John Stoneley

JOHN STONELEY (1897 - 1915)

There is some confusion around the year of John's birth. Information given in Census records suggest he was perhaps born in 1895; however, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission's records show his family gave John's age at the time of his death as eighteen, which would make his year of birth 1897.

Nonetheless, we know John Edward, named after his father, was born in Macclesfield. At the turn of the twentieth century, he was living with his father, mother - Rebecca - and two siblings at 1 Court, 2 House, Chatham Street, off Great King Street. John Edward Snr. had the extremely physical occupation of a 'stone getter', where he worked on blasting, rock breaking and haulage in a local quarry. The 1901 Census gives Rebecca Stoneley's occupation as a 'cotton card room worker'. Seen as a low-status job by others working in the mills, Rebecca would have been responsible for untangling and cleaning cotton fibres so that they made strong thread when spun; undoubtedly, she would have finished her day's work covered in cotton fluff.

Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, John Jnr. was working alongside his brother Fred as a 'print stainer' - colouring wallpaper either by hand or machine. As a member of the local territorial regiment, when John was called up for service, he went for training with his Regiment. We do not know the reasons why, but records show that John enlisted under the name of "John Stonier". John's family subsequently corrected the spelling of his surname when they decided on the wording of the epitaph on his headstone.

Following his basic military training, John volunteered to go the Front with the 1/5th (Earl of Chester's) Regiment. The 5th Division was engaged in action during battles along the Western Front. John was eventually drafted as part of a bombing party into the Somme Department of Northern France. In October 1915, having just returned from a tour of duty at the Front, the party had a number of unused bombs with them. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the soldiers did not follow the correct procedures for storing their unexploded bombs and, as a result, the bombs were not put away in their assigned place. When one bomb was accidently kicked, it exploded. John, who was nearby, received multiple wounds and taken to hospital. On Saturday, 23 October 1915, John died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident.

Private John Edward Stoneley was laid to rest in the Suzanne Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme. Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show his family asked for John's headstone to bear a cross with the words:

"Ever Remembered
by Father, Mother,
Sisters and Brothers."

Suzanne Communal Cemetery
SUZANNE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION ©Commonwealth War Graves Commission

John was survived by his parents, his sisters, Sarah Ann and Kathleen, as well as his brothers, Harold and Fred. Sixteen year old Fred had followed his brother into the army. In September 1917, he was wounded in his left foot. Unlike his brother John, Fred survived his injuries and lived until 1983.

John is commemorated not only in St Alban's church but also on the brass panels in St Michael and all Angels in Macclesfield town centre that are dedicated:

"SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF MACCLESFIELD'S
GALLANT SONS WHO FELL IN THE GREAT
WAR FOR WORLD FREEDOM AND JUSTICE
AD 1914-1919"

Again, for unknown reasons, John's surname does not appear as Stoneley on the St Michael memorial. Instead, he is listed as "Pte John E STOHELEY". Interestingly, two servicemen with the surname Stonier (the name used by John when he attested) also appear on the memorial.

Back to NAMES OF ST ALBAN'S FIRST WORLD WAR DEAD SERVICEMEN


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This website honours the WWI casualities of St Alban's Catholic Church, Chester Road, Macclesfield
www.stalbanmacc.org.uk
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StAlban's WWII war dead