John Thomas Cleaver, Private 352525, 2/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment
Died of wounds 4th August 1917 in Le Tréport, France, aged 20
John Thomas Cleaver was born on May 12th 1897 and baptised on 29th August 1897 with his older sister Florence at St George’s Church, Sutton, Macclesfield. He was the son of Sarah Jane and James Edwin Cleaver, Silk Dyer, of 19 John Street, Sutton, Macclesfield.
By 1901 the family had moved to 67 Pitt Street, Macclesfield. James was still working as a Silk Dyer to support his wife and family of six children: Harry (15), James (10), Esther (8), Florence (6), John (3) and baby Albert, just four months old. James’ 18 year old nephew and future husband of Esther, Arthur Wright, was also living there.
Ten years later in 1911 the family had moved to 33 Cross Street, Macclesfield. James was still employed as a Silk Dyer and his wife and three of the children were all employed as Silk Embroiderers. John was aged 13 and described as a ‘gimp worker’. Gimp is a narrow ornamental trim used in sewing or embroidery, made of silk, wool, or cotton and often stiffened with metallic wire or coarse cord running through it. So the whole family depended on the silk industry for their employment, apart from ten year old Albert, who was still at school.
At some time during the period 1911 – 1917, 33 Cross Street became James Edwin Cleaver’s fruit shop; but by 1917 the family had moved to 2 Coronation Street, the address to which the war correspondence was sent.
Prior to enlisting in Macclesfield, John Cleaver worked at White’s Dyeworks. Silk dyeing was a traditional family occupation over many years – John’s Great Grandfather Henry Cleaver was a silk dyer from Coventry who moved with his family to Macclesfield in the 1830’s, presumably in search of work. James his grandfather had been a silk dyer, as had his father, James Edwin Cleaver, for many years of his working life. John’s younger brother Albert also became a silk dyer.
During his leisure time, John was a playing member of the Byron Street Football Club and attended Byron Street School and Chapel, this probably being the reason he is one of only four names listed on the Byron Street Bourne Primitive Methodist Chapel War Memorial. Many of his evenings were spent in the Parsonage Street Billiard Hall, where he was well known.
John’s battalion went to France in February 1917. In April – May they were at Cambrin and Brigade reserve doing 3 days at the front line and 3 days off. On 31st July they were in trenches at Neuport – Bains (on the Belgian coast) under heavy shell fire and it is believed that this is where John was wounded.
John was moved to a military hospital at Le Treport (near Dieppe) where details from the hospital say that he was wounded by gunshot in his left knee; he was operated on and it was found necessary to amputate his leg. He died after the operation, on 4th August 1917, aged 20.
The Macclesfield Courier and Herald reported on 11th August 1917 that a ward sister wrote about him to his parents – John’s niece, Florence, remembers her mother having this letter but sadly it has been lost over time.
John’s brother Harry Cleaver was killed in action in March 1917 whilst serving in Egypt with the Cheshire Regiment.
Private John Thomas Cleaver is buried in grave Ref. IV. L. 11B at Mon Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, France.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private John Thomas Cleaver, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Thanks to Janet, great niece of John Thomas Cleaver, for her assistance in compiling this information.