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John William Heaton

Private John W. Heaton, 17412, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 9th Battalion

John William Heaton was born in Ossett in 1892 the only child of Jonas Heaton and his wife Martha Ann (nee Hemingway) who married in early 1892 in the Wakefield area. In 1901, John was 9 years of age and a lodger at Storrs Hill (Horbury) as was his widowed father, Jonas a miner aged 37 years. John’s mother Martha Ann, died in Spring 1894 at the age of 21 years.

In 1911, John Heaton was boarding with a mining family at Woolley Colliery where he was working as a miner. Four adults and seven children were living in four rooms.

John William Heaton’s army service record has not survived, but he enlisted at Wakefield and joined the 9th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with regimental service number 17412. John William embarked for France on the 11th September 1915 and was accidentally drowned on 5th December 1915. His service overseas before 31st December 1915 qualified him for the posthumous award of the 1914/15 Star and he was also awarded the British and Victory medals.

The 9th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third New Army and joined 64th Brigade, 21st Division. After initial training close to home they moved to Berkhamsted and then to Halton Park in October. They spent the winter in billets in Maidenhead from November and returned to Halton Park in April 1915. They moved to Witley for final training in August and proceeded to France in September 1915. They marched across France and went straight into action in reserve of the British assault at Loos on the 26th of September, suffering heavy casualties. In 1916 they were in action in the Battles of The Somme, including The Battle of Morval in which the Division captured Geudecourt.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records John Heaton as being born in Horbury but the "UK, Soldiers who Died in the Great War" listing records his place of birth as Ossett. The two census records in which he appears record him as being born in Ossett.

Private John William Heaton is not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour. Whilst several records show him as being Ossett born but his connection with the town appears to have been fleeting. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Private John William Heaton, aged 23 years, son of Jonas William and Martha Ann Heaton, of Barnsley Rd., Mapplewell, Barnsley, died on the 5th December 1915 from accidental drowning. He is buried at grave reference III. B. 30 at the Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension,1 Nord, France. The village of Houplines is 2 kilometres east of the centre of Armentieres on the D945. The Communal Cemetery Extension is located on this road to the north-west side of the Communal Cemetery.

The village of Houplines was briefly occupied by the German forces as they advanced northward toward the channel ports in early October 1914. It was retaken by the British 4th Division later that month and remained in Allied hands until April 1918 when it was overrun by German units during the great spring offensive. It was finally recaptured by the Allied forces in September 1918. Houplines then contained four Commonwealth cemeteries in addition to plots in the communal cemetery. These sites were regrouped and concentrated after the war and today just two cemeteries remain. Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension was established, as ‘Houplines New Military Cemetery’, in October 1914 and used, mostly by the men of the 4th and 6th Divisions, until January 1916. In the years after the Armistice, the cemetery was enlarged when graves were concentrated here from the communal cemetery itself, other Commonwealth cemeteries in the village and the battlefields around Armentières. The extension now contains over 530 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 68 burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to four casualties known or believed to be buried among them. The cemetery also contains one Second World War burial.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site