John Clifford King was born in the Heyside area of Royton in 1879. His parents were William & Ann.John was their second child, being preceded by Mary who had been born two years earlier. After John came a further eight children - tragically five of these (Edward,Hannah,Emma,Jane,Adelaide) died before their second birthdays. His younger surviving siblings were Hannah, Robert & William. The family moved over the border into Crompton around about 1892 and it was there that John's parents died in 1897 (Ann aged 40) & 1898 (William aged 43). After this double tragedy the two youngest children, Robert & William, were sent to live with relatives in Oldham. It's not known what John did in the years immediately after losing his parents but he joined the East Lancashire Regiment in the second half of 1900 and served with them in the Boer War.
Hard information on his part in the Boer War and exactly which unit he fought with are not available to us but the next time John Clifford King appears in the historical record is in 1905 when he married Annie Lambert in Oldham in 1905. The following year they had a daughter, Lilian. There appears to be no trace of the family in the 1911 census but it would appear that John's wife Annie died (perhaps she was the Annie Maria King who died in Oldham in 1909) as in 1914 John married once again, in Royton to Bertha Dyson.
John's marriage to Bertha was in the last quarter of 1914 and by then he was probably already back in the army, whether that be through call up as a reservist or re-enlistment. They lived together at 12 Dale Street in Royton's Luzley Brook area with John working as a carter for a company in Shaw. The Oldham Chronicle reported after his death that John & Bertha had a young son but no trace of this boy has yet been found in the records.
In 1915, John was sent out on active service as a reinforcement to the East Lancashires 6th Battalion. This unit had been raised at Preston in August 1914 and had been fighting at the Helles bridgehead on Gallipoli since July 6th. They were then allocated as one of the units to be sent to reinforce the soldiers fighting further up the coast at Anzac Cove. The 6th East Lancs arrived from Helles at the port of Mudros on the island of Lemnos on August 1st and it was on that day that John Clifford King joined them. The battalion stayed there until August 4th when they set off back to Gallipoli at 14:00 - landing at Anzac in the early hours of the morning of August 5th. Heavy casualties were suffered on the 6th as the battalion were shelled from 09:00 to 11:00 and later between 17:30 & 20:00. That day the British & Anzac forces had launched attacks in an attempt to break out of Anzac along with launching amphibious landings further up the coast at Suvla. The 6th East Lancs were not one of the initial assault units but on August 8th the battalion moved forward in readiness for an attack the following day.
At 05:15 on August 9th the 6th East Lancs advanced in the open across two cornfields with the objective of taking a portion of the Sari Bair Ridge, this piece of high ground dominated the Anzac landing area. As they advanced they came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire and suffered very heavy casualties. Despite this the men pushed onto the lower slopes of the hill and worked their way up only for A,B & C Companies to find that the portion of the ridge they had been climbing was in fact a hillock in front of the main ridge .The torrent of bullets & shrapnel shells coming down on them made any further advance impossible. D Company, on the extreme right of the Battalion's attack, managed to get up onto the top of the ridge but progress was eventually stopped by a sheer cliff. Reinforcements were requested but the weight of fire now coming down on the area meant that none could be sent up. The attack spent the men of the 6th East Lancs had to lie out where they had been halted, suffering more casualties from enemy fire,until they could finally be withdrawn on the night of August 9th/10th.
The days following their failed attack the men of the 6th East Lancs found themselves 'digging day and night and improving trenches'. They suffered a few casualties from shellfire during this period. On August 16th they took over front line trenches and held these until August 19th. A short spell out of the line followed before they manned the same trenches again on the evening of August 21st. There on August 24th, John Clifford King was killed by a sniper's bullet.
A mistake was made after the war and John's name, and some others from the 6th East Lancs, are recorded on the Basra Memorial. This memorial is to those missing from the campaign in Mesopotamia, somewhere John's battalion didnt arrive at until February 1916. This mistake has been pointed out to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and it pointed out that John Clifford King's name should be on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli. This has been rejected due to lack of sufficient evidence but let this entry be that evidence and also the Army's Register of Soldier's Effects produced at the time which clearly states he died at Gallipoli. John's outstanding pay was paid to his widow Bertha and daughter Lilian.
JOHN CLIFFORD KING
Date of Death:24/08/1915
Regiment:East Lancashire Regiment
Panel Reference:Panel 19