RFA West Lancs Bdes
680319 DVR. J. KELLETT. R.F.A.
John Kellett was born on 28 March 1891 in Ulverston and baptised there on 22 April. His father was Simon Kellett (b. 1868 in Ulverston), a builder’s labourer. His mother was Elizabeth Ann (Lizzie) Metcalf (b. 1872 in Ulverston). Simon and Lizzie were married in 1890 and they had four children; John was the first, followed by Mary Alice (b. 1892), Jane (b. 1895) and Richard (b. 1897). The family moved from Ulverston to Lancaster in 1892. In 1911, they were living at 50 Williamson Road, Woodville, Lancaster. John, then 20, was working as a labourer in a linoleum factory. In 1914, John married Catherine (Kate) Bateson (b. 1896 in Lancaster). The couple had a daughter, Violet, born in March 1917, whom John probably never saw.
John probably signed up in 1915, though he may have done some service in the Territorials before that. He joined the Royal Field Artillery, was assigned service number 1407 (later changed to 680319) and posted to “A” Battery of 276 Brigade. 276 Brigade formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. John landed with his Division in France on 29 September 1915. 55th Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
1917: Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
55th Division spent the period from 7 August to 12 September either at rest or in training. The weather throughout August had been appalling but in early September, as the Division prepared to return to the front, it became fine and dry. They took up their position in the line on 15 September, in almost exactly the same place they had left back in August. As they prepared to enter the line, between Frezenberg and St Julien, the various sections of the Division were constantly harassed by enemy fire. John was killed in action near Vlamertinghe on 16 September 1917. He was 26 years old.
Service No: 680319
Date of Death: 16/09/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: IX. G. 6.
Cemetery: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. S. Kellett, of 70 Ullswater Road, Lancaster.
Nine months after her husband was killed, Kate remarried. Her second husband was Joseph Leack (b. 1893 in Lancaster). He was a labourer. There are some military records that suggest that he had served in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) during the War, and just after the couple got married, Joe served a further year in France in the Labour Corps. Kate and Joe had three children together.