Corporal 15/1015 1st Leeds Pals

1887: John Arthur Wood, also known as Jack, was born in September, the youngest of four children born to John Graham Wood and Sarah Anne Finch.  John Graham was a schoolmaster, and Sarah a schoolmaster’s wife, though she ultimately became a teacher herself, along with their daughter Blanche.  Although the family had come from Birmingham all the children were born in Leeds and that is where they lived. (Find My Past, 2015)

1901: Archibald, the elder son, though not the eldest child, was now listed as head of the family, and neither parent appeared on the census.  Instead, and possibly to look after the family, great-aunt Elizabeth Ireson was there. (Find My Past, 2015)

1910: On 21st September John married Charlotte Sarah Wetherell, and the newly-weds went to live with Charlotte’s mother Mary at 21 Broomfield Crescent, Headingley.  John was now a clerk working for the London and City Midland Bank. (Find My Past,2015)

1914: War was declared, and John was one of the early volunteers, enlisting on 13th September.  He gave his address as 3 Rochester Terrace, Headingley, and stated that three years earlier he had been at 53 Cowper Street, Chapeltown, so they probably didn’t stay with mother-in-law for very long.  John was 27 and 1 month, 6ft tall, with a sallow complexion, light blue eyes and brown hair.  He was also put down as a Wesleyan, and interestingly the officiating minister at his wedding had been an FJ Wood – perhaps a relative?

1915: After his initial training at Colsterdale John was posted to D Company, No.15 Platoon, No.9 Section, where he became the platoon bomber.  During this period something unspecified happened, and he lost 10 days’ pay for being absent.  However, overall he was clearly a good soldier.  His officers regarded him as ‘honest, willing, reliable and trustworthy’, and he went on to prove himself a reliable NCO. In December he went with the battalion to Egypt.

1916: After less than three months they left Egypt and went to France, to prepare for the Battle of the Somme, which John survived. On 6th October he was promoted to lance corporal, and…

1917: …on 15th May to corporal. So far so good.On 27th December John reported sick, and three days later was diagnosed with TB, contracted as the result of his war service.  There was no family history of consumption.

1918: He was sent initially to 8th General Hospital, Camieres, and from there to Bermondsey Military Hospital in south London, an old workhouse that had become an isolation hospital.  He was assessed as having a 100% disability, and after some treatment it was decided to discharge him from the army, which happened officially on 26th April, and he was awarded a pension of 30/- a week, to be reassessed after 26 weeks.  He was reassigned to West Ridge Sanatorium, Wakefield, and died approximately 24 weeks later, on 1st October.  He is commemorated on the Lawnswood Cemetery War Memorial.

But while this was going on something was also happening to his marriage. We don’t know why he joined up initially.  Perhaps the marriage was in trouble even then. Perhaps the loss of his parents when he was at best a very young teenager had an effect on his development.  Probably we shall never know.  But he announced that he was dissatisfied with Charlotte’s (unspecified) behaviour and decided to cut her off.  He named his brother Frederick as his next of kin, and made no attempt to contact Charlotte or respond to letters.  On 30th April she wrote a very sad letter to the War Department saying she had not been informed that her husband was to be discharged, nor which hospital he was in. Her money was about to be stopped and she would then be penniless. (Hopefully her mother, who had private means, looked after her)(Find My Past, 2015). She actually doubted that this was her husband, and said that she would not believe it until she saw him. Whether she ever did is not known, but on 26th April she started proceedings to serve a maintenance order on him, and on 8th May she alleged desertion.  Finally, on 1st October she became a widow and was awarded a pension of 15/- a week.

1922: John was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Silver War Badge. (Find My Past, 2015)

Researcher: Peter Taylor

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