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The Fallen of Kirkby

John Atkinson Newby Wilson

  • Of Dove Bank, son of James and Jane Wilson of Kirkby-in-Furness.
  • Private, 21899, 6th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
  • Born Kirkby-in-Furness. Enlisted in Kendal. Killed in Action, 19th November 1915.
  • Buried at White House Cemetery, St Jean-les-Ypres, Block III, Row D, Grave 18.

(Note: there was a John Newby Wilson who was not the John Atkinson Newby Wilson named on the Kirkby war memorial; but the two of them are good examples of the fashion in those days for repeating christian names within a family – something that has not made life easy for the local historian or genealogist)

In 1911, at Dove Bank, space must have been in short supply: in seven rooms lived John; his Aunt Isabella Wilson (53); Isabella’s brother, George (62); another brother, John, aged 60; Isabella’s daughter, Edith (32); Bertha Ann Woodend, and another widower brother, aged 62. At this time Isabella worked as a domestic servant, but did not live in; Edith worked at home as a dressmaker, and John Atkinson Newby Wilson was 12 and still at school. (A memorial service was held in Kirkby in January 1916 for Preston, Knight R., Sykes, Brockbank and “John Wilson” but John Newby Wilson did not die until 1917, and so the dates of their respective deaths distinguishes between the two men:

John Atkinson Newby Wilson: Killed in Action before January 15th 1916. (Memorial Service at St Cuthbert’s, Sunday January 15th 1916.)
John Newby Wilson: Killed in Action 1st April 1917.

The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry contributed 12 Battalions to the war effort, and John Wilson of Kirkby travelled to Kendal to join the 6th (Service) Battalion. He landed at Boulogne in August 1915, on his way to the Front. John would have known Captain B.H. Liddell Hart, in the same Battalion if not the same Company, who survived the war and went on to become a celebrated military historian.

Note: “Service Battalions” were the New Armies of volunteers who signed on for “General Service” for the duration of the war in response to a call to arms. They included the “Pals” and “Chums” battalions, in which groups of friends signed on together. The 6th Battalion crossed the Channel in May 1915 for service on the Western Front. It brings home to you just how many men were involved in the war, when you remember that there were 10 service battalions each with up to 800 men in the KOYLI alone; their Commanding Officer, Lt-Col Oliver Watson, clearly led from the front, because he won a posthumous VC for his action in the Battle of Havrincourt. He must have inspired his men, for there was another VC awarded to Sgt. Laurence Calvert, and no fewer than three Military Medals for one man, Corporal Ernest Hayes.

John Atkinson Newby Wilson was too young when he enlisted, and was only 16 or 17 when he was killed. He presumably had the traditional Recruiting Sergeant who allegedly used to say: “How old are you, lad? Only 16? Right, go outside that door and come back in when you are old enough – in five minutes time.”

Tragically, the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects shows that when John Wilson was killed at the age of 17, the Army owed him four pounds and seven pence in backpay!

 

A Brief Word about John Newby Wilson

Although he was not named on Kirkby War Memorial, but on Barrow Cenotaph, John Newby Wilson had close connections with Kirkby. His parents were James and Jane Wilson “of Kirkby”, and in 1905 they were living at Mere Beck, when James died. John Newby Wilson was married to Catherine Wilson of 133 Kent Street, Barrow–in-Furness, and it must have been she who had his name included on the memorial in Barrow park, rather than in Kirkby. His mother died quite soon after the war, in 1924.

White House Cemetery, St Jean les Ypres
White House Cemetery, St Jean les Ypres
Graves of the Yorkshire Regiment
Graves of the Yorkshire Regiment

White House Cemetery is north-east of Ieper (Ypres) on the N313. It was in use from March 1915 to April 1918, and after the Armistice bodies were exhumed from smaller cemeteries and brought in to White House, much of this work being done by Chinese hired labourers.

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