John (Jack) Samuel Fitchett, Sgt 91, 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 19th August 1915 at Gallipoli, aged 32
John Samuel Fitchett was born in spring 1883 at Macclesfield, the son of Joseph and Emma Fitchett.
By 1891 John’s father had died and the seven year old was living at 2 West Street, Macclesfield with his mother and siblings Charlotte (21), Anne (20) and Charles (20). Ten years later, John was employed as a shirt cutter and living at the same address with his mother and sister Anne, and adopted sister Doris (6).
John married May Bowyer at Park Green Methodist Church, Macclesfield towards the end of 1905, and their son Gordon was born two years later. In 1911 the family lived at 2 West Street with John’s mother, sister Anne and adopted sister Doris.
May and Gordon later lived at 13, Swettenham Street, Macclesfield.
John attested at Macclesfield in August 1914, joining the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, and following a period of training in various locations in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August.
On the evening of 8th August, the Battalion arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and the following day landed at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay. Having landed, they came under shell fire at about 8.30am and so moved north along the edge of the bay; they then received orders to attack in the direction of a dip in the hills behind Anafarta Saghir.
At 8am on 10th August the Battalion was ordered to attack Hill 70. This was unsuccessful and the Battalion suffered severe losses. A second unsuccesssful attack took place at 5pm.
The following day at 2.30pm the Brigade moved north, but the 7th Cheshires and 4th Welsh Regiments on the left were under attack so had to pull back. The 7th Cheshires remained in this position in trenches for several days.
It is not known when John was badly wounded, but he died of his wounds on 19th August 1915.
John’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier of 11th September, 1915:
News has been received of the death from wounds while fighting in the Dardanelles of Sergeant J. S. Fitchett, of 2 West Street, Chester Road, Macclesfield.
The last letter his wife received from him was written on August 14th, and in it he says:- “Just a line hoping you are safe and sound, as it leaves me at present, but for how long I cannot say. It is like hell at present. Another regiment is passing through our lines and the Turks have discovered it, and are simply peppering us with rifle and shell fire. However, I seem to have a corner that will be safe for the present. I have not been quite up to the mark the last few days: the heat seems to have touched me a little. But I am improving, so there is very little to trouble about. We arrived last Sunday in a bay about four miles across the water and we could see the guns going off on the warships all Sunday night. We left our anchorage at about 4 a.m. and sailed straight across without mishap and proceeded to boil some water for tea, which looked like having a picnic. But we soon had a rude awakening when two shells burst amongst us. But they did not do any damage. We received instructions to form part in an attack that was taking place, and it took a bit of nerve for our chaps, for as we crossed the beach we met men knocked all to pieces being brought in. However, we went on and met with a few casualties. We were at it again on Tuesday and Wednesday, but since Wednesday night we have been in a trench. There are several that you know killed and wounded. Jim Gilday was killed on Friday. We lost several by shrapnel fire, which was pretty hot yesterday.”
In a postscript written later the same day he says:- “Our Brigadier and another Brigadier whose Brigade were to relieve us have been hit just as they were passing me in our trench. Our Brigadier and Captain Crookenden were showing the other officer our position when they were hit. I expect it will keep us in the trenches a little longer, although there are several regiments passing through our lines to take up some positions on our right, so we may be able to get a rest at the beach tomorrow. It will be a treat to get in the sea after rolling in dust for a week without a wash. I did manage to get a shave yesterday. You should see the boys all happy and as dirty-looking as sweeps, with whiskers an inch long. But they are still going strong and looking forward to the finish of the scrap. The worst of this place is the snipers. They seem to be up every tree, and as soon as you show your head there is a ‘ping’ goes and a bullet is whistling through the air. But the boys are getting so used to it they hardly trouble about them. They go to the wells they have found, each man carrying six bottles for water, so as to save so many men going and standing around the well at one time. We lost about 20 men there yesterday. Young Charlie Beck is either killed or wounded, also Harold Coups. Last Monday afternoon he was looking up to see where I was speaking from and a bullet hit him in the head. ‘Drummer’ was very lucky, a bullet went through his boot and came out the other side without touching his foot.”
An announcement was made by his family in the Courier the following week:
FITCHETT – Died of wounds at the Mediterranean, 91 Sergt. J. T. [sic] Fitchett, 1/7th Cheshire Regiment – From his loving Wife, Child and Sister.
Sgt John Fitchett has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. 75 to 77 on the Helles Memorial in Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Sgt John Fitchett, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.