John Belfield, Private 290390, 1/7th Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 5th October 1918 at Poperinge, Belgium, aged 24
John Belfield was born at Hurdsfield in 1895, and baptised on 17 March 1896 at Hurdsfield Holy Trinity Church, the son of Martha (nee Wright) and Joseph Belfield, a cotton spinner. John spent the majority of his formative years living with his parents and ten brothers and sisters in a two bedroom terraced cottage on Daybrook Street, Hurdsfield. By the time of the 1911 Census, John was working as a silk dresser (preparing the silk for weaving).
When war was declared in August 1914, John quickly volunteered for service with the local 7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment as 2105 Pte. John Belfield. Three of his elder brothers had already served with the army before the war: William Belfield and Joseph Belfield with the 7th Cheshire’s (Territorial Force), and James Belfield with the Royal Horse Artillery.
Having survived the 1/7th Cheshire’s disastrous debut at Suvla Bay, John experienced conditions on the Gallipoli peninsula that defied description (in the summer heat, flies and other vermin flourished in bloated, unburied corpses, causing epidemic sickness, whilst the winter brought storms and freak blizzards that resulted in dreadful hardship and suffering).
Following evacuation, John and the remnants of his battalion recovered and re-equipped in Egypt before participating in numerous actions in Palestine (at Gaza, El Mughar, Jerusalem and Tel ‘Asur). The 1/7th Cheshire’s were subsequently redeployed to the Western Front and arrived in France in June 1918, where they took part in the Battles of the Marne, Soissonais, Ourcq, the capture of Baigneux Ridge, and the final Battle of Ypres where the Battalion was involved in the fighting in the Ypres Salient, Flanders.
It was during the latter that John Belfield was fatally wounded. Precise details are not known but he would have received emergency treatment from the Cheshire’s medical officer at an Aid Post just behind the front line, before evacuation to a Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinge. There, surgeons would have done all that was possible to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries and died on 5th October 1918, a veteran of the campaigns in Gallipoli, Palestine and France.
John Belfield’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 25 October 1918:
PTE JACK BELFIELD, Ches Regt, whose sister resides at 26 Daybrook St, Macclesfield, has been killed in France… Pte Belfield, who was 26 years of age, enlisted in the local Territorials shortly after the outbreak of war, and served in the Dardanelles, Egypt, Palestine, and France. While in Gallipoli he had an attack of dysentery. He was educated at Daybrook Street School and before enlistment was employed by Messrs J and T Brocklehurst (1911) Ltd. Deceased attended St Peter’s School and was a member of the football team. Pte Belfield was over on leave three weeks ago.
Private John Belfield is buried in grave ref. XXIV. H. 26A at the nearby Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) holds casualty details for Private John Belfield, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, both John and his brother, William Belfield (who died in July 1917 and is buried in Macclesfield cemetery), are commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church and St Peter’s Church war memorials.
As a tragic postscript, on 14th October 1918 (just nine days after John’s death), his brother-in-law, James Ernest Corke, was killed in action in Belgium.
Brother of William Belfield, who died in July 1917, and Joseph Belfield, who served with the RAMC and was unofficially reported killed by a friend in June 1916 after a shell fell on them, but who had in fact been taken to hospital and survived the war.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages, Deaths
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: Holy Trinity Church, Hurdsfield
Cheshire Parish Marriage Registers: St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery website
Macclesfield Times: 25 October 1918