John William Leachman was born in Gainsborough Lincolnshire, towards the end of 1895. His parents were John, who was an Iron Forge labourer and Mary Ann.
The 1901 census shows that the family were living at 35 Cavendish Square Sheepbridge.
1898 map showing Cavendish Square, the cricket ground and bandstand courtesy of Chesterfield Local Studies Library
It is hard now to imagine how many families would have been living in the Sheepbridge and Brushes area in the late 1890’s. As the housing at Cavendish Square had been built for workers at Sheepbridge then I think its safe to assume that John senior, moved from Gainsborough for possibly better working conditions at Sheepbridge.
CAVENDISH SQUARE SHEEPBRIDGE (PICTURE HISTORY OF THE SHEEPBRIDGE CO.)
In 1901 John William was the third child of John and Mary Ann. He had an elder sister Lilian (9) and an older brother Edward (7). John was 5 and there was a younger brother Leonard (1), who had been born at Whittington. Sadly, Leonard died not long after the census was taken and is buried at Newbold.
The next record for John is the 1911 census, the family are still living at Cavendish Square but now at number 27. John is 15 years old and working as a Colliery pony driver.
This excerpt from https://www.scottishshale.co.uk/Genealogy/Occupations/PonyDriver.html
explains what a pony driver would be responsible for:
Pony drivers were in charge of a horse or pony hauling empty hutches to the different working areas in the mines and bringing hutches filled with shale to the pit bottom. Especially in pits without an ostler, pony drivers were also responsible for maintaining the underground stables, feeding and grooming the ponies and looking after their general welfare.
The family had grown and John now had three younger sisters, Mary Ann, Nellie and Doris.
John’s older sister, Lilian, had married Joseph Johnson in 1909 and was living close to her parents at 26 Cavendish Square and had a 6 month old baby,Mary Ann, presumably named after her mother.
At some point Johns job changed and he started working with the fitters at Sheepbridge Co. Brightside Works in Sheffield.
John Leachman enlisted in Sheffield and joined the 8th Battalion East Yorkshire regiment, Service Number 11533. As with many others, John’s Service records were destroyed when the War Office repository in London was bombed during WW2. From a newspaper report, Derbyshire Times 19th August 1916, I found that John actually enlisted in September 1914, quite early in WW1.
Cap badge of the East Yorkshire Regiment picture www.longlongtrail.co.uk
After initial training John went out to France in July 1915, after checking further it would appear that John must have first enlisted in the 7th Battalion East Yorkshire’s as they, and not the 8th, went out to France in July 1915. According to the newspaper report he was sent home in December 1915 suffering from frostbite. John was sent back to the Front and returned to his regiment on June 16th 1916, this may have been when he was transferred to the 8th Battalion.
As we now know, John had returned to the Front just in time for the Somme offensive!
The Battalion under the instruction of 8th Brigade, 3rd Division took part in the Battle of Albert 1-13 July 1916, and then the Battle of Bazentin Ridge 14th – 17th July 1916.
John William Leachman was Killed in Action on 14th July 1916, he was 20 years old. He is buried in Quarry Cemetery Montauban.
Quarry Cemetery Montauban is situated close to where the fighting would have taken place and more information can be found here https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/65702/quarry-cemetery,-montauban/
Picture taken from Findagrave.com
The copy of the war diary for 8th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment dated 13-14th July 1916, explains far better than I can where I think John fought and would have been killed.
The war diaries highlight what these lads (as many of them were) had to go through and just how brave they all were.
As John‘s medal card shows he was awarded the British War and Victory medals along with the 14/15 Star.
A newspaper report of Johns death appeared in the Derbyshire Times on the 19th August 1916.
The newspaper report mentions that John had a brother in the Sherwoods who was wounded. That would be John’s older brother Edward who had been admitted to 51st Field Ambulance on the 8th May 1916 suffering from shell-shock.
As far as I can find from a quick search, Edward survived the war, he had already married in 1915 and had a son Fenton Leachman in 1921.
John’s mother Mary Ann died in 1918 and his father died in 1932.
Lilian, his older sister, continued to live in Old Whittington and on the 1939 registration report was living at Holland Road.
John is remembered on Old Whittington and the Brushes War Memorials.