John Charles Daniels, Sgt 368, 20th Battalion, Australian Infantry
Killed in action 27th July 1916 in the Somme, France, aged 31
John Charles Daniels was born in Macclesfield in 1885, the son of Martha and Henry Daniels, a carter. In 1891, five-year-old John was living at 56 Arbourhay St, Hurdsfield, with his parents and siblings Priscilla (19), Martha Ann (15) and William Henry (8).
By 1901 the family had moved to nearby 5 Norton Street, Hurdsfield, where John’s father had opened a grocer’s shop; John had left school and was employed as a cotton weaver.
John was educated at Daybrook Street School, and attended the Men’s Bible Class of the St George’s Street Baptist Sunday School. He served for a time with the 5th Cheshire (Volunteer) Regiment.
John married Ada Cresswell in 1906, and their daughter, Priscilla, was born in the summer of 1909. By 1911 John and his family were living at 6 Waller Street, Macclesfield, and John was employed as a railway porter for the London and North Western Railway. The 1911 census also revealed that, out of three children born to the couple, two had died.
John emigrated to Australia on 10th February 1912, sailing on the Norseman from London to Sydney, New South Wales. Ada and Priscilla followed on 9th July 1912, sailing 3rd class on the Ballarat, again from London to Sydney. John worked as a brickmaker in Australia, and the family set up home at Wentworth Road, Burwood, Sydney.
Two years after John’s death, Ada remarried, becoming Mrs Hitchins, and moved to 21 Eton St, Camperdown, New South Wales.
John enlisted on 22nd February 1915 at Liverpool Camp, New South Wales and was assigned to A Company, 20th Battalion, 5th Brigade. His service papers describe him as 5 feet 5¼ inches tall, weighing 138 pounds, with a 31 inch chest, fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. He stated that he was of the Baptist faith, and his next of kin was his wife, of Wentworth Road, Burwood, Sydney.
John was promoted to Corporal on 14 July 1915 and was drafted to Gallipoli on 16th August 1915. However, on 4th October he was found to be suffering from influenza, and travelled by hospital ship to a hospital on the island of Mudros, rejoining his unit a month later on 6th November 1915. On 27th November he was reprimanded for disobeying camp orders at Garrison Camp Zeitoun, in Egypt.
On 14th March 1916 John was promoted again, to Sergeant Bugler or Drummer (both are mentioned in different documents), and four days later he embarked from Alexandria in Egypt on HMT Ingoma for the journey across the Mediterranean to Marseilles, France.
John was killed in action in France on 27th July 1916.
His personal effects, sent to his wife, included his identity disc, a book of bugle calls, a scarf, four writing pads, two notebooks, letters, photos, a wallet, a military music book, a knife, a mouth organ and a razor.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 29 September 1916:
SERGEANT BUGLERS DEATH – FIGHTING WITH THE AUSTRALIANS
Mr Henry Daniels, 2 Court 2 House, Lord Street, has been informed that his son, Bugler-Sergt John Charles Daniels, of the Australian Contingent, has been killed in action in France. News … reached him from the deceased soldier’s officer, who wrote enclosing a letter found on the body of Sergt Daniels.
Sergt. Daniels was born in Macclesfield 31 years ago, and was educated at the Daybrook Street School. He was for a time employed in the goods department of the L&NW Railway. The deceased emigrated to Australia about eight years ago, and enlisted on the outbreak of war. He leaves a widow, who resides in Sydney, New South Wales. A brother of Sergeant Daniels has been discharged from the Army on account of an injury to the leg.
When in Macclesfield, the deceased was a regular attendant at the Men’s Bible Class of the St George’s Street Baptist Sunday School….
Sgt John Daniels has no known grave and is named on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in Somme, France. The memorial is the Australian National Memorial erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, especially those whose graves are not known.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
FindMyPast Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960
Australia and New Zealand Archives WW1 Service Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 29 September 1916
Brother of William Henry Daniels, who served as Private 3507 with the 7th Cheshire Regiment but was discharged as unfit for service on 28 May 1915 due to a knee injury incurred before enlistment.
The medals of John Charles Daniels were sold on 28 February 2019 by Dix Noonan Webb, London (Lot 1193). Image by kind permission of Dix Noonan Webb.