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John Wastell was born in Nottingham in 1899 and was the son of another Loyal North Lancashire soldier 1863 Corporal Edmund George Wastell, 1st Bn., who would be invalided out the Army in March 1916 having sustained gunshot wounds to his leg.

Before the War John was working as a tram conductor and was living at 71 Cemetery Road, Preston with his father and step-mother, Alice Ada Wastell. On 15th July 1915. only 16 years old but eager to do his bit, pretending he was 19, John enlisted and joined the 3/4th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was given the number 4229 which would change to 201607 when the TF were renumbered in 1917.

During the War John spent some time serving in Ireland with the 42nd Prov. Bn (4th Res Bn.) but didn’t make it out to the front. This did give him the opportunity to attend a grenadier’s course on 10/10/1916 and a range finder’s course on 13/11/1916.

After the Armistice he re-enlisted into the Army in Dublin on 18th February 1919 and was given the number 57724. He was now 19 years 4 months old and was posted into the 1st Battalion being appointed Lance Corporal  in June 1919, receiving his 2nd class certificate of education in October, and being appointed to Acting Corporal by the end of the same year.

Whilst at St. Andrew’s barracks in Malta in April 1920 he received another regimental entry (he had received numerous entries during the War years for misconduct), ‘neglect of duty whilst Orderly Sergt. i.e. failing to turn the Company out for early morning parade’. This misdemeanour didn’t hinder John, obviously a capable soldier he was promoted to substantive Corporal the following month.

On 13th July 1920, still in Malta, he received two more entries. This time the charge sheet read ‘1. Absent from Reveille till reporting at the guard room at 21.30 hrs (1 day).   2. Breaking out of barracks whilst attending hospital’. Less than three weeks later he committed suicide on the Musta to Rabat road.

Lieutenant B. ORMONDE WARE, 1st Bn. gave the following statement the same day;

I was in charge of the ammunition guard at MARIA MARINO. On Saturday 24th July Cpl. Wastell was missing. He was last seen at 08.00 hours on the 24th.

On Monday the 26th I proceeded as ordered to the Police station at CITTA VECHIA and was directed to a point (Map of Malta scale 2″ to 1 mile), where I met two magistrates and one police officer. I was shown the body of a man covered by a blanket; he was lying about towards N.W. of the road. I was asked certain questions concerning Cpl. Wastell, whom they supposed the dead man to be.

I learnt;

(1) That Musta Police had been informed by a labourer that a dead man was lying by the roadside, and that they passed the information to the police at CITTA VECHIA.

(2) that a shot had been heard at sunrise on 26th.

After aboout 20 minutes Captain Pendered R.A.M.C. arrived from IMTARFA HOSPITAL. A civilian doctor drove up a few minutes later. The blanket was then removed and I identified the dead man as no. 57720 Cpl. J. Wastall. He was lying on his right side, his left hand holding the nose-cap of a rifle, and his right hand stretched out to the full extent, lying between the rifle and his body; a bullet had passed through his right temple and had blown his brains out. Death was instantaneous.

The opinion of the doctors was that he had committed suicide. After taking various measurements Cpl. Wastell was searched. A clip of 5 rounds and a clip of 4 rounds of ammunition were found in his pocket, also two letters: one was a letter of farewell addressed to a certain Miss Borg, and stated that he had contemplated suicide for some time, and that it was only an occasional sight of her that prevented him from taking his life before; the other read as follows:-

“I died by my own hand 4.40 Monday morning. Fond love to my dear sweetheart.   Cpl. J. Wastell. God Forgive”.


cont… I examined the rifle and found an empty case in the breach, and four rounds in the magazine. The rifle had been fired through. The rifle did not belong to Cpl. Wastell.

The body was removed to IMTARFA Mortuary, together with all personal effects and equipment. Inquest is being held at 09.00 hours tomorrow.

From various sources of information it appears that Cpl. Wastell was very much in love with the girl Borg, only as far as her finace has not returned, she no longer required his company. He had many photographs of her in his wallet.

Corporal John Wastell was buried in IMTARFA Cemetery at 18.00 hrs the next day, 27th July. Today a CWGC stone marks his resting place.


Photo taken February 2016

Three months after John’s death, the Loyal North Lancs. depot received an enquiry, via the War Office, from a Miss E. H. O’Brien of Dublin as to his whereabouts.


Will you please let me have the present address of one Jack Wastell, a time serving soldier. Drummer J. Wastell, when last I heard from him, was serving with the North Lancashire Regt. at Wellington Barracks, Dublin in 1918. His regimental number was then 201607. He was expecting a transfer to the Royal Garrison Artillery and left Dublin in about April 1919. Drummer Wastell was made LCpl in 1919. I lost touch with him, owing to my going to Scotland and I want to get into communication again with him. That is the reason for my enquiry. Trusting you will give this matter your kind and immediate attention.

I am Sir, yours faithfully, Elsie H O’Brien (late Q.M.A.G.C).*

* Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps

She would be spared the circumstances, but been told the fate of the drummer boy she knew as Jack.

Rank: Corporal
Service No: 57724
Date of Death: 26/07/1920
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Paul McCormick
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