Driver John SLEE (43422
)

8th Div. Ammunition Column,
Royal Field Artillery

Born: 31 July 1895, Patterdale, Westmorl
and
Died: 2 June 1917, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Age 21)
 

John Slee was born on the 31st of July 1895 at Rookings in Patterdale. He was the ninth child born to Robert Slee, a Wagonner at Greenside mine, and his wife Margaret Jane (nee Young). Robert and his family moved to Rookings in Patterdale around 1884 from Hawkshead where he had been a Labourer in a Quarry. It appears that at least six of their children had not been baptised, so on the 10th of June 1888, Thomas, Margaret Anne, Robert, Fred, Harry and Ada were all baptised at St Patrick's Church. By 1891 the family were living in nearby Blowick, where their son William was born, then back to Rookings for while where John was born and finally to Blowick again where Arthur was born around September 1899. A couple of months later in 1899, we discovered that John's father Robert had died in Newcastle, so by 1901 his widow Margaret was living in Witton Park just west of Bishop Auckland with her seven youngest children including John. It seems unlikely that John would have attended school in Patterdale but some of his brothers and sisters must certainly have done. John's mother, Margaret Jane Slee, died in early 1907 at the age of 58. As yet, we have been unable to trace John's whereabouts from 1901 to when he joined the army in 1915.

In the early part of 1915, John went to Carlisle where he enlisted in 8th Division Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and trained as a Driver with the Division's ammunition column. As a Driver, John would have been responsible for two of the horses in the six horse team that pulled the two ton ammunition wagons. The 8th Divisional Ammunition Column was an integral part the 8th Division Royal Field Artillery and was formed at Hursley Park, Winchester during October 1914 from regular army units returning from around the British Empire. They proceeded to France in November 1914, a much needed reinforcement to the British Expeditionary Force and remained on the Western Front throughout the war. We know that John arrived in France to join them on the 4th September 1915. During 1916, they were in action at the Battle of The Somme and in March 1917 fought in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line before moving to Flanders. The 8th Div. RFA fought in two major battles during 1917, 'The Battle of Pilckem Ridge' and 'The Battle of Langemarck' but these occurred after John had died so we cannot attribute his injuries to a specific action. Even so, travelling in the slow moving ammunition columns must have been quite dangerous in itself, as German shelling of the trenches and support lines was fairly constant. Being seen by a German spotter plane would make them a valuable target.

The CWGC records show that John died at the First Northern General Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 2nd June 1917 and that he was 22 years of age. This suggests that he was wounded in Flanders, brought home to recover but sadly died from his wounds.The burial register records that he died in Walkergate Hospital (probably part of the military run 1st NGH), aged 23 years and was buried on the 6th June in St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. John's actual age when he died was 21 years and 10 months. 

John had completed about two years service with the RFA, the majority of which was spent in France and Flanders. His medal card1 shows that he was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal, British War Medal and the 1915 Star.

He is remembered and commemorated on: 

The Patterdale War Memorial
Glenridding Public Hall – Roll of Honour (alongside his brothers Robert and Harry)
St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (Plot W, Row, U, Grave 364)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate


What became of his family?

This is what we know at present about his brothers and sisters:

Ellen was born about 1875 in Headley Hill, Durham

Thomas was born about 1877 in Hutton, Westmorland. In 1911 he is working as a Carter for a Grocer and living in Hope Yard, Friar St, Penrith, with his wife Margaret and four children. In the CWGC records concerning John's military style gravestone, Mr T Slee of 1, Friar Building, Friar St, Penrith, was recorded as the next of kin - being the eldest of his brothers.

Margaret Anne was born about 1879 in Skelwith, Lancashire. She married Joshua Johnston in the Wigton registration district around February 1898, where they continued to live and had at least 8 children by 1911.

Robert was born around the middle of March 1881 in Skelwith, Lancashire. In 1911 he was working as a Coal Miner, living in Chopwell, Durham with his wife Mary and three children (one of whom was adopted). Robert was killed in action on the 26th April 1917. Click here for more details.

Fred was born about 1884 in in Skelwith, Lancashire.  In 1911 he was working as a Coal Miner, living in Witton, near Bishop Auckland with his wife Mary Elizabeth, four children and younger brother William.

Harry was born on the 12th September 1885 in Patterdale. In 1901 he was working as a Putter in a coal mine and living at home with his mother, brothers and sister in Witton, near Bishop Auckland. He served in the Royal Navy during WW1 and appears on the Roll of Honour in Glenridding Public Hall. Click here for more details.

Ada was born about 1889 in Patterdale. In April 1911, Ada was still single and working as a General Domestic Servant at Witton Holmes Farm, Witton Park. She married ?? Elsworth before June 1918.

William was born on the 6th June 1892 in Patterdale. In 1911 he was working as a Labourer at a Colliery and living in the same house as his older brother Fred in Witton, near Bishop Auckland.

Arthur was born about October 1899 in Patterdale.

As John's parents had died, each sibling received a War Gratuity from the Government in January 1920 of £1 -14s - 8d. In the case of deceased brother Robert, this was to be divided amongst his children.



Notes:

1. Medal Card for Driver John Slee (43422) 8th Div. Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artlillery.


The Victory Medal
To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918).

The British War Medal

To qualify for the British War Medal a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.

The 1914-15 Star

The 1914–15 Star was approved in 1918, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 (other than those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star).

2. St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

St Andrews Cemetery sometimes known as St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery was opened by the St Andrew's parish and Jesmond township Burial Board in 1857, having been laid out by one of the leading firms specialising in cemetery design. During the First World War the military authorities took over the Westgate Road Workhouse and Infirmary, creating a hospital with 1,500 beds for officers and men. This was known as the First Northern General and was one of four military hospitals established in Newcastle during the war years, the others being Northumberland War Hospital, Brighton Grove Hospital, and Alnwick Military Convalescent Hospital. Convalescent hospitals were introduced on the home front from March 1915 to keep recovering soldiers under military control. Most of those treated for wounds and disease in Newcastle during the war recovered, but of those who died, many were buried at St Andrew’s and Jesmond Cemetery and a burial plot was set aside for servicemen who died locally. As the cemetery contains 183 military burials dating from the First World War, it is recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who have set up an information panel near the graves.


Research Documents

Census Returns: 188118911901,
Burial Register for St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Register of Soldiers' Effects