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John Astley Broughton was born on 13th May 1898 and was the son of Alfred and Susannah Broughton of Bolton. He had six siblings, Alfred (1882 – 1916), Martha Ann (1884 – 1952), William (1888 – 1889), Amelia (1891 – 1969), Thomas Edward (1892  -1978)  and Ada (b. 1896).

Pre-war John worked as a side piecer in a cotton mill mending broken threads during spinning.

Two days before his 17th birthday, 11th May 1915, John enlisted into the Territorial Force and joined the 5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as a drummer with the number 4540. At the time of his enlistment he had been living with his mother at 19 Kirk Street, Bolton and nominated her as his legal next of kin. The medical officer described John as standing 5ft 3.5in tall, weighing 140lbs with a 34in chest.

Due to his age, John first served with ‘A Company’ of the 4th/5th Battalion in Blackpool and in October 1915 incurred a Regimental entry for being late on parade which incurred a punishment of being confined to barracks for 3 days. In March 1916 he incurred a further entry for being absent from a church parade. This carried the same punishment.

John remained in the UK until 15th July 1916 when he embarked at Folkestone bound for Boulogne to join the British Forces a fortnight after the start of the Battle of the Somme. Upon his arrival in France John was first sent to the Infantry Base Depot at Etaples before joining the 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion in the field on 28th July 1916.

On the day John left for France his mother wrote the following letter to Regimental Depot at Preston and attached John’s birth certificate as evidence of his age;


Just a line to inform you that I have my youngest son in the Army and has been sent to France and I would be very much obliged if you could do anything for me in regards to keeping out of the firing line until he is of age as he won’t be 19 yrs of age until 13th of May.

From, Mrs Broughton. No. 14 Noble Street, off Deane Road, Bolton.

She received the following reply;

Your application to hand. I am directed to inform you that your son will be posted to a unit behind the firing line until he attains the age of 19.

Less than one month after joining the Battalion, John was killed in action.

Author notes: His mother appears to have been under the impression that John was with the 8th Battalion at the time of his death, but neither the 1/5th or 8th Battalions were in action that day and which unit he had been ‘attached to behind the line’ is unknown. Possibilities include indirect shelling or whilst on working parties, trench digging etc.

Between May 1915 and July 1916 his mother had moved from 19 Kirk street to 18 Noble Street, then to 11 Tyson Street and then finally to 14 Noble Street. It was here she received her son’s personal effects which consisted of;

  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • 1 Wallet

By Armistice day, 11th November 1924 his mother still hadn’t received her late son’s British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal to which he was entitled. She wrote a letter to the authorities on that date asking for the medals in order to ‘keep them in memory of him’. She would also receive a memorial plaque and scroll bearing his name and in recognition of his sacrifice.

John’s body was not recovered from the Battlefield and as such he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.

Rank: Private
Service No: 4540
Date of Death: 26/08/1916
Age: 18
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/5th Bn.


John’s brother Alfred was killed in action on 7th July 1916 with the 9th (Service) Battalion,  Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

7/7/16 In Trenches. 8:30 a.m. The Battalion commenced an attack on two successive lines of German trenches, the first objective x.14 e.79 – x.14 d.29, and the second objective x. 14 a.95-93. e.42. Both these objectives were captured, the second being consolidated under the direction of three Second Lieutenants. Enemy parties massing for counter attacks were promptly dispersed and bombing parties were sent forward successfully up communications trench x.14 e.42 to x.14 e.75. Though the casualties were somewhat many and in spite of heavy and continuous shelling the line was improved and consolidated, and held until the Battalion was relieved on the 10th July.

Paul McCormick
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3 Responses to 4540 PTE. J. A. BROUGHTON. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Paula Broughton-Coppell says:

    Hi Paul

    Thank you so much, that is much appreciated. I obviously wasn’t born then but i think about him and Alfred a lot.

    Thanks you so much

  2. Anne Kohler ( nee Broughton ) says:

    My grandfather’s brother I think.
    Thank you for the research and information.

  3. Janine Sansom (nee Broughton) says:

    Dear Paul

    Thank you for posting information about my distant cousins John Astley Broughton and his brother Alfred. So sad for their family that they should be killed within such a short time of each other.

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