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John Wesley Withington, Age 21

Private, 17268, 20th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

manchester regiment cap badge
Manchester regiment cap badge.

John was born in 1894 in Dawley, either at Dark Lane where the family lived in 1891 or Malinslee where they lived by 1901 (According to census returns). His parents were John Withington, who had been born in Dark Lane in 1867 and his wife Emily (nee Payne). All of their children had been born in the Dawley district. Emily died in 1904 and by 1911; widower John and his children had moved to No. 3 Exchange buildings, Oakengates. John was a foreman moulder, whilst John Wesley worked as a draper’s assistant in 1911.

Both John Wesley and his younger brother Frederick Albert enlisted into the 20th Manchester regiment in Manchester, why they had gone to enlist in Manchester is unknown. Frederick enlisted in December 1914 and his age was given as 19 years and 9 months, but he must have given a false age as his birth is registered as in the June quarter of 1897 making Frederick 17 at the time of his enlistment. A letter dated 20th Jan 1918 written by Frederick after his discharge was sent from the families address in Oakengates.

Frederick’s regimental number was 18161, ‘B’ Company, 20th Battalion Manchester Regiment, his service documents have survived and these state that his father was his next of kin and also state his Oakengates address, proving beyond doubt that the family had not moved to Manchester.

John died of wounds on the 3rd July 1916 which were more than likely received during the first day of the battle of the Somme (1/7/16). The 20th battalion were at the time part of the 7th Division. On July 1st the 20th Battalion found themselves opposite Fricourt and after the failure of the attack in the morning, the 20th battalion’s assault went in at 2.30 pm knowing full well that the Germans were waiting. ’A’ company of which John was a member advanced towards the sunken road which ran from Wing corner and met with withering machine gun fire from Wing corner and Zinc Trench. The attack faltered but after some close quarter fighting with grenades and bayonet the battalion managed to make some ground and by the end of the day they held Apple Alley north west to Zinc Trench although Fricourt did not fall until the next day.

The battalion’s losses amounted to 6 Officers and 110 men killed with 29 men missing and a further 171 wounded of which John was likely to have been one. After his death on the 3rd July John’s body was buried at Heilly Station cemetery in grave I.D.23.

Head Stone

Photo courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project

Heilly Station cemetery 07

Heilly Station cemetery.

WWI Medal Rolls Index Card

WWI Medal Rolls Index Card

Commonwealth War Graves
Buried Heilly Station cemetery


victory-medal britishwar-medal 1914-15 Star
Victory Medal British War Medal 1914-15 Star Medal

WW1 Death Plaque