John Hugh Baxter was born 1895 at Eastham, Cheshire, the son of Charles Baxter and his wife Emma (nee Turner). He was baptised on 7th April 1895 at Eastham. His father was born in Eastham, and his mother in Suffolk; they married in 1884. His father was a widower, he had married Eliza Hamblin in 1876, and had two children: David, born in 1877: and Eliza Martha in 1879. His wife Eliza died in childbirth or from complications in 1879 at the age of 28.
John’s parents had six children, of which John was the youngest. He had siblings Richard Charles, born in 1884, Sidney 1886, Emma 1888 (died at age 4), Hubert John 1890 (died at 8 months), and Herbert Morris, 1892.
In 1901 his parents are living in Eastham Village, with Richard, Sidney, Herbert, and John and grandmother Susannah Baxter, 78. His father, is aged 50, born 1851 and is a house painter, his mother is 47, John is 6.
His mother died in 1906, aged 53.
The 1911 Census shows the family living in Eastham Village, Birkenhead. His father Charles is a widower aged 60, occupation house painter. Also at the address are Herbert aged 18 born 1893 a labourer in a candle factory, John Hugh aged 16, born 1895 an office boy with the Manchester Ship Canal, and his married sister Eliza Martha Hamblin Beard aged 32, born 1879, her husband Albert Edward aged 34, born 1877 a steam crane driver, their daughter Margery born 1911 and grandson John Edgar aged 15, born 1896, a labourer with the Manchester Ship Canal.
John enlisted at St George's Hall in Liverpool on 04th September 1914, joining the 19th Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private No 17536. He gave his age as 19 years and 177 days, and his occupation as clerk, he is described as being 5’ 6 and a quarter inches tall, weighing 131 lbs, with a fresh complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair, with a scar on the left side of his nose. He gives his religion as C of E, and as next of kin his father Charles, in Eastham Village.
Formed on 07th September 1914 the 19th Battalion trained locally at Sefton Park and remained living at home or in rented accommodation until November 1914. They then moved to the hutted accommodation at Lord Derby’s estate at Knowsley Hall. On 30th April 1915 the 19th Battalion alongside the other three Pals battalions left Liverpool via Prescot Station for further training at Belton Park, Grantham. They remained here until September 1915 when they reached Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain.
During initial training at Knowsley, near Liverpool, John was confined to barracks for two days on 03rd February 1915 for falling out of ranks without permission.
John shipped to France with his battalion, disembarking at Boulogne on 07th November 1915.
Not long after John arrived in France, his father died, aged 64, just before Christmas 1915.
John's service record survives and shows -
19/01/1916 sick, to Field Ambulance rheumatism (I.C.T. foot)
?/02/1916 discharged to unit
04/9/1916 granted Good Conduct Badge for 2 years service
23/01/1917 to F.A. (batman)
03/02/1917 rejoined unit
18/7/1917 granted leave to U.K.
31/7/1917 rejoined from leave
31?/7/1917 awarded 7 days Field Punishment No.1 for being absent from (illegible) from 9:30 until 10:15 on (illegible).
24/10/1917 awarded 7 days Field Punishment No.1 for leaving working party without permission. It is possible that these Field Punishments were not carried out, as the battalion was then in action during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele).
John was killed in action on the 05th December 1917, aged 22.
The Battalion diary for the 05th December 1917 records:
"Bodmin Copse and Unknown Copse heavily shelled. 2 O.R. wounded. Working parties were again found for 202nd Company. Royal Engineers. A Company moved from Bodmin Copse to vicinity of Stirling Castle in support of 2nd Bedford Regiment who had taken over Front Line. Polderhoek Chateau Sector from the New Zealand brigade.Bodmin Copse shelled during the night. Working party from Details (Railway Dugouts Party) suffer casualties about 10pm the officer in charge 2nd Lieutenant J.B.Olley being wounded, 3 O.R. killed and 1 O.R. wounded."
John was one of the other ranks referred to in the diary as having been killed.
He was buried in Sanctuary Wood Old British Cemetery, Zillebeke, and his grave marked with a cross: “In memory of 17536 Pte. J.H. Baxter, 19 K.L.R. 5/12/1917”. After the Armistice, when graves were concentrated, the bodies of 54 Commonwealth Soldiers, including John’s, were removed and reinterred in Hooge Crater Cemetery, where he now rests.
His death was reported in the Chester Chronicle on 12th January 1918:
Baxter (King's Liverpool Regiment), 17536, J.H., Eastham (killed).
The notice of John’s death was sent to his father, by now deceased; his sister Eliza Beard wrote in January 1918 that the official notice of his death had not been received.
John earned his three medals which his brother Herbert signed for. Herbert, then living in White Row, Eastham, received John’s Army effects and a War Gratuity of £15, as well as personal effects: Photographs, Religious medallions in case, Religious book, 1 Cheque book, 3 Wallets.
In May 1919 brother Sydney, recently discharged from the South Wales Borderers, wrote from Harewood Street, Everton requesting information on John’s balance of pay, as he was not satisfied with the information he had received from his brothers.
CWGC communicated with Mr. R.C. (brother Richard) Baxter, White Row, Eastham, regarding John’s headstone.
His brother Sidney served in the Cheshire Yeomanry and S.W.B. whilst his brother Herbert served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Gloucester Regiment.
His nephew John Edgar Baxter (just months younger than John, he was 18) enlisted on 11th September 1914 in the same battalion as his uncle John, 19th K.L.R. as Private 17544. They shipped to France together on 07th November 1915. In February 1916, John Edgar suffered a shrapnel wound to the left foot, and was hospitalised in Dublin. After recuperating he served at home with the Loyal North Lancs Agricultural Company, Labour Corps, and R.A.M.C. He was discharged in August 1919 with a partial disability (septic left foot).
In 1919 his brother Herbert provided information on John’s living relatives. His half brother David, 42, was living in Ditton near Widnes; his half sister Eliza Beard, 41, was living at “The Nook”, Eastham; Richard, 34 and Herbert, 26, were at White Row, Eastham Village; and Sydney, 32, was living in Harewood Street, Everton.
Cheshire Roll of Honour
John is commemorated on the Eastham War Memorial.
He is also commemorated on the Cheshire Roll of Honour
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