John Watkinson was born in Skelmersdale, Lancashire on 13th February 1880. His parents were Thomas and Ellen Watkinson. He was baptised at St Paul’s Church on 29th February 1880 and he was educated at the Wesleyan school, Liverpool Road, Skelmersdale where he eventually became a pupil teacher. He spent a year in the army with the Loyal Lancashires and the 1901 census has him listed at Fulwood Barracks near Preston. When he left the army he became a postman working for the GPO.
He married Elizabeth Roberts from Northop Hall on the 6th June 1906. Their wedding was in Northop and was conducted by The Rev Clement Davies. They had two children – Fred Roberts Watkinson (born 1906) and Mildred (born 1908). The 1911 census lists this family of four living at 34, White Moss Road Skelmersdale. The form tells us that the house had four rooms and that Elizabeth had been born in Northop Hall in 1882. We know that by the time that John went to war, Elizabeth and the children were living in ‘The Croft’, Northop Hall.
Because of his previous experience in the army, John was listed as a national reservist. When war broke out in August 1914, he was immediately summoned by a letter from the West Lancashire Territorial Force Association telling him to present himself urgently at the Liverpool Regiment Depot, Seaforth Barracks – the next day if possible!
He enlisted on 31st August 1914 and joined the 10th Battalion Loyal North Lancashires and was promoted to corporal on the same day. He was now Corporal John Watkinson number 12152. he was described as 34 and a half years of age, 5feet 5 and a half inches tall, weighed 113 pounds and he had brown hair, hazel eyes with a fresh complexion. His wife, Elizabeth in Northop Hall was his next of kin. His war history is detailed below,
He served in the Loyal North Lancashires in England for a year and was then posted to France where he spent most of the rest of the war. He was promoted several times during the war.
5 Sept 1914 promoted to Sergeant
6 Oct 1914 promoted to Orderly Room Sergeant
11th June 1915 promoted to Acting RQMS
1st Mar 1916 promoted to Warrant Officer class 11 and appointed RQMS
5th June 1917 Discharged from the Loyal North Lancashires and promoted to a temporary commission as Qtr Mr and Lieutenant in The Royal Warwickshires.
The Military Cross
This was awarded for an event that appears to have taken place on 26th March 1918 east of Moreuil. The citation appeared in the London Gazette as follows-
Citation from the London Gazette 16th September 1918
Qmer and Hon lieutenant John Watkinson R War R
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during two days of severe fighting. Owing to heavy officer casualties in the battallion he volunteered to take command of a company and with the greatest courage and determination led them into action. His company was involved in very bitter fighting around a position, and it was only due to his coolness, utter disregard of personal danger and the capable way in which he kept his men together that the garrison of the position was not completely cut off. By rallying his men at a very critical moment and fighting a reargaurd action, he covered their retreat in the most able manner.
John Watkinson died on 10th December 1918 in No 14 hospital in France. On the afternoon of 14th August 1918 on duty, he had been riding to the Ration Dump when his horse tumbled and fell on top of him. His injuries were recorded as severe. The incident was an accident and no-one was to blame. The cause of his death was recorded as a fractured pubis and ruptured bladder. At the time of his death he was in the 11th Royal Warwickshires but attached to the 18th Highland Light Infantry.
He is remembered on the Northop Hall Village Memorial, Northop Parish Memorial, Skelmersdale War Memorial, Ormskirk Post Office Memorial and he is also named on the gravestone of his parents in St Paul’s Churchyard, Skelmersdale.
Much of this research was done by Sheila Fitches – a descendent of John Watkinson. We would like to congratulate her on a painstaking, extensive and detailed piece of work and thank her very much for allowing us to publish it.
Many thanks too, to Paul McCormick – Great Great Grandson of John Watkinson who found this website and then got in touch with Sheila to ask her if we could publish her work. He also photographed the medals which now belong to him. Thanks very much indeed to Paul and Sheila for sharing this extraordinary story.