John Etherington was born in Royton on October 9th 1890, his parents being John, a grocer, and Sarah Annie. John was originally from Chadderton while Sarah Annie was from Royton. Shortly after John's birth he was baptised at the Primitive Methodist Church on Henshaw Street in Oldham. John was the youngest child of five; his elder siblings being George, Mary, Albert and Elizabeth. Another brother, Harry had died in 1876 aged just one.
As an infant John lived at 98 Oldham Road but by the time of the 1901 census his father had become a grocery manager for the Royton Co-Operative Society and the family took up residence at 6 Birchencroft Terrace (now 293 Rochdale Road). John's sister Mary died in 1907 aged 29, she had married Fred Buckley in 1904 and in 1911 their three year old son John Thornton Buckley was living with John and his parents. John by then was a twenty year old apprentice joiner.
John enlisted in the army, into the Manchester Regiment, in Royton around about September 1915. It's not known which of the Regiment's training battalions he spent time with or when exactly he was sent out for active service. When he did so it was to far off Mesopotamia to join the 1st Battalion. The Battalion received new drafts of men in June and July 1916 and then a larger one of 212 men in November of that year. It's most likely that John joined them in this latter draft. The 1st Battalion had been a pre war regular unit based in India. Upon the outbreak of war they had been rushed to the Western Front as part of the Indian Corps. Casualties were so heavy that most of the Corps battalions were soon unrecognisable from the units that had arrived in France.
It was proving impossible to keep up the numbers of the native Indian battalions, so far from their home depots so by the end of 1915 it had been decided to send the Indian Corps to a theatre of war closer to home, Mesopotamia. The casualties continued however, in fighting with the Turks and through sickness, disease and the incredible summer heat. By the time John Etherington joined the battalion seven Royton men had already lost their lives serving with it, five in France and two since arriving in 'Mespot'. These were Fred McSweeney, James McGivern, Bertram Lees, William Henry Roberts, William Holt ,James Ward and John Saxon.
The town of Kut and it's British & Indian garrison had been besieged by the Turks from December 1915 until it's fall in April 1916. Many men had died in the vain attempts to reach Kut in 1916 and it was in front of this now enemy held town that the 1st Manchesters found themselves in January 1917. The first British attack of the 1917 campaign was to come on January 9th, an action known as the Battle of Mohammed Abdul Hassan and John Etherington and his comrades were to be at it's forefront. Once again the British infantry had to make a frontal assault against trench systems that the Turks had proved the previous year to be experts at defending.
A British war correspondent, Edmund Candler, bore witness to the Manchesters fight that day:
"the Manchesters had attacked on a 200 yards front and got in with few casualties, close up to our barrage, before an enemy head had emerged from behind the parapet....Once in the enemy's first lines the bombing parties of the Manchesters worked along the trench on both flanks, on the left to join up with the H.L.I, who were bombing up from the river; on the right to extend the position gained another 300 yards and there to form a block, while other parties worked up to points in the brushwood nullahs between the first and second Turkish lines, which were to be converted into communication trenches by our sappers and pioneers. It was down these nullahs that the enemy counter-attacked in overwhelming numbers and enveloped a party of the Manchesters. There was a thick fog, very favourable to a surprise, and the Turks who had been lying up in the scrub suddenly loomed out of the mist like a football crowd. The Manchesters were pinned into a trench from which it was difficult to use their rifles, their Lewis gun jammed with dirt, but the small party hung on, cut off from all support, and fought to a finish with bomb and bayonet until they were practically exterminated; the Turkish dead found on the spot next morning outnumbered ours. The wave swept on and caught a second party of the same regiment on the flank, driving them back to the trench we had captured, where it was held up.
In the meanwhile the Turks were pressing down the trench on our right. It was here that a small working party of Pioneers, a mere platoon, under a young subaltern, Lieutenant Gordon, of the 34th Sikh Pioneers, found themselves with a handful of the Manchesters in the crisis of the action. They held the breach, built up a block, and bombed the Turks lustily for hours. Other Manchesters joined them. Captain Close-Brooks was killed as he stood on the parapet and directed the bombing. Pembroke, a second lieutenant, succeeded him and fell badly wounded. Yates, a second lieutenant, succeeded him and was killed in the trench. Hardman and Walker, both second lieutenants, took over in turn and were both killed. Henderson survived...Here, too, he and one other officer of the Manchesters, Major Brown, returned unwounded...."
The Manchesters had held the line but at a cost. 87 men lay dead, 10 were missing and a further 141 had been wounded.
John Etherington was one of the wounded men and was passed back through the casualty chain until he reached a hospital in Basra. He died there of his wounds on January 27th 1917.
Under two weeks after his death, John's parents back in Royton received notification that he had died from his wounds.
On January 26th 1918 the following appeared in the Oldham Chronicle:
In loving memory of our dear brother,
Private John Etherington, Manchester Regiment,
who passed away at Basra on January 27th 1917,
from wounds received in action near Kut.
Just like an opening rose
Was our dear loved one's life,
But ere he came unto his best
He fell amid the strife.
A loved one, but not forgotten.
From his Father and Mother,
Sister, and Sweetheart
273 Rochdale Road, Royton
and on January 25th 1919:
In loving memory of Private John Etherington (Manchester Regiment)
who died at Basra on Jan 27th 1917,from wounds received in
action near Kut
Far, far away beyond the sea
Our loved one sleeps for ever
But the links of memory bind us fast
With a charm that nought can sever
A loved one gone, but not forgotten.
From his Father and Mother and Sweetheart.
also his Brothers and Sisters
273 Rochdale Road, Royton
John's father died later in 1919 aged 69 and then in 1924 John's mother died aged 72. They are buried together at Royton Cemetery along with John's brother George and George's wife Emma.
The men killed in action the day John was wounded can be found listed below. There were several from the Oldham area, including Royton born Handel Kent.
ALVERTI SOCRATES Lance Corporal 32538 born Altrincham,lived Georgia,USA
ANDERSON EMIL 19 Private 30687 from Liverpool
ARCHER WILLIAM Private 7619 born Liverpool,lived Leeds
ASHBOURNE FRANK 21 Private 32383 from Manchester
ASHLEY GEORGE 28 Private 36845 from Denton
ASTLEY FREDERICK Private 35135 from Manchester
BAILEY WILLIAM Serjeant 10321 from Manchester
BERRY ELLIS Private 33956 from St.Helens
BERRY HARRY Private 35046 from Manchester
BERRY ROBERT 20 Private 34735 from Manchester
BINNS HARRY Private 23563 from Manchester
BOLTON WILFRED 21 Private 32038 from Hyde
BRASSINGTON GEORGE Private 33071 from Oldham
BREWER WILLIAM 22 Lance Corporal 972 from Manchester
BROOKS FRED Private 36794 born Ashton under Lyne,lived Warrington
BROWN JOHN Private 32879 from Middleton
BUCKLEY BEN Private 27395 from Shaw
BURGESS JAMES Private 34769 from Manchester
BYERS ALBERT 24 Private 34574 from Manchester
CADMAN THOMAS 36 Corporal 11185 from Lymm
CHADWICK GEORGE Private 3980 from Salford
CHARNOCK GEORGE Private 2306 from Wigan
CLARKE ARTHUR 33 Serjeant 4983 from Manchester
COFFEY THOMAS Corporal 2671 born Tipperary,enlisted Manchester
COY ALBERT Private 1545 from Salford
CRAWLEY THOMAS 34 Private 37026 from Liverpool
DAVENPORT JAMES 24 Private 34776 from Manchester
DENTON FRED Private 3218 from Blackburn
DEVENPORT CHARLES Private 23381 from Manchester
DOHERTY EDWARD 23 Lance Corporal 1807 from Salford
DURR PATRICK Private 3170 from Manchester
FARRELL JOHN Private 4881 born Co.Longford,lived Manchester
FENWICK GUY 26 Private 35756 born London,enlisted Manchester
FITTON WILFRED Serjeant 15805 from Rochdale
FURNESS NORMAN 20 Private 34713 from Failsworth
GANSON EDWARD Private 36190 born Droylsden,enlisted Manchester
GORDON JOSIAH Private 35027 from Manchester
GRADY JOHN Serjeant 1326 from Manchester
GRAHAM ERIC 22 2nd.Lt from Croydon
GRIMSHAW ALFRED Private 33768 born Manchester,enlisted Ashton under Lyne
HALL GEORGE 24 Private 33395 from Failsworth
HANCOCK THOMAS Corporal 1976 from Manchester
HANHAM WILLIAM Private 1774 from Manchester
HARGRAVES JOSEPH Private 36523 born Ashton under Lyne,lived Wigan
HARRISON ARTHUR 21 Private 32408 from Manchester
HARTLEY EDGAR 23 Lance Corporal 32577 from Oldham
HAYES STANLEY Private 7486 from Manchester
HAYWARD EDMUND 34 Corporal 32085 from Stoke on Trent
HIGGINS JOHN Serjeant 7297 from Manchester
HOBSON GEORGE 22 Private 32896 from Failsworth
HOLMES CHARLES 35 Private 34768 from Manchester
HOUGHTON JOSEPH Private 16645 from Wigan
HOUGHTON JOSEPH E. 20 Serjeant 1623 born Failsworth,enlisted Manchester
HOWARTH JOHN 30 Lance Corporal 22127 from Bury
HUDSON WILLIAM Company Serjeant Major 8155 born Salford,lived Tipperary
HULBERT EDWARD 35 Private 27549 from Manchester
INGHAM FRANK 24 Private 33078 from Oldham
JACKSON JAMES Private 32110 from Salford
JACKSON WILLIAM 24 Captain from Manchester
JENNINGS RALPH 26 Private 27348 from Manchester
JOHNSON THOMAS Serjeant 4365 born Stockport,lived Nelson
JONES ARTHUR 33 Private 32226 from Pendleton
JONES FREDERICK Lance Corporal 2258 from Manchester
JOYCE FREDERICK Private 2659 from Channel Isles
KEATES GEORGE 37 Lance Corporal 2323 from Manchester
KENT HANDEL 20 Private 36756 born Royton, lived Oldham
LE PAGE GEORGE Private 16179 from Guernsey
LEECH WILLIAM Private 32810 from Manchester
LEWIS ALFRED Private 34754 from Manchester
LITTLE JOHN Private 3135 from Manchester
MARSDEN JOSEPH 19 Private 36526 from Wigan
MORRAN JAMES Private 33811 born Lancaster,enlisted Manchester
MORSON EDWIN Lance Corporal 2026 from London
OTTER ARTHUR Private 747 from Birkenhead
RABONE HOWARD 20 Lance Corporal 31499 from Manchester
ROBERTS WILLIAM Lance Corporal 30 born Salford,lived Clapham
ROSS RALPH 19 Private 7861 from Northampton
SHEEN WILLIAM Private 1337 from London
SHIMMIN THOMAS Private 37069 from Douglas, I.O.M
SIMPSON JOHN 22 Private 2057 from Bolton
SPALDING CHARLES Private 35148 from Stalybridge
SPEAKMAN ERNEST 26 Private 36849 from Droylsden
SPENCER JAMES Private 33699 from Manchester
STONIER DANIEL 22 Private 3513855 from Manchester
SUTHERLAND THOMAS Lance Corporal 30338 from Manchester
TELLING WILLIAM DCM Serjeant 1874 from Gloucestershire
TOOTALL HERBERT 29 Lance Corporal 30145 from Ashton under Lyne
TURNER THOMAS Private 3463 from Birmingham
WARD SIMION 34 Serjeant 3439 from Stalybridge
WEBB WILLIAM 32 Lance Serjeant 6223 from London
WEINBERG HENRY 34 Private 35757 from Manchester
WILKINSON THOMAS Private 5241 born Newcastle,enlisted Manchester
WILLIAMS FRANK Company Serjeant Major 5351 from Liverpool
WILSON HERBERT Private 3824 from Oldham
WOOD ERNEST 19 Private 35097 from Manchester
YATES WILLIAM 19 Mentioned in Despatches 2nd Lt.from Timperley
Date of Death:27/01/1917
Cemetery:Basra War Cemetery