John Alfred Baxter


Private 19491, 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)

Killed in Action 12th October 1916 aged 31

No Known Grave Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Son of Charles and Lavinia Baxter

Lived 189, High Street, Heckmondwike

Charles Samuel Baxter was born in Leeds in 1849. In 1872 he married 22 year old Lavinia Almond, a Dress Maker, in Ripon. By 1881 they were living in Bramley, Leeds with their four children: Clare Almond a son aged 7; Maud, 5; Herbert, 3 and Fred, 9 months. John Alfred was born in 1885 in Bramley. The family had moved to Hollinbank Lane, Heckmondwike by 1891 and Lavinia aged 8 and Charlie aged 3 had been added to the family. Sadly the father Charles died later that year aged 43. 1901 saw the family at 165, High Street, Heckmondwike and Clare and Maud had married by that time. By 1911 Lavinia was a 61 year old widow living at 189, High Street with four children at home with ages ranging from 33 to 23: Herbert; Lavinia; John and Charlie, all working in textiles. The 3 married children, Clare, Maud and Fred all lived in Heckmondwike.

On 29 November 1915 John joined the 3rd Battalion West Riding Regiment in Heckmondwike. His address was still 189, High Street, his occupation was Wire Mattress Weaver, his height 5ft 4¾ and his weight 125 lbs. The timing suggests that he volunteered under the ‘Derby Scheme’, an attempt to manage the flow of recruits into the Forces. John was immediately transferred to the Reserve on 30th November 1915 and was not mobilised until 2nd March 1916, when his training would start.

After training with the 3rd Battalion he embarked for France on 6th July 1916 and joined the 2nd Battalion based near Albert on 15th July 1916 as one of 28 ‘other ranks’ who arrived that day. There were spells in the front line and in reserve during the following months, then on 8th October the Battalion began a march by track and across country towards the front lines in the Flers and Lesboeufs area to relieve other regiments in the front line. They arrived in the early hours of 9th October taking casualties on the way. The Battalion continued to take casualties from shell and sniper fire on 10th and 11th October whilst trying to improve their trenches, ‘clearing wounded left by other regiments’ and preparing for an attack on 12 October. That attack was successful, the expected German counter-attack did not develop and the new line held. But at a high cost: 48 dead (one of whom was John) 238 wounded and 54 missing. The Battalion moved out of the line during 14 October but continued to take casualties from shellfire.

A note in John’s records shows that his mother Lavinia was receiving 4s 3d separation allowance plus 3s 6d taken from John’s pay, a total of 7s 9d a week.

Lavinia was later sent John’s British War Medal and Victory Medal. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 6A and 6B and on the Heckmondwike St James War Memorial. John’s brother Charlie also served, as did his nephew Frank, the son of Clare and his wife Sarah (née Archer). Both survived the War and their names are on the Heckmondwike Roll of Honour.{AG-012}

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