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John Stanley Owens was born in Bolton on 4th January 1897. His mother Elizabeth was a domestic servant, a cook, and was living at 5 German Street. Elizabeth was unmarried and no father’s name appears on John’s birth certificate. It appears she also managed to evade official record keeping as no census records have been found for either John or his mother.

When John enlisted in the Territorial Force at Bolton on 28th August 1915 he was living with his mother at 31 John Street. The medical officer described John as being 19 years 8 months old, standing 5ft 2.25in tall with a 35in chest and being of good physical development. The requirement to join the TF at that time was 19 years old and John had added a year onto his age in order to be accepted.

He joined the 4/5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 6591 (when the TF were renumbered in 1917 this changed to 242947). He had no previous military service and was embodied the same day.

John qualified as a stretcher bearer sailed to France from Folkstone on 12th February 1917 and was granted 2nd class proficiency pay in August the same year.

On 13th September 1917 whilst in the trenches at Houplines he was victim of a gas attack and being wounded and suffering from shell shock he was taken by field ambulance to 54 Casualty Clearing Station and on to 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne.

The war diary for this period reads;

11th September 1917: Relief of 2/5th Bn. K.O.R. Lancs Regt.

12th September 1917: HOUPLINES. Enemy patrol of 6 men seen in front of No. 5 post. Contact not obtained.

12th September 1917: HOUPLINES. Normal artillery and trench mortar fire. Aircraft active on both sides. Strong listening posts out along whole front report all quiet.

12th September 1917: HOUPLINES. 2 Gas bombardments at 8.15 p.m. and 2 a.m. by T.Ms. New mustard gas and phosgene. No casualties – gas soon dispersed.

13th September 1917: HOUPLINES 8.30 a.m. Enemy put down heavy barrage of artillery and T.Ms including smoke shells on loc 14-15-16-17 F.S. Lines stopping fire at once opened and our artillery opened S O S at 8.10 a.m. Enemy plan was apparently to surround and cut off No. 7 post but (no) infantry attack developed no doubt owing to prompt and effective reply by our artillery. Fire bays at No. 7 post demolished and FL from left of Loc. 14 to left of No. 7 post rendered impassable the parapet being leveled in many places. Our casualties 1 O.R. killed 1 O.R wounded. Considerable hostile artillery activity during rest of day on left Coy. sector. During night 500-600 pineapples (on further of 15 intervals?) on right Coy. sector.

Having recovered from shell shock John spent a month in the Infantry Base Depot in Etaples before rejoining his unit on 8th December.

The 4/5th Battalion were absorbed by 1/5th Battalion on 4th February 1918 and John was granted a fortnights furlough of leave between 5th-19th March 1918 whilst the Battalion were out of the line and simply required to provide 300 men per day for working parties. He returned on 19th March and the Battalion went into the trenches at Fleurbaix the next day, just in time for the German Spring Offensive Operation Michael.

After a busy couple of months, where the Battalion had been called upon to go into action on numerous occasions or else provide working parties to reinforce the trenches, on 4th May 1918 Private Owens was admitted to 3 Canadian hospital ‘sick with fever’ and over the next week was transferred to 4 Sty hospital in Rouen and then on to a hospital in Trouville.

In June that year, whilst still convalescing,  he was admitted to hospital again, now having fractured nose during a game of football on the ‘Cour de Lassey’ field, which saw him out of action for another three months.

‘A’ Coy, Company Sergeant Major Albert John Brook, No 14 Convalescent Depot, wrote his statement of events;

Sir,

On the evening of Wednesday the 26th inst. at 5.30 p.m. a game of football was commenced between K + A Coys of the Depot, during the course of the game about 5.45 p.m. the above man met with an accident through No 116698 Gnr Birch A, R.G.A colliding with him, whilst attempting to head the ball. I ordered him to be taken to the medical inspection room where I learnt that he had sustained a broken nose.

Private John Owens proceeded to the front and rejoined the Battalion in the field on 22nd September 1918.

On 1st October 1918 John was reported to be missing in action after operations near Proville. The operational orders and a narrative of the attack are available by clicking the image below;

PLEASE CLICK  THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

1stoctober1918-1st15thbn

In May 1919 the War Office received an unofficial report about his death, presumably by a witness, which was accepted sufficient evidence for official purposes that John had been killed on that date. None of his effects were sent home but his body was later recovered from the battlefield, identified as being John, and was buried at Anneux  British Cemetery. Nearly half of the men in this cemetery are unidentified.

His mother took receipt of his British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal in 1922. She would also receive a memorial plaque and scroll bearing the name of her son and in recognition of his sacrifice.

He is also remembered on the 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (Territorials) Memorial in Queen’s Park, Bolton; and on the Bolton County Borough Roll of Honour 1914-1918.

Rank: Private
Service No: 242947
Date of Death: 01/10/1918
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/5th Bn.
Grave Reference: III. D. 38.
Cemetery: ANNEUX BRITISH CEMETERY

Paul McCormick
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Paul McCormick

Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
Paul McCormick
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3 Responses to 6591 PTE. J. S. OWENS. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. david owens says:

    Great finding this article, as I have bought Johns war medal recently.

  2. Anonymous says:

    great finding this article as I recently purchased Johns War medal

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