John Alfred HOUSE was born in late 1879 in Marton, Warwickshire, not far from Rugby. His birth was registered in Q4, 1879 in Rugby. His father, William, was from Brownsover and was variously a house painter and glazier; his mother, Emma was from Marton.
On census night 1901, John was a 21 year old, ‘general labourer’, boarding at 25 Stanley Street, Garston, Lancashire, with the Fiddler family. Later that year he would marry the daughter of the house, Mary Ann Fiddler, in Rugby.
In 1911, he was 31 years old and living with his wife, Mary Ann and their family at 13 Plowman Street, Rugby. By then they had three children: Harry House, aged 8, who died aged 10, two years later in 1913; Frank House, aged 4 and John House, aged 2.
They would have three more children: a daughter, Gladys M, was registered in Q3, 1911; a boy in Q2, 1913 but he died, unnamed, at or soon after birth; and a daughter, Winifred M, who was registered in Q4, 1914.
In 1911 John had been working as a fishmonger, however, assuming this is the correct John House, by the start of the war he had moved to very different employment in the Machine Shop at BTH.
He probably joined up early in the war, despite being in his mid-30s. He became a Rifleman, No.R/209, in ‘A’ Company, 11th (Service) Battalion, of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. This was probably in early September 1914, as the service records of another Rifleman, James Stanley, with a similarly low service number, R/354, who also joined the 11th, was attested on 8 September 1914.
The 11th (Service) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) was raised at Winchester in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army, and joined 59th Brigade, 20th (Light) Division. After training close to home they moved to Blackdown, then in February 1915 to Witley and to Larkhill, near Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in April for final training. At some date John was promoted to Lance-Corporal.
The Division was inspected by King George V at Knighton Down on 24 June 1915, by which time all their equipment had arrived and the Division was judged ready for war. They proceeded to France on 21 July 1915, landing at Boulogne, and by 26 July 1915 the Division completed concentration in the Saint-Omer area. Early trench familiarisation and training took place in the Fleurbaix area.
John House’s Medal Card confirms that he was with his Battalion when they went to France on 21 July 1915. The Division did not seem to have been in any major actions in late 1915, indeed activity had probably slowed for the winter. However, routine trench duties as well as hazardous resupply work and training behind the front lines would have carried on.
It was probably during such fairly ‘routine duties’ that John House was ‘killed in action’ on 10 November 1915. He was buried in Grave Reference: A.10. in the Rue-du-Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard, Laventie, France.
Although some way behind the front line, it seems this graveyard was used by the 20th Division for casualties during October and November 1915. Of the 17 casualties buried at Laventie in the two months between 1 October and 30 November 1915, fifteen were from the 20th Division: four from the 11th KRRC in 59th Brigade, and five from the 7th Somersets and six from the 12th King’s Liverpools, both in 61st Brigade.
Laventie is some 6 kilometers south-west of Armentieres and 11 kilometers north of La Bassee. The ‘13th London’ Graveyard was begun by the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in November 1914, and during and after the following December graves of the 13th London Regiment (The Kensingtons) were added. The cemetery was closed in July 1916. It was known also as the Red House Cemetery from a ruined house, now rebuilt, on the South side of the road.
There are 192 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-18 war commemorated in this site, unusually only one is unidentified, which suggests that the graveyard was used in comparatively quieter periods, when casualties could be more readily identified.
John was awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star. He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and on the BTH list of Employees who served in the War, but was omitted from the BTH list of those who ‘Fell in the War’, although he is on the BTH War Memorial, and was included on the listing that was published in the Rugby Advertiser on 4 November 1921, when the memorial was unveiled.
It appears that his widow Mary Ann House died in Rugby, aged 50 in late 1929.
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This summary was prepared for the Rugby Family History Group by John P H Frearson in November 2015. Thanks are due to other members of the Group for copying data in the local newspaper.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM