23804 PTE. J. CHARNLEY. L.N.LAN.R.
John Charnley was born on 20 January 1897 in Lostock Hall and baptised on 21 March at St Paul’s, Farington. The family were living at 17 Lindley Street. His father, William (b. 1865 in Penwortham) was a railway engine driver. His mother was Mary Alice Kirkham (b. 1856 in Preston). Mary Alice had a daughter Elizabeth (b. 1881) by her first marriage (her first husband Henry Bradshaw died in 1882 at the age of 25). She and William were married in 1887 and they then had 7 children, 6 boys and 1 girl. William died in 1906, when John was just 9. Mary Alice was then left to bring up the family on her own and by 1911, they were living at 3 Lostock View, Lostock Hall, where John, aged 14, had just joined his siblings working as a weaver in the cotton mill.
John would have turned 18 in early 1915, which is probably when he joined up, being posted to 6th Battalion of the Loyals with service number 23804. 6Bn served in Gallipoli in 1915 but John had not yet joined them as he was not awarded the 1915 Star. They left Gallipoli for Egypt, then on to Mesopotamia, in the spring of 1916 and were engaged in the failed attempt to relieve the siege of Kut-al-Amara in April. After the surrender of the town, the British replaced the military commanders and paused to reinforce the ranks, and it’s possible that John joined the Bn some time during the winter, in which case he would have been engaged in the capture of Baghdad, which fell on 11 March 1917. Or he may have joined a little later; according to the Regimental history:
The Battalion spent the months May to September (1917) occupying different camps in the north of Sindiya, enduring the very great heat and losing some men from heatstroke; but reinforcements joined, both in men and officers, and by the end of September, when the resumption of active operations was to be expected, the strength of the Battalion stood at 19 officers and 796 other ranks.
In early October, the Battalion was to be deployed in strengthening the right flank in order to deny the Turks a screen for movement and access into Persia, but when the attack was made on 19 October it was found that the Turks had already withdrawn. The towns of Mujariyin and Mansuriya were occupied with relatively little resistance. However, the War Diary records that:
Total casualties were 137 wounded, one of whom died in the ambulance. No officer casualties.
John Charnley was the only man from 6Bn recorded as dying that day, so it must be assumed he was the man in the ambulance. He was 20 years old.
His effects of just over £2 in value and a War Gratuity of £6 10s were paid to his mother, who was by this time living at 119 Watkin Lane, although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records her address as 8 Ward’s New Row.
Service No: 23804
Date of Death: 19/10/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 6th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 27.
Memorial: BASRA MEMORIAL
It’s possible that John’s 3 older brothers, Thomas, Henry and George also served, but records have only been found for one. George Charnley was born in 1891 and joined the Scots Guards on 4 September 1914. He was given service number 10123 and posted to 1st Bn. Appointed Lance Corporal he landed in France on 14 January 1915. He was captured by the Germans soon after and spent the rest of the War in a prison camp at Giessen, Hesse. He was repatriated in January 1919.