John William Taylor – a lucky diary

John William Taylor, Private 15/1206, 1st Leeds Pals

Later 78016 89th Training Reserve Battalion

John William Taylor, known as Jack, was probably born in December 1890, in Bridlington, the son of William and Ada, or Adela, Taylor, who had married in Leeds ten years before.

He had four older siblings, Kate, Albert, Amy and Lily, and the family lived in Bridlington certainly into the war years, though for whatever reason John was not at home for the 1911 Census, and I’ve not so far located him anywhere else.

The family address in 1891 was Dykes House, by 1901 they had moved to 17 Quay Road, and by 1911 to 21 Havelock Crescent, not far from 42 Havelock Crescent, the address given for his father as next of kin on John’s enlistment.

When John left school he became a grocer’s assistant, and possibly worked in Bradford, as that is where, according to one source, he enlisted.  He also had a diary (see later) supplied by George Jessop and Son Ltd, clothing manufacturers of Batley, but as this was complimentary it may not mean that he worked for them.  His attestation papers were completed at Colsterdale, on 27th January 1915, and beside the occupation and next of kin details, also included his height at 5’ 6” and the fact that he was single.  Six months later, however, on 6th July, he married Lily Cooper at Drypool Parish Church in Hull, and their son Frank was born on 2nd September.  According to the family story John was given leave for the birth, but it proved not long enough.  Once John had joined up Lily and Frank went to live with the family in Bridlington.

John joined the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale, where he did his basic training, and sailed with the battalion for Egypt, where they landed on 22nd December 1915.  After duty there they were posted to France, arriving in March 1916, to prepare for the Big Push.

The Battle of the Somme commenced on 1st July 1916, and John was one of the lucky ones in that he was wounded on the first day, at Colincamps.  He was hit by a bullet in his right arm, badly damaging his elbow.  His medical records suggest that he was also hit in the back by shrapnel, and another family story recounts him describing how his diary, and/or a metal case, stopped a piece which would otherwise have done some serious injury.  His gunshot wound was serious enough to put him in hospital for 2 months, spend a further 3 months convalescing, and ultimately to return him to England.  He was finally discharged on 24th November and given 10 days’ leave, after which he reported to 89th Training Reserve Battalion at Cambois.

Photo courtesy of the family

A medical board examined him and concluded that he was no longer fit for active service, and that his capacity for earning a full livelihood had been reduced by a quarter.  They recommended that he be transferred to Class P, which was effectively a discharge.  This happened on 8th August 1917, and he was awarded a pension of 8/3 a week, to be re-assessed after a year.  At this point his address was given as 4 Wansford Drive, Driffield.

John was subsequently awarded the King’s Discharge certificate, the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.


Find My Past: Censuses, Service records

Ancestry: Medal cards

Researcher: Peter Taylor, with additional information provided by the family

Please Note:

  • 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.

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