John William Bulger/Boulger, Private 1988, 7th attached 5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 1st July 1916 in Somme, France
John William Bulger, also known as Jack, was born in Hurdsfield in 1889, the son of Agnes and Jabez Bulger, a cotton cloth looker. In 1891, one year old John was living at 1 Court 4 Arbourhay Street, Hurdsfield, with his parents and siblings Fred (6), Harriet (3) and Hannah (3 months). Ten years later the family had moved to 8 Smyth Street in Hurdsfield and also included Ada (7), Ernest (6), Horace (3) and Arthur (5 months).
John was educated at Daybrook Street School, and was a regular attendant at St John’s Church, at that time located in Statham Street, Macclesfield. He was a keen angler and was a member of the Beaconsfield Angling Club.
John’s mother Agnes died in 1905, and by 1911 the family had moved again, this time to Fountain Street in Macclesfield. Fred, Harriet, John, Hannah and Ernest were all employed as cotton weavers (at Lower Heys Mill) and another son had been born – Jabez, then aged ten years.
The family later moved to 7 Daybrook Street.
John had previously served with the local Territorials (7th Cheshire Regiment) when war broke out, and would have been immediately recalled. He was one of one hundred local men who volunteered to transfer to the 5th Cheshire Regiment, which was based in Cambridge from December 1914 until they were drafted out to France, landing at Le Havre on 15th February 1915.
Initially, the 5th Cheshire Regiment was attached to the 14th Brigade in the 5th Division, but on 29th November 1915 they became the Pioneer Battalion to the Division, and on 13th February 1916 they were attached to the 56th (London) Division. A pioneer battalion is a battalion of soldiers used to carry out engineering and construction tasks.
The 5th Cheshire Regiment was at Souastre in France at the end of June 1916. at 7.30am on 1st July 1916 the 56th Division attacked at Gommecourt, with a loss of 6 officers (1 killed, 3 wounded, 2 missing) and 172 men (12 killed, 84 wounded, 75 missing and 1 later died of wounds). Private John Bulger was one of three Macclesfield men known to have been killed on that day, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 14th July 1916:
DIED A SOLDIER’S DEATH – FORMER TERRITORIAL’S SACRIFICE
Information has been received by Mr Jabez Bulger, 7 Daybrook Street, that his son, Private John William Bulger, of the Cheshire Regiment, was killed in action while fighting in France on July 1st. The news was contained in several letters written by comrades.
Private J. Barnett, of the same regiment, wrote as follows: “It is my painful duty to write and let you know that your son Jack has had to give his life in this cruel war. I am pleased, however, to state that he died a soldier’s death, and I am sure no one could have done his duty better. … I was with him when he died, and … he suffered no pain at all.”
Private Bulger was 27 years of age, and had previously served in the Territorials. He was one of the hundred local men who voluntarily transferred from the 1/7th Ches. Regt. to the 5th for active service in France. He had been in the trenches eighteen months. The deceased soldier received his education at the Daybrook Street School, and was a regular attendant at St John’s Church. He was a keen angler, being a member of the Beaconsfield Club, and had fished in all the waters in the Macclesfield district. Prior to enlistment, Private Bulger was employed as a weaver at Lower Heys Mill. He has two brothers serving with the colours, Private Horace (who is in Egypt with the 1/7th Cheshires); and Private Ernest, 1st Cheshires (who has been a prisoner of war in Germany since the engagement at La Bassee in France). Much sympathy is felt with the bereaved family.
Private John Bulger has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. Pier and Face 3 C and 4 A. of the Thiepval Memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private John Bulger (his name is incorrectly spelt Boulger by the CWGC), and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Brother of Private Horace Bulger, who served in Egypt with the 1/7th Cheshire Regiment; and Private Ernest Bulger, who served in France with the 1st Cheshire Regiment and became a prisoner of war.