John (Jack) Sydney Ewart, Corporal 15/314, 1st Leeds Pals
John Sydney Ewart, known to the family as Jack, was the son of William Ewart and Emily Shephard, who had married in Sheffield in 1876. William was born in Kirkcudbright, and was a draper, and subsequently a traveller, in that trade. John was the eighth of nine children. He had five older sisters, Edith, Marion, Jane, Alice and Janet, and two older brothers, Samuel and William. The youngest child, Charles Reginald, was the grandfather of Brell Ewart, who provided much of this information.
All the children were born in Chesterfield, where the family lived, at a number of addresses over the years, and which was presumably William’s base for his travelling. Apart from this little is known about John’s early life, but by 1911 he was lodging in Bradford, where he had a job as a costing clerk for a newspaper publisher. (Census records)
In 1914, when war was declared, John was 22, and lost no time in volunteering. With a number like 314 he must have signed up in the first few days. He joined the Leeds Pals, which suggests either that he had moved jobs or was so anxious to sign up that he didn’t wait for the Bradford Pals to be formed. It is also possible that he was influenced by the fact that his grandmother had been born in Leeds. Whatever the reason, he was a Leeds Pal. But unfortunately his service record has not survived.
Like the rest of the Pals he would have done his early training at Colsterdale, before moving on to Ripon and finally Fovant in Wiltshire. From there, in early December 1915, the Battalion sailed for Egypt, where they were to guard the Suez Canal against a possible Turkish attack. This did not materialise, and in March 1916 they sailed again, this time for France, and training for the Big Push.
The Battle of the Somme began at 0730hrs on 1st July 1916 when the Leeds Pals, along with a number of other Pals battalions, including the Bradford Pals, went over the top, with the intention of capturing the village of Serre. But it was not to be. The majority were either killed or wounded, but John survived. There is no reason to suppose that he wasn’t in that attack.
On 4th August the survivors were moved to a new position at Festubert, where they took over some of the front-line trenches. These did not form a continuous line but a series of ‘islands’, and it was while manning these islands that they were attacked. After morning ‘Stand Down’ on 20th August the Germans began shelling the trenches, but what no-one realised was that they were shelling their own wire, to make three gaps leading to the British lines. Just after evening ‘Stand Down’ they attacked, and although they were beaten off the Pals suffered casualties. Two officers and six other ranks were killed and two officers and seventeen other ranks wounded. Among the dead was John Ewart. (Milner p.170/1)
John was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Medal Card) He is buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg L’Avoue, together with Lt. Tom Applebee, and Privates Harold Ramsden and Harold Griffiths. (CWGC website)
John’s grave, visited by his niece and great-nephew, June Dorothy Ewart and Brell Ewart.
His older brother William Shephard also joined up, but not, apparently, until 1918. Initially he was to go into the RGA, but was transferred to the RAMC. He survived the war and was able to return to his wife Eliza. (Find My Past)
His younger brother Charles Reginald served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and also survived.
Researcher: Peter Taylor, with information from Brell Ewart, great-nephew
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.