East Lancashire Regiment
Place of birth:
Islington - Middlesex
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Killed in action
Grave or panel reference:
Panel 42 and 43
Name of father:
Name of siblings:
Frank, Beatrice, Harriett, George, Florence, Eugenie, Joseph, Harry, Albert, Louisa, Stanley
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
France and Flanders
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Pozieres Memorial, France
St Mark's Church, Tollington Park
Name of mother:
Harriett Hart (nee Gibbons)
Name of spouse:
1911- Wellesley Barracks, Mhow, Central India
Born in June 1887, John was the third son of Frank Hart, a bricklayer, and his wife Harriett nee Gibbons. Altogether there were 13 children in the family, though two died early in life. Frank died in 1907, leaving Harriett to look after the household. In 1911 Harriett earned a living as a Monthly Nurse.
John does not appear with the family at 23 Fonthill Road in the 1911 census: he is listed in the ‘Enumerator’s Book for Military Establishments’ as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment at Wellesley Barracks in Mhow, Central India. John had enlisted in the British Army in 1907 and had already served in Karachi before Mhow. His Battalion left India later in 1911 and served in South Africa before going to France soon after the outbreak of war in 1914.
The 2nd East Lancashires took part in major actions in 1915 and 1916, and 1917 saw them, along with other Lancashires, engaged in one of the war’s worst battles, the Battle of Passchendaele, in Flanders. It began on 31 July and lasted for three months, with men fighting waist-deep in mud and constantly pounded by German artillery. This was also the first battle to employ mustard gas.The offensive was ultimately successful for the Allies, but more than 162,000 British soldiers died at Passchendaele, and whilst John survived, he was severely wounded. He was entitled thereafter to wear the Wound Stripe.
The Battalion returned to France and saw action again in early 1918, countering the German spring offensive. From 21 March the Allies fought the Germans in another Battle of the Somme. The 2nd East Lancashires joined the battle on 23 March when they occupied the west bank of the River Somme near Bethencourt, but the river was forded by the enemy and the outflanked battalion lost heavily as they withdrew. Despite this, they fought on, with at least one action a day over the next nine days, including successful counter-attacks at Rosieres on the 26 and at Thiennes on 31 March.
It was during this battle that Private John Hart was killed in action. His death is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 2 April 1918, but records show that he died some time between the start of the Lancashires’ engagement on 23 March and that day itself. John was among the 14,000 casualties of the British forces who died on the Somme in 1918 who have no known grave. All are commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, unveiled on the anniversary of the outbreak of the war in 1930.
In August 1919 John’s mother Harriett received £17.1.s.3d owed to him by the Army and in February 1920 his War Gratuity of £21. This sum, much larger than most, reflects his career as a Regular soldier with 11 years service at home and abroad.
John’s brothers George and Albert returned home from the war, but his younger brother Harry was killed in action, like John, at a Battle of the Somme. In his case, on 16 September 1916, at the age of only 19. Both brothers are commemorated at St Mellitus and also in St Mark’s Church in Tollington Park, close to the family home.