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John Cowley was born in Wigan in January 1880.  His parents were James Cowley (b. 1853 in Shevinton), a blacksmith by trade, and Mary Brannon (b. 1851 in Wigan).  It seems James died in the later 1880s, probably 1889, and perhaps his mother Mary too, since in 1891 John was living with an uncle and maternal aunt in Preston. James had an older sister, Emily, who had either died or was living with other family members as she is not mentioned in the 1891 Census.  In 1911, still with his uncle and aunt and their two children and living at 65 Wellfield Road in Preston, John had managed to avoid working in the mill and was a shorthand clerk. 

In 1903 he married Emma Ray (b. 1881 in Preston) and the couple moved to Lostock Hall, where John was initially (in 1911) a clothlooker and Emma a weaver, but shortly after John became an insurance agent.  In 1911, they lived at 10 Birtwhistle Street, Lostock Hall, but by the time John signed up in 1915 they had moved to 17 Coote Lane, Lostock Hall.

John signed up on 8th December 1915, aged 35yrs 10mths.  He was assigned service number 36915 but posted to the reserves until 30th May 1917.  He was posted to France the following day, to join the 7th Battalion in the field on 28th June 1917.

He appears to have been wounded and transferred to 58 Field Ambulance on 25th August 1917.  Thereafter he is moved from one hospital to another, from St Omer to Boulogne, to Écault, to Trouville and finally to Étaples on 15 October.  After which he seems to have rejoined his Battalion.  However, according to his service records, he arrived at the 9th Canadian Field Ambulance on 17th November 1917 where he died of wounds, although later in the record the date is shown as 15 November, and this is the date recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 9 Canadian FA had been at the front line at the Second Battle of Passchendaele, from 12 – 20th October, but was then withdrawn to run a Field Hospital at St Omer.  However, John is buried at Vlamertinghe, near Ypres, indicating that he was wounded perhaps in one of the final throes of the battle for Passchendaele.  For 7Bn in late October and early November the fighting was very light but the conditions were appalling.

John was 37 when he died.  His widow Emma received a pension of 13s 9d a week from 17 June 1918.  John’s personal belongings were also returned to her plus personal effects totaling about £5 and a War Gratuity of £3.

  • 1 wallet
  • 1 testament
  • 1 silver watch
  • 1 cigarette case
  • 1 classification certificate

Emma later received his medals.  At this time, Emma was living at 9 Wateringpool Lane, Lostock Hall.

Rank:  Private
Service No:  36915
Date of Death:  15/11/1917
Regiment/Service:  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment,  7th Bn.
Grave Reference:  IX. B. 21.
Cemetery:  VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY

Bill Brierley

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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