JOHN THOMAS CRAWFORD
Age:38 - 41
Date of Death:06/05/1917
Regiment:Royal Field Artillery
Unit:58th Div.Ammunition Col.
Cemetery:Beaulencourt British Cemetery
Grave Reference:III. F. 19.
John Thomas Crawford was born in Patricroft, this was probably in 1878 which would make him younger at the time of his death than the 41 years old registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. John's mother was Eliza, it's not known at his point who his father was but he appears to have died when John was only an infant. John's siblings were Richard, William, Anne, Alice Maud and Eliza. By 1901 John was living in Salford with his sisters Anne and Eliza and was working as a Railway Engine Stoker.
Unfortunately there is no obvious sign of him in the 1911 census but he next appears in the historical record on May 17th 1913 when he married Elizabeth Hannah Mellor at Oldham Register Office. Their first child, Ronald, followed shortly afterwards being born at Spencer Street in Royton on June 12th 1913. A daughter, Edna May, followed in 1914 and in 1916 their third child Victor was born. By the time the war came John was working at the Park Mill.
The exact details of John's military service have proved extremely difficult to ascertain. After his death the Oldham Chronicle reported that he was a reservist on pension but for him to have been claiming a pension would mean his length of service being longer than is probable for him. There is no record as to which unit he served with or when. Perhaps he was overseas with the army in 1911. The Oldham Chronicle went on to state that he had served at Gallipoli in 1915 but John's medal entitlement card does not include the 1914-1915 Star. However there is mention in his existing service record of having previously been with the 29th Divisional Ammunition Column who did indeed serve at Gallipoli. This unit left there while the fighting was still raging as they had been reallocated for the Macedonian front. In October 1915 they were onboard the Marquette when it was sunk by a U-Boat as it approached Salonika,the unit suffering great loss of life. It is impossible to state with any certainty if John was onboard or still in England. We do know however that he was discharged in January 1916 before being conscripted back into service in August of that year. The same month of his discharge his daughter Edna May died aged only seventeen months.
John reached France on November 10th 1916 and then in December was hospitalised at Rouen suffering from bronchitis. He remained there until late January and then was posted to a base unit behind the lines. On April 26th 1917 he was sent to join the 58th Divisional Ammunition Column. The men of the 58th DAC were responsible for the transportation of all ammunition for their particular division. The collected ammunition from Army Service Corps Ammunition Parks and then took them up the fighting units. When John joined his new unit the units of the 58th Division were about to be thrown into the Battle of Arras. On May 6th 1917 as John took a waggon of ammunition up to a battery of the Royal Artillery it seems a large German shell hit and killed him and a comrade working alongside him.
A Lieutenant wrote to John's widow Elizabeth back home in Royton...
"it is my painful duty to have to inform you that your husband lost his life last night (May 6th) whilst taking a waggon of ammunition to the batteries. As far as I can tell his waggon was hit by a shell from a heavy gun, and the death of your husband and his fellow driver was instantaneous....Your husband had only quite recently been attached to my section, but I was attracted by the manner in which he performed his duties. My Colonel when inspecting his column three days ago,particularly drew attention to your husband's 'turn out' and complimented him...."
John's widown Elizabeth never remarried and died in 1959 aged 72. She was living at 213 Oldham Road at the time. John and Elizabeth's sons, Ronald (died 1976) and Victor (1967), are both buried with her at Royton Cemetery
In addition to John Thomas Crawford, three other men of the 58th DAC were killed that day:
ALLDAY FRED Driver 945450 from Shepherd's Bush
MARCHAM GEORGE 19 Driver 945632 from London
WOOLF SIDNEY Acting Bombardier 945908 from London