John Burgess

JOHN BURGESS (1890 - 1918)

John was part of a large family. The 1911 Census tells us John's parents - Maxonian Lawrence Hidderley Burgess, a building labourer, and Sarah Jane Burgess, originally from Manchester - had a total of thirteen children of which ten were alive at the time of the census.

In 1901, the eleven year old John was living with his parents, four sisters and five brothers at 22, Crossall Street in Macclesfield. John attended St Alban's school and was a regular worshipper at St Alban's. His eldest sibling was twenty-one years old; the youngest, baby Denis, was only eight months old. By 1911, the family had moved a few streets away to 9, Union Street. On leaving school, John was employed by Mr M. H. Watts in the town as an iron and brass moulder; where he worked until he entered the Army in July 1916.

John's enlistment papers no longer exist. However, his six figure Regiment number - 471686 - tells us he had originally served in the Territorial Force. During the war, John served as a Sapper in the 421st /West Lancashire Field Company of The Royal Engineers. The 421st Field Company was within the 2nd West Lancashire Division, which later was titled the 57th (West Lancashire) Division. This Division was formed in February 1915 from the Home Service men of the Territorial Force units in the 55th Division. At this time, many men volunteered to serve overseas rather than remain as part of the "Home Service". However, the choice disappeared with the introduction of the Military Service Act of 1916 which deemed all men as having agreed to serve overseas. Consequently, all "Home Service" soldiers became available to be shipped overseas.

John's Division was made ready for service overseas in 1917. In April, they landed in France. As a member of the Royal Engineer, John would have been involved in heavy work such as building front-line fortifications, bridges, tunnels and roads. These were frequently dangerous tasks, which gave the soldiers little cover from attack and limited positions for artillery to be set up.

On Wednesday 23 January 1918, John, aged twenty eight, was 'Killed in Action' when serving in Northern France. John was killed instantly at 2pm by a shell bursting near to him. Two other soldiers were also killed in the attack. John's family received a letter from Major Lecker explaining:

"A Roman Catholic padre conducted the burial service. Your husban was a gallant and efficient soldier, and his loss is deeply felt by the whole compay. All the officers and men of the company join me in conveying to you our deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement."

John is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, in the town of Armentieres, which is situated in northern France, close to the Belgian border. Records of the Imperial War Graves Commission show that when John's headstone was erected, his father asked for it to be inscribed with the words:

On His Soul
Sweet Jesus Have Mercy

John had 3 brothers who are believed to have survived active service during the war. Thomas, served with the Cheshire Regiment Lawrence, with the 7th Cheshire Regiment (Territorials) was wounded in Egypt before being transferred back to England. Wilfred originally serving with the Lancashire Fusilliers. After he was wounded in service, Wilfred was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps, a Home Service composed of servicemen either too old or medically unfit for front-line service


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This website honours the WWI casualities of St Alban's Catholic Church, Chester Road, Macclesfield

StAlban's WWII war dead