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John Greenwell originated from the small mining village of Tudhoe, County Durham, where, in 1901, the family was living in a three-roomed home at 4 Bishops Close. His father, Peter, worked in the mine. His mother, Mary, was then aged 40. He was the oldest of 5 children at home – his siblings were Joshua (16), Sarah (14), peter (12) and Robert (8).

By the time of the Great War, John was married to Elizabeth and they lived at “Wroxham” 249 Stockport Road, Cheadle Heath, with their two children. He worked as the District Superintendent for the Pearl Insurance Company. It’s not known when John came to the Stockport area.

John was conscripted into the army in October 1916. Regimental records published after the War indicate he originally joined the Royal Field Artillery (service number 187025) but was transferred to the Loyals, probably whilst still in training. He went overseas on 10 January 1917.

In late February, John wrote his last letter home, telling Elizabeth that they had just finished a 4 day tour of duty in the front line. After a couple of days rest, John and his comrades relieved the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Rgeiment back in the front line, on 2 March. They were in position by 9.30pm and had suffered no casualties. The Battalion’s War Diary for the 3rd records only “Quiet day. Few casualties”. John was one of those few casualties. He had been badly wounded, in the chest and lungs, no doubt from artillery shrapnel. He was evacuated from the front line to a field hospital near the Somme village of Bray.

A nurse at the hospital later wrote to Elizabeth “It may be of some comfort to you to know that he did not suffer. He was almost unconscious when he was put to bed and passed peacefully away. He will be buried in the cemetery attached to the hospital”.

The local Stockport newspaper reported John’s death. It mentioned that his brother “Richard” had been wounded serving with the Cheshire Regiment. This is probably an error. There is no record of a brother called Richard and no-one of that name served abroad with the Cheshires. There is a record of a Peter Greenwell serving with the Regiment, who may have been John’s younger brother. Elizabeth is later recorded as living at 87 Crosby Street, Stockport.

Rank: Private
Number: 35933
Unit: 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 3 March 1917
Age: 34
Cemetery: Bray Military Cemetery, Somme, France

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the Stockport 1914-18 website.

Paul McCormick
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