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John Saul was born in Preston on the 1st May 1882 and was the eldest of eight children born to Thomas and Bridget Saul (nee Campbell). His parents` marriage was registered in Preston in the March quarter of 1882 and of the eight children they had only five of them including John survived infancy; Thomas Henry (1882), Peter (1886), William (1888), James (1890-1892), Ann (1893-1893), James (1894) and Albert (1897-1898).

In 1891 the Saul family home was at 4 Duke Street in Preston where both of John`s parents were employed in one of the many cotton mills, Thomas was a weaver whilst Bridget was a cotton `slubber`. Also resident with the family at the time was John`s maternal Aunt, 46 year old Ann Campbell, a single lady who had been born in Ireland. School records show that John had been attending St. Augustine`s Roman Catholic Infant School and then on the 8th October 1890 he moved up to St. Augustine`s Junior School but he left there on the 19th August 1892.

Sadly, John`s mother Bridget died in 1898 and the Census of 1901 shows the family living at 65 Albert Street where they were lodging in the home of a married lady named Ellen Boardman. John`s father was a cotton mixer, John a general labourer and Thomas Junior and William were both cotton creelers, the youngest member of the family was 6 year old James.

John had already served for 49 days with the 3rd Battalion East Lancs. Militia when on the 12th November 1901 he enlisted into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which would be the beginning of a long association with the Regiment. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion LNL on the 1st October 1902 and went on to serve overseas with the Regiment until he was transferred into the Army Reserve on the 6th November 1905.

Just short of two years later John married Eleanor Crowe, a lady from the town of Laxey on the Isle of Man, the couples` wedding taking place at the Registry Office in Lancaster on the 3rd August 1907. Eleanor already had a 4 year old daughter called Mabel when she married John and by 1909 the couple had added two more children to the family; John (1908) and Eleanor (1909). When the 1911 Census was recorded on the 2nd April, John, Eleanor and the three children were living at 13 Hammonds Row in Preston and John was working as a ring spinner in one of the mills. By December 1911 the couple had another daughter and they named her Mary Kathleen.

A son, William Ernest was the next child to arrive in 1913 but sadly he died when he was only eight weeks old, his death prompting a Coroner`s Inquest which was reported on in the Preston Herald under the date 20th August 1913;


“The death of a baby of eight weeks old named William Ernest Saul, was inquired into by a Coroner`s Jury, before Mr. Parker Jnr. at Preston Police Station, on Tuesday. Mrs. Ellen Saul, the mother of the child, said she lived at 13 Hammonds Row, Preston. The child was in fairly good health but was rather small, cried a lot, and was often very hungry. Witness, with her husband and the child, retired to bed on Sunday night. On the following morning they left the child in bed, thinking it was still asleep. Shortly afterwards she picked the child up, and found that it was dead. Dr. Pilkington, the Surgeon to the Borough Police spoke to holding a post-mortem examination of the deceased. The organs of the body were healthy, but the stomach was enormously distended by gas. It contained a little milk curd, but otherwise was empty. In his opinion death was due to the distention of the stomach by gas, which had affected the heart. In answer to the foreman of the jury the Doctor said he thought there was no preventable cause for the distention. It was probably due to the milk having soured, and causing gas”.

Two months after the death of his son, John re-engaged with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, signing his papers on the 25th October 1913 agreeing to serve a further four years, effective from the 12th November 1913. In June 1914 another daughter was born and the couple named her Ivy Marie. According to later information, when war was declared, John was living at 55 Brunswick Street in Preston and was employed as a porter on Preston Railway Station working for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company. As a reservist he was recalled to the Colours and then on the 7th September 1914 he was appointed Acting Lance Corporal. A couple of `absences` appeared on his Misconduct Sheet when John was stationed in Felixstowe with the 3rd Battalion in October, one on the 25th when he was absent from his billet for four and a half hours and then again the following day, his punishment was to be confined to barracks for three days.

On the 23rd February 1915 he embarked for France as one of many reinforcements for the 1st Battalion and would have joined the Battalion in the field within a day or two of landing. The 1st Battalion was part of the BEF (2nd Brigade in 1st Division) and had been in France since the 13th August 1914, when John arrived they had just moved into billets at Lozinghem.

The 2nd Battle of Ypres began on the 22nd April 1915 which would continue until the 24th May 1915 and the 1st Battalion as part of the 2nd Brigade first became involved in the action in the early part of May. An attack was planned for the 7th May 1915 but this was subsequently postponed until the morning of the 9th.

Extract from the Battalion War History

7th May 1915 – A long day of preparation, every man was issued with 220 rounds of ammunition, a gas mask and two sandbags.

8th May 1915 – The Battalion left Les Choquaux at 8pm and moved into battle position in the third line of breastworks behind the Rue de Bois, and was in position there by midnight.

The attack went ahead as planned on the 9th May but during the course of the attack John received a gunshot wound to his right arm. The attack as a whole had been a costly one, 7 Officers and 190 non-commissioned Officers and men killed or died of wounds and 21 men were posted missing. Meanwhile John was sent back to a hospital in England for treatment and later the Lancashire Daily Post published a photograph of him;

John never returned to the front because of his injuries and on the 29th February 1916 he was discharged from the Army due to being `no longer physically fit for war service`, he was awarded a Silver War Badge No. 153924. After his discharge John returned to his new home address at 16 Everton Gardens in Preston.

On Wednesday, 29th November 1916 John and his wife Eleanor appeared in court where they were both charged with wilfully neglecting their five children. The Preston Herald newspaper published the proceedings in great and rather unpleasant detail on the 2nd December 1916. The case had been brought by Inspector Lee of the N.S.P.C.C. against the pair after he had been called in to inspect the both the condition of the children and the state of the home they were occupying.  John and Eleanor both pleaded not guilty, insisting that the children were well fed, a fact to which the Inspector agreed, he did however comment extensively on the filthy state of the children and the home, the lack of any clean bedding and the lack of any adequate furniture. He also noted that Eleanor appeared to have been drinking. In his defence, John Saul stated that he had reported his wife to the Police for neglect on previous occasions and nothing had been done, he wanted her taken away to a place where she could not get any drink and stated that he would pay for her keep. He also insisted that he provided adequate money for the family in fact he gave her money twice a week for their upkeep. The conclusion of the case saw Eleanor sent to gaol for 4 months and John for 2 months and the children were removed to a home until such time that John could provide a better home for them.

On the very same day that the newspaper report appeared Eleanor gave birth to the couples` sixth child, a son, and he was named James Stanley.

John then joined the RAF on the 24th August 1918 when he was 33 years old and he was given the service number 288704. Eleanor was named as his next of kin. His papers reveal that he was a labourer and was living at 15 Walton Street in Preston.  However, two months later he was discharged to the RAF Reserve,  his discharge noting that this was due to `bronchitis` but it also mentions the gun-shot wound to his right arm.

John and Eleanor then had two more children, both boys, Harold arrived in 1918 and he was followed by Clifford in 1920 (died 2015). Not quite finished with military service, John then enlisted on the 7th July 1921 for 1 years` service with the Loyals and was issued with the service number 3849333. He was still living at 15 Walton Street but was now a fitter`s labourer. By the end of July 1921 he had been promoted to Corporal. John was finally discharged from the Army on the 6th July 1922. John and Eleanor`s ninth and final child, another son, was born the year after his discharge.

For his war service John was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

Sadly, John passed away in Preston in 1931 and Eleanor in 1953.


2640 Private Peter Saul was one of John`s younger brothers and he too joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and also served with the 1st Battalion. Peter was also wounded in the same action as John on the 9th May 1915.

To read his story please click here

Janet Davis
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