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John Cookson  was born at 70 Byron Street in Preston, his birth being registered in the first quarter of 1897. His baptism took place in St. Peter`s Church in Preston on the 17th February of that year and he was the son of Henry and Mary Cookson (nee Holmes). His parents married in the same church on the 12th September 1886 and John was one of seven surviving children born to the couple, the others being; George (1888), Ada (1890), William (1893), Elizabeth Ellen (1893), Margaret Ann (1895) and Lily (1899).

John together with his mother and six siblings were still living in Byron Street in 1901 but his father Henry Cookson was not listed although his mother still gave her status as `married`. The only income the family had was from John`s elder brother, 13 year old George who was working as a cotton creeler in one of the mills.

John`s father passed away in 1903, his death was registered in the September quarter of that year and by 1911 his widow Mary and her seven children had moved to 58a Brougham Street in Preston. John, Margaret Ann, Elizabeth Ellen, Ada and George are all shown as cotton mill workers while William was a corporation scavenger and the youngest Lily was still at school.

John was not quite 18 years old when he enlisted on the 26th October 1914 at Preston, although his papers show his `apparent age` as being 19 years. He joined the 4th Battalion LNL and was allocated the service number 3038. He was 5`4” tall and said to be in good physical condition. Prior to his enlistment he had been working as a weaver at Moor Hall Mill in Preston and had been living at 6 Sizer Street with his mother who he named as his legal next of kin. John signed his agreement to serve abroad at Blackpool on the 4th January 1915.

The 1/4th Battalion sailed to France on the 4th May 1915 and John went with them as a member of “C” Company. A week after landing in France the Battalion became part of the 154th Brigade of 51st (Highland) Division. Towards the end of May they had their first experience of the trenches and also incurred their first casualties but on the 15th June 1915 they were ordered to take part in their first major action, attacking enemy positions between Rue d`Overt and Chapelle St. Roch in what would become known later as “the great bayonet charge”.

Extract from the Regimental History

“At 6pm on the 15th June, 1915 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”,

The Battalion had paid a heavy price, after being relieved what remained of the Battalion assembled at Le Touret where a roll call was taken. After their first general action 431 men had been killed, wounded or were posted missing and sadly, 18 year old John Cookson`s name was one of those on the missing list.

After news of the casualties reached Preston, one of the local papers, the Preston Guardian began to publish information about some of the men; John Cookson was mentioned in one such publication;

His mother would have to wait for almost a year before the Military Authorities on the 6th May 1916 finally concluded that her son had died on or since the 15th June 1915.

To read more about Festubert including many personal stories, please click here;

The body of John Cookson was never recovered from the battlefield where he fell and as such he has no known grave, his name was later added to the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

After the war his mother took receipt of his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and she would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

John is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston and his name also appears on the Roll of Honour in St. Peter`s Church, the Church where his parents had married and where he was baptised (pictured below);

Roll of Honour – St. Peter`s Church, Preston

Rank: Private
Service No: 3038
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Age: 18
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “C” Coy. 1st/4th Bn.
Memorial: LE TOURET MEMORIAL

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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