chums. There was not a dry eye in our midst.”

A brief article with a photograph of John Ashworth was published later in the Preston Guardian.


Several months would have elapsed before his parents received the news that for official purposes John was deemed to have died on or about the 15 June, 1915. After the war they would have received their son`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals that he was entitled to.

His body was never recovered from the battlefield and so his name was recorded on the Le Touret Memorial along with 121 other officers and men from the 1/4th Battalion who were never found and also died on that day.

His name is also remembered on the war memorial in Penwortham not far from where he lived.

Penwortham memorialPenwortham memorial panel

Rank: Private
Service No: 2622
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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