Soldiers of the 6th KORL in Mesopotamia c.1916. Thanks to King's Own Royal Regiment Museum, Lancaster
John Beilby was born in Oldham in either 1880 or 1881 to parents Benjamin, a carter, & Mary, who worked in a cotton mill. At the time of the 1891 census the family were living at 14 Bow Street in the Mumps area of the town. John had two younger sisters, Lilly and Ada. In 1901 the five of them were at 7 Broughton Street in Oldham and John,now aged 20, had followed his father into the carting profession.
John had the previous year on August 21st 1900 married Amelia Tullan at St Stephen's Church. Amelia already had a daughter, Harriet Ann, who had been born in 1898. Soon after their marriage a daughter, Clara, had been born but sadly she died only one day old. For whatever reason the taking of the census found Amelia & Harriet living with Amelia's parents.
Amelia and Harriet then seemingly disappear from the historical record and neither can be found in the 1911 census or in the death registers. In 1911 John was living with a new wife Mary and they had apparently been married for two years although no record can currently be found for this wedding. John & Mary had four children at the time - Albert, Margaret & Lily Fitzpatrick and 8 month old Ada Beilby. Albert & Margaret were obviously Mary's children whilst 2 year old Lily may or may not have been John's biological daughter. Young Ada died later that year at the age of one. Another daughter,Evelyn, was born in 1913. John stated in the 1911 census that he was a carter for a Colliery Company and later it's known he worked in the same capacity for Frederick Smith, a Shaw coal merchant.
We can't say for certain if John ever lived in Royton but his wife and family were definitely living there in 1915 when sadly his little daughter Evelyn died aged only 2. The following year Mary Beilby/Fitzpatrick and her three children were at 552 Higginshaw Lane. By the time Evelyn died her father John was in far off Gallipoli with the 6th Battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. It's hard to ascertain when John enlisted but he did so in Shaw and reached Gallipoli in September 1915. The 6th KORL had been formed at Lancaster in August 1914 and had reached Gallipoli in July 1915. They had suffered heavy casualties in fighting there the following month and John Beilby was one of the many new replacements required to bring the Battalion back to strength.
In the second half of November both Allies & Turks at Gallipoli had a new common enemy to endure. Gone where the huge clouds of flies that plagued them but now came winter storms. The first gigantic thunderstorm struck on November 15th and worst was to follow on November 27th with a fierce storm & howling blizzard that lasted three days. The 6th KORL suffered terribly during the latter storm whilst in trenches near Chocolate Hill. Many men of the Battalion froze to death in the trenches.
The battalion left Gallipoli and their dead on December 18th and 19th under the noses of the Turks who were unaware the great evacuation was underway. They reached Mudros on December 20th and a month later were transported to Egypt. At the time it was unclear as to where the Battalion was to serve next but this period of uncertainty was soon over and on February 12th they embarked on the SS Kalyan for Basra and the fighting in Mesopotamia. There was some delay at Basra and it wasnt until the beginning of March that the 6th KORL headed up the River Tigris towards the front. The British were at the time fighting to relieve the besieged garrison at Kut. Repeated attempts to breakthrough to Kut had failed and then on April 5th a fresh push was to be made with the 6th KORL playing their part.
The 13th Division, to which the Battalion belonged - as one of the infantry units of the 38th Brigade - took over the trenches on April 4th and prepared to attack the Turkish held town of Fallaniyah ahead of them the following morning.
During the night of April 4th/5th the men of the 6th King's Own Royal Lancasters assembled in the front line trenches.They were tasked with the capture of the Turkish frontline,then the 6th East Lancs coming up as the second wave would pass through the 6th KORL's new positions to take the second line of Turkish trenches. There was then to be a pause whilst the British artillery softened up the Turks in the third line.
A soldier,Edward Roe, amongst the 6th East Lancs described the opening fighting:
"At 04:30 the whistles sounded and over we go. Only a few stray and ill aimed shots greet us instead of the hail of lead, which we expected, and the first two lines are taken with trifling loss. We are deafened by the detonations of hundreds of shells of all calibres, which are bursting on and over the second Turkish position. The air seems to be full of express trains.....on meeting with no opposition our officers lost their heads and, instead of obeying orders by remaining for the stipulated twenty minutes in the captured Turkish trenches, flourished their revolvers and yelled, 'Come on boys, we've got them on the run. We won't stop until we get to Kut."
Pushing forward the East Lancs and men of the 6th KORL found themselves under shellfire from both the British & the Turks....
"As we advanced we came across Sergeant Major Ferguson who was in a horrible mess through shell wounds, yet he had the sense to exhort us to 'open out for God's sake'. We made a dive for the first line in the enemy's second position and of course came under the fire of our artillery. Men were sent to Kingdom Come in bundles of eight by our howitzers and river monitors....A private of the the King's Own mounted a trench parapet and,amidst the whine of shrapnel,the dull detonations of High Explosive and the clouds of battle smoke, kept on waving a large red flag in hopes that our artillery observers might notice it and cease fire, until he was badly wounded by a Lyddite shell, an heroic figure amidst an upheaval of iron foundries. Dawn broke, the smoke clouds drifted away, and better still our artillery came to the conclusion that we'd had enough and ceased fire"
That evening the four infantry battalions of the 38th Brigade advanced again, John Beilby's 6th King's Own being the second in line. The Brigade found their targeted trenches lightly held and took control of them and Fallaniyah, the Turks chosing to retire to new defences at Sannaiyat.
The fighting was taken up by other units for the next couple of days but the 6th KORL were again in the fray in the early hours of April 9th. The men were ready for their attack by 02:30 - 03:00 that morning in bitter cold and they had to lie out in the open until 04:20 when they moved off silently. Again, Edward Roe of the 6th East Lancs proved an excellent witness to what befell the men of the 38th Brigade:
"At 800 yards, or it might be a little more, a solitary shot was fired on our left. I reckoned it was very close to the Tigris. The double report of the Mauser had no sooner died away than the whole Turkish line from the Tigris to the Suwaikya Marsh sent up Very lights;'twas like one man pressing a switch. By their ghastly flares their position was revealed to us and we to them. The Turks were shoulder to shoulder in the trench. Machine guns were embedded on the parados, as also were Turks in the kneeling and standing positions. Before the flares expired their shrapnel was on us good and hard. A cyclone of bullets from machine guns and rifles battered and tore great gaps in the closely packed lines. Men fell by the dozen. you could hear the continual thud of bullets as they came into contact with human bodies. Men bayoneted each other when falling dead or wounded. I remember poor Hopwood shouting 'Charge' - and away he went, never to be seen again. A few of the leading platoon followed him. Dawn was breaking. All was confusion. We were trying to make up a second line from what was left of the third and fourth, with the enemy still pumping lead and shrapnel into us. Some had already charged 'the other way'."
Roe went on to describe Arab soldiers from the Turkish army leaving their trenches to plunder and club to death injured British soldiers.
The failed attack of the 38th and 40th Brigades that morning came at the cost of 1807 casualties. John Beilby was one of the many killed,as was Royton man John Beckett.
John Beilby's name does not appear on Royton's War Memorial, he is also not commemorated on Crompton's or Oldham's. John seems to have left no sign of who his next of kin was and his mother applied for his medals in July 1919.
The men of the 6th King's Own killed along with John Beilby that day were:
ALBINSON FREDERICK Private 19437
BAILEY JOSEPH Serjeant 11929
BAILEY Private 11752 from Hulme
BARRETT FRED 25 Private 11464 from Rossendale
BEDDOWS SAMUEL Lance Corporal 9655
BIRCH ROGER KENNETH NELSON 23 Private 19929 from Grange-over-Sands
BOTTOMS GEORGE 32 Private 18919 from Bolton
BRINDLE FRED 23 Private 18408 from Nelson
BRITTON IRVIN Private 19673
BUTLER GEORGE HENRY 30 Private 20048 from Darlaston,Staffs
CARTER HERBERT Private 17363
CASSON JAMES 29 Private 20002 from Burnely
CLEGG ALEXANDER Private 17705
COLEMAN JAMES 40 Private 19750 from Co.Sligo
COLLIER WALTER 21 Private 20030 from Wigan
COOK JOSEPH ALFRED Private 11376
COOPER LESLIE FRANK 18 Lance Corporal 13274 from Fleetwood
COWLEY JOHN Private 18983 from Ballina,Co.Mayo
CROSS JOHN ARTHUR Corporal 13737
DANIELS THOMAS HAROLD RAYNER Second Lieutenant
DANSON GEORGE 22 Private 19597 from Fleetwood
DUFFY PATRICK Private 11395
EVANS HARRY Private 16769
FAWCETT ANTHONY Private 14666
FEENEY THOMAS 20 Lance Corporal 11795 from Salford
FERRY JOHN ROBERT 21 Private 11787
FOGG WILLIAM EDWARD Lance Corporal 12278
FOGG WILLIAM JAMES 19 Private 11484 from Newmarket
FONE JOSEPH Private 18827
FOSTER THOMAS FREDERICK Private 19899
GREENHALGH FRANK Private 11540
GRIMSHAW THOMAS Private 18717
HASLAM JOHN Private 18645
HIGGENBOTTAM FRANK Private 18882
HOLLAND JAMES Private 13195
HOPLEY Private 13082
HOWARTH Private 18801
JACKSON JOHN WILLIAM 26 Private 19068
JOHNSON JOHN FREDERIC 19 Second Lieutenant from Swanage.Volunteered from a coffee plantation in Brazil
LUDDEN PATRICK 32 Private 8356 from Liverpool
MAITLAND ALBERT 41 Private 18630 from Hanley
MARSHALL WILLIAM STANLEY 38 Private 20349 from Hulme
MATTHEWS JAMES 21 Company Serjeant Major 10690
MOODY JOHN Private 1266
MURRAY DANIEL Private 1956
McCONNELL ROBERT WALLACE 20 Lieutenant from Belfast
OROURKE WILLIAM 22 Private 12723 from Fleetwood
OGDEN LEWIS Serjeant 13743
PRESTON JEREMIAH Private 2377
PUGH MICHAEL 34 Private 19268 from Liverpool
RICE JAMES Lance Corporal 4242
RIDGWAY EDWARD Private 11573
RODDA JAMES 32 Lance Corporal 6788 from Millom
RUSHTON WILLIAM Lance Corporal 19034
RUTTER JAMES 23 Private 19760 from Barrow-in-Furness
SCHOFIELD WILLIAM Private 18304
SHEPHERD ARTHUR A. 20 Lance Corporal 19428 from Fleetwood
STOCKTON THOMAS 21 Private 18579 from Stockport
SULLIVAN Lance Corporal 4132
THOMPSON FREDERICK Private 19504
TOWNSON THOMAS JAMES Private 19427
TURTON MOSES Private 19810
VIPOND HENRY Private 11946
WADDINGTON WILLIAM 41 Private 4963 from Islington
WALKER Private 20015
WALSH JOHN Private 18523
WHITE JAMES Private 18961
WOOD GILBERT 25 Lance Corporal 12591 from Greenfield,Oldham
YOUNG JOSEPH Private 15023
Date of Death:09/04/1916
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Panel Ref:Panel 7