John Edward Stoneley/Stonier, Private 1711, 1/5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 23rd October 1915 in France, aged 20
Served as John STONIER; named on official records as Stoneley, Stonley and Stonier.
John Edward Stoneley was born on 24 December 1894 and baptised at St Alban’s Church on 3 February 1895, the son of Rebecca and John Edward Stoneley, a quarryman of Macclesfield. In 1901, six year old John was living at 1 court 2 house Chatham Street with his mother and siblings Sarah Ann (8) and Fred (3); his father was not at home on census night.
Ten years later in 1911, the family had moved to 40 Stanley Street and included two more children, Kathleen (6) and Harold (4). John and his brother Fred had left school and were employed as ‘paper stainers’ – most likely printing wallpaper.
John enlisted with the 7th Cheshire Regiment in 1913 and was mobilised at the start of the war. After undergoing training, he volunteered to be transferred to the 5th Cheshire Regiment in January 1915 and was drafted to France with 100 others from the 1/7th regiment. The Regiment landed at Le Havre on 14 February 1915 and proceeded to the Somme area of northern France.
John was in the bombing section and his group had just come off night duty, bringing the unused bombs back with them, but the bombs were not returned to the correct place and must have been kicked, causing them to accidentally explode. John died of his wounds at the nearby dressing station on 23rd October 1915, aged 20. His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 5 November 1915:
FAMILY OF FIGHTERS: OFFICER’S TOUCHING LETTER TO BEREAVED MOTHER – Although no official intimation has been received, there is every reason to believe that Private John Stoneley, 5th Cheshire Regiment, son of Private and Mrs Stoneley, 40 Stanley St, Macclesfield, has been killed in action. Letters to this effect have been received from his officer and a friend. Private Stoneley was 20 years of age and was mobilised with the 1/7th Batt Ches Regt (T.F.) at the outbreak of war. Later he transferred to make up the strength of the 5th Cheshires, and subsequently went to France.
The letter from Lieut Heald, dated 24 October, states: “I regret to inform you that your son has been killed. He was in the bombing section and thereby incurred greater risks… I understand the men had just come off night duty on an advanced post and had brought back the bombs with them, but had neglected to put them in the place provided. At any rate, they must have been kicked, and they exploded. Your son died from his wounds in hospital… I regarded him as one of my best men… He bore his wounds bravely…”
Private Stoneley’s father and brother are also serving in the Army, and both have been wounded. His father saw service in France with the 2nd Cheshires and was wounded on May 24th in the legs and breast. He had a very narrow escape from being killed and in a letter to his wife from hospital stated: “I am sorry to tell you I have been wounded in both legs and slightly int he breast. Had it not been for my pocket-book and prayer-book I should have been struck through the heart. The shell which struck my killed my chum on my left, and broke the back of my comrade on my right.” The father enlisted at the beginning of the war. He was an ex-soldier and served in the South African war, possessing the Cape Colony and Orange Free State medals.
Private Stoneley’s brother Fred was called up on mobilisation by the Territorials. He was one of the hundred who transferred to the 5th battalion and was recalled to the 1/7th before the Battalion went to the Dardanelles. he has been wounded in the thigh, and is now in hospital in Manchester. He is 18 years of age.
Private John Stoneley is buried in grave ref. C. 4. in the Suzanne Communal Cemetery Extension at Suzanne, The Somme, France. His father asked for the inscription “EVER REMEMBERED BY FATHER, MOTHER, SISTERS AND BROTHERS” to be added to his headstone.
Brother of Frederick Stoneley, who served as Private 1760 with the 1/7th Cheshire Regiment in Gallipoli and survived the war, and son of John Stoneley, who served with the 2nd Cheshire Regiment in France and had previously served in the South African war.