RFA West Lancs Bdes
680767 GNR. J. FAIRCLOUGH. R.F.A.
Joseph Fairclough was born in the last quarter of 1894 in Preston. His father was Robert Edward Fairclough (b. 1863 in Woodplumpton), a railway labourer. His mother was Martha Ann Sudworth (b. 1866 in Bolton). Robert and Martha were married in 1886 and they had 11 children, all of who survived: Robert (b. 1886), Lawrence (b. 1888), Samuel (b. 1890), William (b. 1892), then Joseph, then Mary (b. 1897), Thomas (b. 1900), Margaret (b. 1902), Richard (b. 1903), Edith (b. 1906) and finally Edward (b. 1908). In 1911, the whole family, plus grandfather Robert Fairclough, - 14 people in all – were living in a five room house at 2 Swan Street, Preston. Swan Street consisted of poor mill houses, long since demolished. All the children of working age (from Mary up) were working in a cotton spinning mill. Joseph was a creeler.
Joe served in the Territorials before the War. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was assigned service number 2374. He was posted to 276 Brigade, probably “A” Battery, but unlike the majority of men in this Brigade who landed in France in September, Joe landed with a second contingent on 23 December 1915. His service number was later changed to 680767. In the summer of the following year, Joe obtained leave and married Ann Eastham (b. 1896 in Preston). At some point, Joe was transferred to “B” Battery of 290th Brigade. This Brigade (formerly 2/1st City of London Brigade) was attached to 58th (2/1st London) Division. This Division landed in France in January 1917 and took part in the following engagements: the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (17-28 March); the Battle of Bullecourt (4-17 May); the actions of the Hindenburg Line (20 May -16 June). In September, they were engaged in operations during the Third Battle of Ypres: the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20-25 September) and the Battle of Polygon Wood (26-27 September). I don’t know the precise details of Joe’s death but records say he was killed in action on 4 October 1917. He was killed near Sint Juliaan, north-east of Ypres, and is buried at Buffs Road Cemetery. He was 23 years old.
Service No: 680767
Date of Death: 04/10/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 290th Bde.
Grave Reference: E. 13.
Cemetery: BUFFS ROAD CEMETERY
In 1919, Ann Eastham Fairclough re-married. Her second husband was Francis Dent (b. 1894 in Preston). Francis had enlisted with the Border Regiment in July 1914 but his record says he deserted just after Christmas that year and was struck off the strength of the regiment in January 1915. He may have then re-enlisted with the Border Regiment, possibly the following year, and then transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. Anyway, Francis and Ann married in 1919 and the following year they had a son, also Francis. In the Second World War, this Francis joined the Royal Field Artillery and he served in 88th Field Regiment as 885043 Lance Sergeant Francis Dent. In 1941-42, 88th Field Regt was in Malaya and Francis was captured by the Japanese and forced to work on the Burma railway. He died on 28 November 1943, aged 23, and is buried at Kanchanaburi in Thailand. So Ann lost her first husband in the First World War when he was 23. She lost her oldest son in the Second World War when he too was 23.
The Fairclough family faced other tragedies too. Joe’s brothers, William and Samuel both served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and both were killed in 1916.
21102 PTE. SAMUEL FAIRCLOUGH. L.N.LAN.R.
Sam joined the Loyals at the outbreak of War and was posted to 6th Battalion. He landed with his Bn in Gallipoli on 14 November 1915. By this time, the heaviest fighting on the peninsula was over but the troops still had to contend with the appalling conditions and the harsh winter weather. The Bn was withdrawn in January 1916 and posted to Egypt and then on to Mesopotamia to reinforce the British and Indian armies against the Ottomans. They arrived at Basra on 5 March, then proceeded up the River Tigris to Sheikh Saad where they joined the attempt to relieve the British and Indian troops besieged by the Turks in the city of Kut-al-Amara. The attempt to relieve Kut was a failure and the British commander surrendered his forces on 28 April, after more than 24,000 men had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Sam Fairclough was killed during the attempt to relieve Kut, on 15 April 1916. He was 25 years old.
Service No: 21102
Date of Death: 15/04/1916
Regiment/Service: Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Memorial Reference: Panel 27
Memorial: BASRA MEMORIAL
4420 PTE. W. FAIRCLOUGH. L.N.LAN.R.
William was married and had two young children when he enlisted, aged 23, in October 1915. He was posted to 1st/4th Bn. Further details of his background can be found here. He was wounded on 9 September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, and died of his wounds on 19 September.
Service No: 4420
Date of Death: 19/09/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: ABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION