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680882 SGT. J. STIRZAKER. R.F.A.


John Stirzaker was born in the third quarter of 1886 in Manningham, Yorkshire.  His father was John Morley Stirzaker (b. 1857 in Galgate, near Lancaster), a stationary engine driver in the corporation sewage works.  His mother was Mary Ann Hayes (b. 1857 in Preston).  John and Mary Ann were married in Manningham in 1882 and had 8 children, 7 of whom survived infancy: Henry (b. 1883), Isabella (b. 1885), then John, then Herbert (b. 1889), Martha (b. 1890), Noel (b. 1894) and finally Mary Ellen (b. 1896).  The Stirzakers moved to Bamber Bridge in the early 1890s and in 1911, John and Mary Ellen lived with four of their children, including John (jnr) at 17 Station Road. John jnr was a weaver.  Sometime after the Census, John jnr married – his wife’s name was Margaret E, but I haven’t been able to trace the record or her maiden name.  They were parishioners of St Aidan’s.


By the time he enlisted, John had become an engine tenter at Eccles’ Stone Mill on School Lane.  He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in May 1915 along with the other Briggers.  He was assigned service number 2555 and posted to B Battery of 286 Brigade.  In 1917 he was given a new service number, 680882, and at some stage was promoted to Sergeant.  286 Brigade landed in France in February 1917 and began their service in the defence of Armentières.  

BB Stirzaker RFA.JPG

June 1917 and the defence of Armentières (text in italic is a direct quote from the War Diary)

14 June, the enemy's promiscuous shelling of Armentières during the week has done considerable damage to the town, and battery positions have been affected, two very considerably. 

21 June.  A raid was carried out on enemy lines at 1am (22nd) preceded by a preliminary barrage of two minutes. The raiding party consisted of 3 officers and 100 other ranks. They sustained a few casualties by following the barrage too closely, but no difficulty was encountered in entering the enemy's trenches. Resistance was met with from parties of the enemy in dugouts and trenches, and time prevented the completion of the plan, no prisoners were obtained but several enemy were killed. Our party withdrew according to timetable except one was missing, and succeeded in bringing back all our casualties. The enemy's artillery retaliation was very light and developed gradually. During the morning Lt Col W A Short CMG Commanding 286 Brigade RFA was killed by a shell when accompanying the GOC 57 Division on an inspection of battery positions. The GOC was hit by the same shell and died of wounds later in the day. 

John Stirzaker was killed on 21 June.  He was 30 years old.


Rank:  Sergeant

Service Number:  680882

Date of Death:  21/06/1917

Age:  30

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty., 286Bde

Cemetery/memorial reference: VII. B. 18.


The Preston Guardian article tells us that John’s three brothers also served in the Army. 


Henry was a chauffeur before the War so he may have been Chauffeur H. Stirzaker serving with the British Red Cross Society and Order of St John, Motor Ambulance Unit, landing in France on 2 September 1914.


Herbert Morley Stirzaker joined the RFA in Preston on 5 January 1915.  He was 74040 Gunner H. M. Stirzaker, and served with “D” Bty, 115Bde in Salonika from 1915 to June 1918.  He was finally demobilised in July 1919.


Noel James Stirzaker was a police constable before the War and had to obtain the permission of the Chief Constable to enlist.  He signed up in Preston on 10 December 1915 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, with service number 165369.  He served with 210 Siege Battery.  He fought at Passchendaele and Cambrai in 1917.  The relevant War Diary for 1918 has been destroyed.  Noel was demobilised in January 1919.  He was also Mentioned in Despatches (16 March 1919, recorded in London Gazette, 7 July 1919).  After the War he rejoined the police force and moved to Nelson.


Isabella Stirzaker was married to Robert Hayes.  Robert was born in Preston and she and Isabella were married in 1910, after which they moved to the Isle of Wight where Robert worked as a nurse in Parkhurst Prison.  Before the War he had served as a territorial with the East Lancashire Regiment but he joined the RAMC in 1901 and subsequently served in South Africa.  He reengaged in 1913 and was promoted to Sergeant in 1915.  He was 15981 Sgt. R. Hayes.  He was posted first to 7th Stationary Hospital, landing in France on 15 August 1914.  He was later transferred to 22nd Field Ambulance.  22nd Field Ambulance was attached to 7th Division.  7th Division fought through most of the major actions of the War: Ypres in 1914, Festubert and Loos in 1915, the Somme in 1916, and Passchendaele in 1917. At the end of 1917 they moved to Italy where they remained until the end of the War.  Robert was demobilised in April 1919.


John’s other brother-in-law was James Jolly (married to Martha Stirzaker in 1913), but I haven’t found any conclusive military records.

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