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WW1 Casualty: Private 21633 John Creaghan -

Private 21633 John Creaghan

© Prescot Reporter

Unit/Regiment 11th Bn., South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death 05/10/1916 Age at Death 36
& Reference
Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt
II D 27
CWGC Family Details (if shown) CWGC Headstone Inscription:-
Census Details 1901 Census -
Aged 21, living as a boarder with William Larkin and his family at 4, Ward Street, Prescot.

I have been unable to locate John Creaghan on the 1911 census
How Died Died of Wounds Theatre of War France & Flanders
Research Ref. No. P326

Service Details

John Creaghan of 30, Bretherton Road, enlisted as Private 21633 to the 11th Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment on 24th May 1915 at Prescot. He was a single man, aged 33 and working as a Collier.

His next of kin was listed as his sister, Annie Creaghan, at the same address, though as we will see later, she was actually living with him as his "wife".

Initial training took place on Salisbury Plain and in early 1915, the Battalion became a 'Pioneer' Battalion with the 30th Division. It had been decided that each of the New Army divisions should have an extra battalion included in its establishment to carry out road-making and other semi-technical work frequently called for in the field. The 11th Battalion was known as the 'St Helens Pioneers' in honour of the fact that the majority of the men came from St Helens.

The Battalion finally left for France in November 1915, disembarking at Le Havre on the 7th. The Battalion strength was 30 officers and 1,007 other ranks.

They served for the remainder of 1915 in the Somme Valley, carrying out work in the trenches. They suffered a few casualties, mainly to German snipers, but otherwise their first few weeks in the field proved uneventful.

In the Spring and early Summer of 1916, the Battalion were heavily involved in preparations for the forthcoming Somme offensive. As a Pioneer Battalion, this was an exceptionally busy time.

On 1st July, at the commencement of the Battle of the Somme, 30th Division were tasked with the capture of Montauban, with the initial assault taking place at 7.30 a.m. This was done by 2.45 p.m. and the Battalion were hard at work creating communications trenches forward through to the German front line. Three of the planned 4 trenches were completed by the fourth was abandoned due to extremely heavy German shelling, which inflicted heavy casualties.

In addition, large numbers of men were hit by German machine gun fire as they went over the top in support of the assaulting infantry. Overall, the battalion lost 190 men in the Somme battle before they were taken out of the line.

In August 1916, the 11th Battalion was moved to the Festubert sector where there was plenty of Pioneer work awaiting them, before moving again in September to the area of Albert, Montauban and Fricourt. Again, they were engaged on Pioneer work, as opposed to engaging with the enemy. Despite this, they continued to suffer casualties from the usual trench attrition, shell-fire, etc.

John Creaghan became a casualty on 5th October 1916. His Casualty Form states that he was initially wounded 'In the field' but then the next entry states 'Died of Wounds'. The battalion lost 10 men in that October, with one other (Arthur Meek) being Killed in Action on the same day as John Creaghan, who now rests in Dartmoor Cemetery.

The War Office wrote to the Army Records Office on 16th April 1917 asking that any personal property of James should be forwarded to his sister, Annie. This letter refers to her surname as 'Creaghan or Banks'. Subsequently, on 2nd September 1917, she wrote to confirm receipt of the items which had been returned to her, although these are not listed. At this time, she signed her name as 'Annie Banks'.

The Casualty Branch of the regiment, based in Shrewsbury, wrote to Annie Banks on 9th September 1919 asking if she had been maintained by the soldier, or had received an allowance from hm. She replied the following day to state that she had been maintained for over 4 years by James Creaghan and that she was now in receipt of a weekly pension of 12/-. This was probably due to Annie completing the form asking for details of relatives of the deceased, and entering her status as 'Unmarried Wife' although James had initially referred to her as his sister. Annie returned the second form sent to her, this time stating that she was 'living with John Creaghan as his wife'. This was confirmed by Henry Wood, Secretary of Prescot War Pensions Committee, and seconded by Councillor William Lucas.

On 26th May 1922, Annie acknowledged receipt of his medals, which were the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

The form on which Annie Banks explained her relationship with John Creaghan. Note that she had marked the letter with an "X", which had been certified as "Her mark" by Henry Wood.

When he had attested, John had stated that Annie Creaghan was his sister.

When notifying the authorities of John's next of kin, Annie reverted to the name of Banks and stated her relationship to be "unmarried wife".

The Register of Soldiers Effects listed Anne as "Banks or Creaghan" when reporting his next of kin

John's Medal Index Card, confirming his arrival in France on 6th November 1915

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