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680629 PTE. J. W. GORST. R.F.A.


John William Gorst was born on 17 December 1876 in Higher Walton and baptised on 28 January the following year.  His father was William Gorst (b. 1855 in Garstang).  William was originally a brewer but by 1901 he had become an engine tenter in a cotton mill.  His mother was Annie Furness (b. 1856 in Preston).  William and Annie were married in Higher Walton in 1874 and John William was their first child.  They had 13 children in all, 9 of whom survived infancy: the others were Edith (b. 1879), Elijah (b. 1881), James (b. 1884), Charles (b. 1886), Annie (1888), Lucy (b. 1891), Jane (b. 1893) and Elizabeth (b. 1899).  Baby Arthur was born in 1901 but died the same year.  In 1901, the Gorsts were living on Kittlingborne in Higher Walton but John William is not shown as resident.  He may have been in the Army at the time as the newspaper article says he served in South Africa with RAMC.  However in December that year he married Elizabeth Knowles (b. 1875 in Higher Walton) and his occupation at the time was labourer.  He may have left for the Boer War immediately afterwards.  In 1907, they had a daughter, Phyllis, and by 1911 the family had moved to 4 Princess Street, Lostock Hall, and John was working as a taper in a cotton mill.  Soon after it appears they moved to 21 Moss Street.

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John Gorst enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery and his service number – 680629 – indicates that he may have enlisted with the West Lancashire Brigade (most of his brothers had a close association with this Brigade – see below), however, the record shows that at least when he died he was with 33 Battery of 33 Brigade.  33 Brigade came under the command of 8th Division and went to France in November 1914.


In early 1917, 33 Brigade had been engaged in France; in April they were at Villers-Guislans, east of Arras, harassing the Germans as they withdrew to the Hindenburg Line.  On 10 June they moved from the Somme to the Ypres Salient.  On 14 June, they were at Ouderdom, west of Ypres, they then moved into the line and began the process of registration (identifying and homing in on enemy targets) in order to protect the line from Menin to Ypres.  Once this process began, they in turn became targets for enemy retaliation.  John Gorst was recorded as dying of wounds on 16 June 1917 at 24th Field Ambulance.  He was 41 years old.


Rank:  Gunner

Service No:  680629

Date of Death:  16/06/1917

Age:  41

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, 33rd Bty. 33rd Bde.

Grave Reference:  II. L. 5.


Additional Information:  Husband of Elizabeth Gorst, of 21 Moss Street, Lostock Hall, Preston.


Various service records exist for all the Gorst brothers: Elijah enlisted in 1915, 400576 PTE. E. GORST with the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport), although he was in the reserve until mobilised in June 1918 and appears not to have served abroad.  James was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, 680447 PTE. J. GORST.  He served probably in 276 Brigade (West Lancs) and was posted to France on 30 September 1915, and discharged on 3 March 1919.  Charles was also in the Artillery.  680567 SGT. C. GORST.  He first enlisted as a volunteer, aged 17yrs 9mths, in 1902 – his papers are signed by one of my great great uncles, Sgt. William Henry Halpin!  He then enlisted in the territorials in 1908 in Bamber Bridge, with 2nd West Lancashire Brigade.  He served his 4 years with the territorials and was discharged in 1912.  He then served with the reserve and was promoted to Sergeant and re-enlisted in January 1915.  He served in B Battery of 286 Brigade and was posted to France in February 1917.  He was admitted to the General Hospital at Étaples on 30 March 1918 with gunshot wounds to his right leg and left thigh (severe).   He was repatriated to Devonport a month later and moved to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley, in October.  He was finally discharged as medically unfit for service on 28 December 1918.

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