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John Lawrence Whitfield was born in the second quarter of 1882 and was the son of John and Alice Whitfield, of “Northolme,” Chorley, Lancashire.

John was educated at Sedbergh School, Cumbria (West Riding of Yorkshire at the time), and Victoria University (which became Manchester University after his time there) and qualified as a Solicitor with Plant, Abbott & Plant in 1906 before joining his father’s firm (Whitfield & Son).

The London Gazette of 20th November 1908 recorded John being accepted for a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.


During these pre-war days, whilst practicing as a solicitor and serving in the Territorial Force, John still found time to carry out his duties as secretary and captain of Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Football Club and also be a member of the Preston Cricket Club.


On 12th November 1914, John registered the death of his father who, aged, had died of an ‘intestinal obstruction’.

On 4th May 1915, by now a Captain, John sailed with the main body of the 1/4th Battalion to France on the S.S Onward.

S.S Onward

The Steamship ‘Onward’

Having been in France just over a month, and in their first major action, John was fatally wounded.


Captain J L Whitfield, date and location unknown

On 15th June 1915, during a bayonet charge as part of the battle of Festubert he sustained shrapnel wounds to his thighs and was evacuated to hospital. The Liverpool Echo included him in their wounded list on 18th June but unfortunately five days later, on 23rd June, he died at the 7th Stationary hospital in Boulogne. He was buried in the town’s eastern cemetery.

During his five days in hospital he played down his wounds, telling his loved ones back home he had only been ‘slightly wounded’.


In May 1919 his mother Alice applied for the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal to which her late son was entitled. She would also have received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of sacrifice.

Rank: Captain
Date of Death: 23/06/1915
Age: 33
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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