Private John ROUTLEDGE (M2/131719)

Motor Transport Company, Army Service Corps.

Born: January 1891, Kirkoswald, Cumberland

Died: 3 Dec 1918, Basra, Mesopotamia (Age 27)

John Routledge was born in January 1891 at Highbankhill, near Kirkoswald, in Cumberland. He was the second youngest of 7 children born to Thomas Routledge and his wife Jane (nee Clapham). Looking at the birthplaces of their children it seems they had moved about quite a bit, living for short periods in various parts of Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland but around the late 1890’s they finally settled at Noran Bank Farm in Patterdale, where Thomas farmed as well as making boots and shoes. It is believed that John attended Patterdale School and later, at the age of 20, he is shown in the 1911 census to be working as ‘Boots’ at one of the local hotels (probably at the prestigious Gelderd’s Family Hotel – now the Patterdale Hotel).

On the 11th October 1915, a few months after his younger brother Albert had enlisted, John went to Keswick to join up. He must have learned to drive before this as he stated his occupation as ‘Petrol Motor Driver’, a skill that, not surprisingly, got him into the 596th Mechanised Transport Company of the Army Service Corps as a Driver. Within a month he was on a ship bound for Alexandria in Egypt and the HQ of the British Expeditionary Force (Mediterranean). He was soon posted to Mesopotamia, arriving there just before Christmas 1915. The force fighting in Mesopotamia was principally one of the Indian Army, with only one solely British formation, the 13th (Western) Division, however the Indian formations also contained some British units. Conditions in Mesopotamia almost defy description, with extremes of temperature (50oC was common), arid desert, regular flooding, flies, mosquitoes and other vermin all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease.

John was in Mesopotamia until, in mid September 1916, he was posted to India for a couple of months (his service records do not show whereabouts in India he was stationed) but returned to Mesopotamia around November 1916 and stayed there until he died in December 1918. We do not know what type of vehicle John would have driven. Most probably a truck of the type shown in this picture, perhaps an ambulance or if he was lucky an senior officer's staff car. In October 1918 his parents had received an official telegram letting them know that John was seriously ill with pneumonia. They heard nothing more until they received another telegram which informed them that John had died on the 3rd December 1918 in a hospital in Basra. Mesopotamia (Basra is now in modern day Iraq). His service records note that he died of Septicaemia.

John was buried in the Tehran War Cemetery in Persia (now Iran), which is enclosed within the walls of the British Embassy residential compound at Qolhak, about 8 miles north of central Tehran.

John completed just over three years service, largely in Mesopotamia and India. 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 brother Albert)

Tehran War Cemetery2

St Patrick's Churchyard, Patterdale (John’s name is inscribed on his parents gravestone, along with that of his older brother George, who died in 1900 aged 23)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate

What became of his family?


The family were still at Noran Bank Farm when John's mother, Jane Routledge, died on the 26th of June 1919, aged 68. His father Thomas moved from Noran Bank to Low House in Hartsop and lived there until he died on the 25th of November 1926, aged 76. They are both buried in St Patrick's Churchyard.


His only sister Betsy Ann was born on the 14th of June 1875 in Milburn, Westmorland. She married Stephen Slinger Hadwin around November 1899. They had three children; Laura, Frank and Thomas (Thomas died in Greece during WW2 and is also remembered on the Patterdale War Memorial click here for his biography). Betsy died on the 23rd February 1937.

Eldest brother George was born in Kirkoswald around May 1877. He died on the 13th June 1900 at the young age of 23 years. He is buried in St Patrick's Churchyard in the same grave as his parents.

Older brother Francis (or Frank as he was known) was born in Wensleydale, Yorkshire around May 1879. He married Isabella Farnin around August 1904. By 1911 they were living in Penrith and had three children; Thomas, Mary Ann and Henry. In 1920 they were living in Ambleside.

Older brother Thomas was born at High Bankhill, Kirkoswald around 1885.

Older brother Matthew Clapham was born in Sedburgh, Yorkshire around August 1886. He married Mary Agnes Wilkinson, of Glenridding, on the 18th September 1912 and lived at Gillside Farm for a time. They were living at Mountain View in Glenridding when Matthew died on the 26th December 1949 aged 63 and Mary continued to live at Mountain View until she died on the 4th August 1972 at the age of 82. They had at least two children, Elsie (b.1914) and Albert (b.1915).

His younger brother Albert, was born on the 26th March 1894 in Great Strickland, Westmorland. Albert joined the Border Regiment, achieved the rank of Sergeant and was awarded the Military Medal. He later became a Lorry driver. He is listed on the Glenridding Roll of Honour click here for his biography.


1. Medal Card for Private John Routledge (M2/131719) Motor Transport Coy. Army Service Corps.

Note the incorrect date of death.

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. Tehran War Cemetery

Tehran War Cemetery is situated within the secure British Embassy residential compound at Qolhak, which is approximately 8 miles North of central Tehran. Within the cemetery is the Tehran Memorial commemorating casualties from both World Wars. The Memorial is in the form of six free standing memorial walls and commemorates casualties of the Indian, United Kingdom and New Zealand Forces who lost their lives during the campaign in Persia and who have no known grave. There are 412 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war, 13 of which are unidentified, commemorated in this site. There are 152 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war commemorated here. In addition there are also 14 non world war burials and 25 Foreign National burials. More Details

Research Documents

Census Returns

Service Records

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate

C&W Herald 4 Jan 1919 - Reporting Death of Driver John Routledge

War Service Gratuity in Register of Soldiers Effects

Inscription on Parents Gravestone in St Patrick's Churchyard

If you can add more detail or photographs to this biography, or spot any errors, please tell us using the Discussion Page or by e-mail to

Page Editor: Norman Jackson

Page Last Reviewed: 24 Feb 2021