Steele, John

John Steele, L/Cpl 40629, 21st Battalion, Manchester Regiment
Killed in action 24th October 1917 in Belgium, aged 21

 

EARLY LIFE

Son of Thomas and Alice Ann Steele, of 25 South Park Rd, Macclesfield.

 

WW1 SERVICE

John joined the local 7th Cheshire Regiment in January 1915 with service number 3154, and after training was drafted overseas to the Western Front in August 1916, at the same time being transferred to the Manchester Regt with service number 40629.

John was wounded on 13 May 1917 and a letter from him explaining what had happened was printed in the Macclesfield Times on 25 May 1917:

SHRAPNEL IN THE THIGH

Lance-Corporal John Steel, Manchester Regt, has been wounded in the thigh while fighting in France, and is now a patient in the 22nd General Hospital. He is the son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Steele, 11 Higginbotham St, Macclesfield, who have received a card from the sister of the ward… [and a] letter from the Lance-Corporal: “I am lying in hospital with a shrapnel wound in my thigh. I got it on the 13th inst., just as we were being relieved after making an attack on the famous Hindenberg line. There is still a shell splinter in my leg, and I am expecting to undergo an operation for it… There is just a chance of my getting to Blighty – I hope so, anyway. It will be a few weeks till I am right again… no need to worry… I cannot write much lying in bed.”

A native of Macclesfield, the Lance-Corporal is 21 years of age, and before joining the Army was employed at Mrs Leech’s dyeworks, Pearl St, Macclesfield. He received his education at St John’s and Christ Church Schools and attended the Newtown Primitive Methodist Chapel and Sunday School. Enlisting in January 1915, he trained at various places in England with the 2/7th Cheshires, and was drafted to France last August when he was transferred to the Manchesters. Lance-Corporal Steele has undergone a period of hospital treatment for shell-shock and had been back with his battalion a month when he was struck in the thigh. He received his first stripe before going to the front.

Formerly he was a member of the dyeworks football team. His half-brother, Private Frederick Perry, fought through the Dardanelles campaign with the local Territorials, whom he accompanied to Suvla Bay. While there he contracted dysentery, for which he was sent to hospital at Malta, and upon recovering was transferred to Egypt. He marched with his battalion before Gaza, in which battle, however, he did not participate on account of being seized with an illness which necessitated his removal to hospital. Three cousins of Lance-Corporal Steele are also with the Cheshires. Private Perry is 28 years of age, and both he and the Lance-Corporal lived at 11 Higginbotham St before the war.

John was reported missing in action in October 1917 and a letter from one of his comrades was printed in the Macclesfield Times on 23 November 1917:

FATE OF CORPORAL J STEELE

For over a month Mr and Mrs Steele, of 11 Higginbotham Street, have anxiously awaited news concerning the fate of their son, Lane-Corporal John Steele, Manchester Regt., and this week a letter has been received from his comrade, Lance-Corporal H Dale, stating that Lance-Corporal Steele has been missing since 26th October. The letter states: “… your son Jack was missing after the attack on 26th October, and up to the time of writing I am sorry to say we have heard nothing as to his whereabouts. I was one of Jack’s closest chums… We were together the night the company went in the line and also all the next day, as his trench was only a few yards from mine. On the morning of the attack we advanced almost side by side until it became so hot with rifle and machine gun fire that everyone was obliged to get to the nearest shell hole for cover, and in doing so I lost sight of Jack. when we were relieved and the roll called, I heard that he, along with all his gun-team, was missing. I have made enquiries but failed to learn anything further… There is a possibility of him being a prisoner.”

Nothing official has yet been received by Mr and Mrs Steele. Lance-Corporal Steele was 21 years of age, and enlisting in January 1915, went out to France on August 28th, 1916. He was wounded on May 16th, but not seriously, and was not allowed to return to England. Recovering, he again went into action and was later in hospital with shell-shock. In August he was home on leave and returned to France on September 9th. Nothing has been heard from him since October 19th. Lance-Corporal Steele was educated at Christ Church School and was employed at Mrs Leech’s dyeworks. An elder brother is serving with the Cheshire Regt in Palestine, and went through the Dardanelles campaign.

 

 

COMMEMORATION

L/Cpl John Steele has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 120 to 124 and 162 to 162A and 163A on the Tyne Cot Memorial, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for L/Cpl John Steele, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.

In Macclesfield, L/Cpl John Steele is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael’s Church war memorials and on St John’s Church and Christ Church School rolls of honour.

 

NOTES

Half-brother of Private Frederick Perry, who served with the 7th Cheshire Regiment.

 

SOURCES

Soldiers Died in the Great War (Find My Past)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website

Macclesfield Times: 25 May 1917, 23 November 1917, 23 September 1921 (photo supplement)


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