John William Ithell came from a large extended family which suffered many sad episodes a century ago. In this story he will be referred to as John William to avoid confusion with his father John!
He was the eldest child of Mary and John Ithell. His mother was Mary, nee Anglesea, (1875-1909) and was born in Buckley. His father John (1878 – 1961) was from of a family of market gardeners in the Dale, Kinnerton, and he was the eldest of 6 children,
John’s siblings (and therefore the aunts and uncles of John William) were:
Martha Ithell 1879–1918, a spinster who married in 1917 a widower named George Harley. The following year her brother Thomas was killed action in France, George’s son (George Henry Harley) was killed in action in Belgium, and Martha gave birth to a baby (also George). Martha and her baby died at or soon after the birth.
- Mary Ithell 1886– ?, married John Evans and had at least two children
- William Ithell 1887–1955, married Kate Rhoda Webber, and after being widowed he married Florence M Davies. It is unclear whether served in the forces.
- Arthur Ithell 1888–1969, was conscripted into the army (serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Royal Army Medical Corps) in September 1916. In November 1916 he married Daisy Mabel Plastow. After the war they lived in Battersea, but he died in Wrexham,
- Thomas Ithell 1890–1918, volunteered in 1915 and served in the Royal Field Artillery. He married Ida Piercy in January 1918, but was killed in action in France in October 1918.
According to birth registration and baptism records John William’s sister Florence May Ithell was born on 2nd November 1902, although the school admission book gives the year as 1903,
On 13th October 1902 John William started at Higher Kinnerton National School, and Florence started there on 25th June 1906. The school admission book does not record when they left the school, although the 1911 census records the children as John Willie, aged 12 and Floria aged 8, both scholars. Their father was recorded as a 35 year old widower, their mother having died in 1909, aged 34.
In 1912 his father John married again, to Sarah Evans, born 24th January 1886. Four more sons were born, some of them after John William had been killed. They were:
- William Arthur Ithell 1914 -1990
- Frederick Ithell 1916 – 1984
- Thomas Cecil Ithell 16th July 1919 – 1985
- Frank Ithell 1923 – ?
In 1939 the National Register records that some of John William’s family were living at Mill Farm in Kinnerton – his father John (a Cowman). his stepmother Sarah, his sister Florence, and his stepbrother Thomas (a market gardener). Three other names were redacted from the record, probably because they relate to persons born less than 100 years ago and possibly still alive. These may be relatives of John William.
John William’s military records do not appear to have survived so we do not know when or where he enlisted. However, his record card in the Flintshire Record Office, signed by John Ithell in January 1922, states that his period of service was two years, so we can assume that he enlisted at some time in 1916. His medal record card states that he served in the The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), number 17703. However, when he died he was serving in the East Lancashire Regiment 11th Battalion. The regiment recruited primarily from the new industrial towns of East Lancashire, including Burnley, Blackburn, Nelson, Colne and Accrington and was known as The Accrington Pals. In the summer of 1916 The Pals suffered disastrous losses at the first day of the battle of The Somme. Their story can be found at http://www.pals.org.uk/pals_e.htm
The Lancashire Infantry Museum’s website (http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk/the-regiments-in-the-great-war-1914-18-3/) describes the action involving the East Lancashires in the last few months of the war, and may indicate where John William may have been fighting:
- On 28th September – the Accrington Pals, in their last major attack, cleared a German stronghold north of Ploegsteert Wood, capturing a number of guns and prisoners. There were 353 casualties.
- Between 16tth and 19th October the ‘Pals’ crossed the River Lys, crossed the Deule in single file over the wreckage of a bridge, and liberated the large towns of Turcoing and Wattrelos.
- The ‘Pals’ were near Grammont on the Dendre, some twenty miles from Brussels, when the Armistice brought hostilities to an end.
It is not possible to know where or when John William was wounded but as he died of wounds and influenza he was presumably a patient in a military hospital. He was buried at Terlincthun Cemetery, Wimille on the outskirts of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site states that this large cemetery was started in June 1918 and was used for burials from the base hospitals in Boulogne.
John William died two weeks after his 27 year old uncle Thomas Ithell was killed in action on the western front.
On 30th April 1919 his father John Ithell received his son’s effects, which amounted to £9 19s 3d, (including £9 war gratuity).
John William Ithell’s family tree can be viewed at http://person.ancestry.co.uk/tree/70118846/person/42220945911/facts
He is also commemorated on the Caergwrle and Kinnerton memorials.