Private John Robert RILEY

Welch Regiment
13th Battalion
(Formerly: 8th and 16th Battalions)
Service Number:
(Formerly: Private 27170)
Date of Death:
23 August 1918
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
F. 7.

Personal History:

John was born at Cowdale, Derbyshire, according to his Service papers, on the 16th July 1898, the son of Joseph and Sarah Elizabeth (née Nuttall) Riley (Joseph worked as an 'Attendant at the Crusher' i.e. worked in the Limestone Quarry. Later he became a 'Stationary Engineman', also in the Quarry).
The 1901 Census (RG 13/3271) shows the family living at Ashwood Dale, Kings Sterndale, Derbyshire. John had a younger sister, Edith Rose. By 1911 (Census RG 14/21238) John had three more younger siblings, Charles Samuel, Harriet Elsie and Lucy Constance, although the Census also shows the existence of another brother or sister, plus two more who had died in infancy. At this time the family had moved to Rock Head Cottage, Cowdale. Another brother, Joseph, was born in 1917. 

After the War the CWGC records show John's parents living at 28 High Street, Buxton. At the time of his enlistment he was living at Firs House, Old Road, Failsworth, Lancashire, employed as a "Rubber worker". At the end of 1918 John's "effects" were returned to his mother, Sarah, amounting to £5 10s 6d [£5.52], with a further £6 "War Gratuity" the following year. (This total of £11.52 has an equivalent value of about £490 today - 2016.)

Military History:
The SDGW database records John as enlisted at Ashton-under-Lyme, Manchester. His Service papers show that this was on the 5th August 1916, aged 18 years 20 days, becoming Private 27170. He was immediately transferred to the Army Reserve, before being mobilised on the 17th February 1917. At this point John received his new Badge number, 62646. Three days later he was posted to the 63rd Training Reserve Battalion (TRB) and on the 24th transferred again to the 60th TRB.

The next posting was to the 217th Infantry Battalion on the 18th July 1917 in readiness for John's posting to France on the 25th August 1917, sailing from Southampton and lancing at Le Havre the next day. He was initially posted to the 16th Battalion, but on the 2nd September 1917 John was transferred yet again to the 13th Battalion, joining his Battalion ".. in the field .." and was posted to "D" Company. On the 17th December John was charged with "Losing by neglect portion of his iron rations, i.e. preserved meat". He received three days loss of pay to pay for the loss!

John's original Battalion, the 8th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) had been formed at Cardiff in August 1914 as part of K1 (Kitchner's First New Army), and was sent to Gallipoli in 1915. His final posting was to the 13th (Service) Battalion (2nd Rhondda), formed at Cardiff on the 23rd October 1914. The Battalion had landed at Le Havre in December 1915, part of the 114th Brigade in 38th (Welsh) Division.

John joined the Division in September 1917 after The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, (31st July - 2nd August) and The Battle of Langemarck, (16th - 18th August), phases in The Third Battle of Ypres, (31st July - 10th November 1917). His battalion was next in major action at The Battle of Albert, 21st - 23rd August 1918, a phase of the First Battles of the Somme 1918. It was on the last day of this Battle that he was killed in action "In the field ...".

John was killed in action after just 364 days in France. At the time of his enlistment he was living at Firs House, Old Road, Failsworth, however, on the 4th January 1918 John's personal effects, amounting to "one religious book" and a "War Savings Certificate Book, containing 3 receipts value 15/6 [77½p] each", were returned to Mrs Sarah Riley, 3 South Avenue, Buxton. John's Papers also contain a copy of his simple will, dated 15th November 1917, shortly after joining the 13th Battalion, leaving all to his mother.  

· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 5 October 1918
· National Army Museum; Chelsea, London, England; Soldiers' Effects Records, 1901-60

Link to CWGC Record
Pt John Riley's grave
John Robert Riley