Army Reserve; Suffolk Regiment
1st (Res.) Garrison Battalion; 3rd Battallion; 5th (Prov.) Company 2nd Battalion;
Place of birth:
Electric Railway Worker
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
John James Gerhard
Name of siblings:
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Florence Gerhard, nee Key
Name of spouse:
1911- 18 Marriott Road, Tollington Park
1918 - 118 Thorpedale Road, Tollington Park
John William Gerhard was a young Stroud Green man, whose father also served, and sadly died, in the war.
John was born on 25 August 1899, the son of John James Gerhard and his wife Florence, nee Key. In 1901, John was living with his mother, his widowed grandmother, Phoebe Key, and his uncle John Key at 71 Thorpedale Rd, close to New Court Congregational Church. In 1911, the census reveals that his parents had separated after 12 years of marriage and John and his mother lived with Phoebe at 18 Marriott Road, Tollington Park. His father lived in Wedmore Street, Upper Holloway. John had left school and was an errand boy; his mother was a laundry forewoman.
John enlisted on 13 September 1916, less than one month after his 17th birthday. Technically men had to be 19 to fight, but the law did not prevent boys of 14 and upwards from joining up. The minimum height requirement was 5ft 3in (1.6m), which John exceeded by just half an inch, and the minimum chest size 34in (0.86m), which he failed to meet. He was a slight young man, weighing just 84 lbs, with ‘Poor physical development’ according to his medical record and a history of pneumonia. The reasons why are not recorded, but instead of seeing active service John was put in the Army Reserve. There is no record of what happended to him for the next two years.
In September 1918 John received a notice requiring him to ‘rejoin for service with the Colours.’ He presented himself at the Central London Recruiting Office in Whitehall, with his ration tickets as required. It seems John had taken up a trade in the intervening years as his occupation was now ‘Electric Railway Worker.’ A medical examination identified the same issues as in 1916, plus John was now also suffering from periodontitis, a severe disease of the gums. However, he was classed as medical category Bi (physically fit and likely to improve if trained; able to march six miles with ease once trained; and with average muscular development) and sent on 5 October 1918 to join the 1st (Reserve) Garrison Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.
John’s battalion was engaged in guard, escort and similar duties, and although one company was in France, John seems to have served with the main body of the battalion on the Isle of Grain, in Medway, Kent. On 4 April 1919 he was transferred to 3rd Battalion of the Suffolks, and on 11 November that year he was discharged from 5th Provisional Company, 2nd Battalion to the Class Z Army Reserve on demobilisation. His medical category was now Bii, and he made no claim for disability arising from his service. John was eventually discharged on 31 March 1920, having served for 2 years 200 days.
However, John’s military service did not end in March 1920. On 13 December 1921 he re-enlisted into the Territorial Army as a Rifleman in 11th Battalion, London Regiment with the Service No 6630326. His trade was given as electrician and his address as 118 Thorpedale Road, Tollington Park, also his mother’s address. John took part in the Battalion’s annual training in 1922, but not that of 1923. In September 1923 his commanding officer made an application for his discharge saying he was ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’, citing his absence from training and the fact he had attended only four drills that year. John was discharged, having served in the TA for almost two years.
When he first enlisted in 1916, John William Gerhard was among the youngest men to serve in the First World War, and two years previously, in 1914, his father, John James Gerhard, had been among the oldest. At the age of 40, he had enlisted less than a month after war was declared, becoming a Private in 12th Battalion, the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) with Service No G/3103. He was promoted through Lance Corporal to Corporal, and served overseas. After initial training, his battalion landed at Le Havre in July 1915; they fought in many actions, including the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Records show that John James was wounded and was awarded the Silver War Badge (No 385660) as a result. It may be that his injuries were severe; in any event he died on 4 June 1918 in Salford, presumably in a military hospital, at the age of 44. He is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission monument in Highgate Cemetery in north London, not far from where he had lived before the war.