Date of Death:28/09/1916
Regiment:The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Cemetery:Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension
John Riley was born in Royton on May 6th 1882. He was the second child, after daughter Mary, of Richard & Alice. His younger siblings were Bertha, Harry and Beatrice (who died in infancy). Richard Riley worked, like most, in the local cotton industry and the family lived for a while at 89 Park Road before moving to Rochdale Road - at the time of the 1901 census they were living at number 105 but by 1911 had moved next door to 103. In 1899, John's sister Mary died at the age of 17 and in 1909 Richard died at the age of 55. John and his remaining siblings, Bertha and Harry, weren't married and they lived together with their mother. John worked as a cop packer at the Parkside Mill.
John enlisted at Royton on December 9th 1915 and was placed on the Army Reserve, he was called up on April 3rd 1916. The following day he had his medical at the barracks in Ashton-under-Lyne and was from there sent to join the 9th Battalion The King's Liverpool Regiment. This unit had been raised at Formby in November 1914 and at the point John joined it was reassigned as a Reserve Battation for the purpose of supplying troops to those battalions at the front.
John remained in England until August 21st when he arrived in France. After that he would have undergone a short spell of further training. He was transferred to the 1st Battalion The Loyal North Lancashires on September 2nd and reached his new unit two days later. Three Royton men had already died fighting with John's new battalion, Abel Hartley , Joseph Quarmby & William Schofield and it no longer bore any resemblance to the pre-war regular unit that had arrived in France in 1914. In it's most recent fighting it had been heavily involved in the Battle of the Somme in July and August and by the week before John joined them they had been reduced to 7 officers and 310 other ranks. On September 2nd a group of officers and men joined them from the Sherwood Foresters and then on the 4th John Riley arrived with another 346 NCO's and men. This latter group was drawn from several regiments, 194 from the Durham Light Infantry alone.
On September 9th the men of the battalion were placed at the disposal of other units of the 2nd Brigade who were involved in an attack, and they were chiefly employed in digging and improving the communication trenches. There was a spell out of the front line during the rest of the month before the 2nd Brigade were sent into the line in the Mametz Wood area on September 25th. Here orders were issued that at 23:00 on the night of September 26th the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancs would, along with the 2nd Royal Sussex, launch an attack. The night was extremely dark and due to a loss of direction the attack failed with heavy losses.
Over the following day it was unclear as to whether the Germans still held the trench ahead of the battalion so at 14:00 on the 28th a party started out from the British trenches to ascertain the situation,they got their answer when the patrol was stopped by rifle and machine gun fire. At 18:30 the battalion was ordered to clear the Germans from the trench. B Company of the Battalion went over the top in two lines followed by two platoons of A Company. As they neared the German line the defenders let loose with a few shots before falling back. It was during these actions that John Riley was mortally wounded, whether during the initial patrol or in the attack on the trench isn't known. He was taken to the 'South Midlands Casualty Clearing Station' with shrapnel wounds to his thigh and abdomen and gun shot wounds in his abdomen, groin and hand. He died shortly afterwards.
The battalion's losses during it's spell in the line from September 25th to 28th were 212 killed, wounded and missing.
Those listed as dying on the 28th along with John are:
FAIRHURST HENRY MM Serjeant 18687 born Wigan,enlisted Horwich
PORTER THOMAS 24 Private 22758 from Preston
SHAW ROBERT Private 11204 from Liverpool
John's mother Alice received official confirmation the following week that he had died from wounds received in action. The army did not send her John's personal effects until June 1919 but by then she was already dead herself, having passed away in 1918.