(681435) 2ND LT. J. T. BAXENDALE.  R.F.A.

 

John Thompson Baxendale was born in March 1891 in Halifax, West Yorkshire.  His father was John Andrew Baxendale (b. 1866 in Halifax), a French polisher.  His mother was Ada Jane Thompson (b. 1865 in Halifax).  John and Ada Jane were married in Halifax in 1889 but they moved to Bootle by 1894, where they settled.  They had six children, five of whom survived: John Thompson was the first, followed by Ada (b. 1894), Herbert (b. 1897), Louisa (b. 1898), Horace (Jan-Aug 1901), and finally Lily (b. 1904).  John Andrew died in 1905.  In 1911, Ada Jane was running a chip and fish shop at 199 Derby Road, Bootle.  John Thompson was working as a clerk in a lead works.

 

John enlisted in  October 1915.  His service number, 681435, is among a batch assigned to “D” Battery in 286 Brigade, so he trained with them but in the course of training he was identified as officer potential and he was sent for officer training and commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 22 April 1917.

He would have been at home in England for the duration of his training and about the time of his commission he married Eliza May Masheder (b. 1890 in Bootle).  When he returned to the front, Eliza May was expecting their child, who would be born at the end of the year, John Geoffrey Thompson Baxendale.

 

CWGC tells us that John was posted to 30th Divisional Ammunition Column then seconded to “D” Battery of 149th Brigade.  In May 1917, they had been engaged in fighting around the Hindenberg Line near Arras but they were now making preparations to move north to Ypres.  They left Habarcq on 21 May and arrived at their destination, near Poperinge – 65km north – on 30 May.  They were soon engaged in the fighting along the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge.  John joined them in the field on 26 June 1917.

 

2nd Lt John Thompson Baxendale was killed in action on 17 or 18 July 1917, just three weeks or so after joining his Brigade.  A German shell hit an ammunition heap and the explosion blew in all the nearby dugouts killing 12 men outright, one being John T Baxendale. He was 26 years old.  He probably didn’t know that he was going to be a father.

 

Rank:  2nd Lieutenant

Service Number (previous):  681435

Date of Death:  17 or 18/07/1917

Age:  26

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty., 148Bde

Cemetery/memorial reference: III. E. 20.

Cemetery:  RENINGHELST NEW MILITARY CEMETERY

Additional Information:  Son of Mrs. and the late J. A. Baxendale, of Halifax; husband of Eliza May Baxendale, of 13 Worcester Road, Bootle, Liverpool.

ONE of the many young heroes who, in 1915, promptly answered the call "Your King and Country need you," was Second-Lieutenant John Thompson Baxendale, of 13, Worcester Road, Bootle. The son of a widowed mother, and on the threshold of a comfortable business career, he was one of those who might with good reason have hesitated to respond to the summons. His, however, was not that nature. Fond of all field and other outdoor sports he quickly decided to take his share in the great adventure.

   Sec.-Lieut. Baxendale, who was only twenty-seven years of age at the time of his death, was the elder son of he late Mr. J.A. Baxendale and Mrs. Baxendale, of 251, Hawthorne Road, Bootle, and a nephew of Mr. John V. Thompson, a prominent freemason in the borough. In May, 1917 - but two months before his tragic death - Sec-Lieut, Baxendale was married, at Christ Church, Bootle, to Miss E.M. Masheder, of the same borough.

   Educated at Bootle Secondary School Sec.-Lieut. Baxendale immediately afterwards joined the staff of Messrs. Rowe Bros., lead merchants, Pall Mall, Liverpool. His ability was quickly recognised by the firm, and he was earmarked for early promotion, but the war intervened.

   Of a cheerful disposition, ambitious, kindhearted, and thorough in all things to which he set his hand, Sec.-Lieut. Baxendale was just the type of man to come to the front in Britain's citizen army. Joining the 4th West Lancashire (Howitzer) Brigade as a gunner in October, 1915, he went into training in the South of England. His keenness soon attracted the notice of his superior officers, and in October, 1916, he was recommended for a commission. Joining an Officers' Training Corps battalion, he went through the usual course of training, passing out with high marks in May, 1917.

   He was "gazetted" a few days before his marriage, and at once joined his regiment at Newcastle, leaving for France with it on June 30th, where he went with a special recommendation of his Commanding Officer. Eighteen days after landing he made the supreme sacrifice, being killed in a dug-out through the explosion of an ammunition dump which had been set on fire by a German bomb.

   Popular with officers and men alike, his death, so soon after arrival at the front, was a painful shock to all his friends, and many messages of sincerest sympathy were sent to his young widow and mother in their bereavement.

   Describing the sad event in a sympathetic letter to Mrs. Baxendale, the Rev. H. Linton, Chaplain, wrote:- "The position was being very heavily shelled, and all had retired into dug-outs, when one of the enemy's shells hit one of our ammunition heaps and blew in all our dug-outs. Twelve men and your husband were unfortunately killed outright and several others wounded. I cannot tell you how sorry I feel for you in your loss. It seems so sad and so sudden, for your husband had only just joined the battery, and on this occasion the guns were just going out of action. The bodies were all brought in and buried in the military cemetery at ..... some miles behind he lines; a cross will shortly be placed over his grave."

   His civil employers and colleagues joined in the expression of sympathy. Writing to his mother, the manager of the firm said:- "We feel that in his removal we have lost a very valued servant, who had been in our employ since he was a boy, and had trained himself to a position of usefulness and confidence, and we were anticipating that, after the war, he would have been able to act as one of our outside representatives. Unfortunately, all those hopes have been brought to nought, and we know how great a sorrow it must be for you to lose him in the prime of his young manhood. It no doubt will be some comfort to you to know that he laid down his life in defence of the best that we hold dear, and also that he was most highly respected in the circle in which he was known. All connected with the firm wish to be associated with this expression of sympathy."

   Treasured by the widow is the brief but sincere message of sympathy she received from the King and Queen on the death of her husband.

   This, briefly stated, is the career of one who had no ambitions for a military career, but who threw aside all self-interest when the call went forth to the young manhood of the nation, and served his country well in the hour of its direst peril. A dutiful son, he was looking forward to the time when calmer days would reign once more, and he could take up his responsibilities in his new domestic sphere. Fate decreed otherwise, but his memory will remain evergreen among those who were connected with him by the closest family ties.

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