John Edward Porter


This biography was written by Victoria Doran.

John Edward Porter was a young man with a very promising future ahead of him. He gave up studying engineering at Cambridge University to join up, giving his life on the Somme.

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Porter family grave in St Bridget Churchyard

John Edward Porter was born on 10 January 1895 at 54 Carisbrooke Road, Walton, Liverpool. The family moved to West Kirby during late 1900.

He was the oldest of the 2 surviving sons of Edmund Porter (1860-1950) and Alice Diggle (1864-1932). He also had an older sister and his parents lost 2 other sons in childhood one, Edmund Henry Porter (1902-1910), dying whilst John was at Calday Grange Grammar School.

After leaving Calday, John studied engineering at Liverpool University  for a while. He played for Old Caldeians Football Club where he was a popular and prominent member. In October 1914 he took up a place at Caius College, Cambridge University intending to take a BSc.

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Entrance to Caius College, Cambridge

After a few weeks in the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, he volunteered and gained a commission as a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers).

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Cap badge of the Prince of Wales Volunteers

Both sides of his family had long associations with Lancashire, almost all of them living in and around Bury for several generations. All the places they lived at by Bury are to be found within 2 or 3 miles of each other on the east side of Bury, near the river Roch. Such places as Fairfield, Freetown, Pimhole and Heap Bridge.

His grandfather John Porter (1827-???) was a paper maker, at Heap and Fairfield, later moving to Clitheroe. Some of his sons moved to Liverpool where they set up a business in the boot and shoe trade. John’s father, Edmund, was in Kirkdale in 1881 at the age of 21, working for his older brother Thomas.

Edmund Porter returned to Bury towards the end of 1889 to marry Alice Diggle.

Alice’s father, John Diggle (1834-1909) was a schoolmaster. Her mother, Betsy Hartley (1839-1871) died when Alice (their only child) was aged 6 years old.  Her father was remarried a year later to an illiterate widow, Alice Greenhalgh née Rigby (1827-1899), who was working in a public house before they married. By 1881 John Diggle, who lived at River Bank, Pimhole by Bury , had retired – he was only aged 47 and had no obvious means of support. His own father was a fuller and very small farmer at Wallfield, Pimhole who left no money at all. When John was widowed for the second time, his wife left nearly £700. The source of this money is unclear. Unusually John was not the executor for his wife. In fact both executors were probably relatives of Alice’s mother. John himself left no money. Perhaps he became mentally incapacitated in some way.

In Liverpool the Porter family boot and shoe business prospered. The family moved up the middle classes.

At the 1901 census the family were living in Caldy Road, West Kirby with John’s uncle Henry Porter.

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This seems to have been temporary as they subsequently moved to Wallfield, Mostyn Avenue, West Kirby. They named the house after the farm that Alice Diggle’s grandparents farmed near Bury, and where she spent part of her childhood.

From the South Lancashire’s Roll for the 14/15 Star medal we know that John arrived in France in July 1915. His battalion arrived in Boulogne on 18 July, so presumably he was with them. His medal card has not been found.

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Medal Roll for 14/15 Star

Any more that we know about his time in the army comes from newspaper reports.

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from Liverpool Daily Post of 1 August 1915

The final paragraph of this report is slightly incorrect. Captain Gerard Garvin of the 7th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment actually died on the same day as John according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, so the hand over of men must have been for a very short time indeed. Captain Garvin was actually even younger than John, being only aged 20 when he died.

We know that from 14 to 17 July his Division was involved in the successful Battle for Bazentin Ridge, part of the Battle of the Somme. John was almost certainly killed in fighting to try to take with High Wood from the Germans. An opportunity to capture High Wood had been lost a week earlier due to waiting for cavalry to arrive. Many men died during the fighting in the 2 months that the taking of High Wood actually took. John is recorded as dying at the village of Bazentin-le-Petit.

John’s body was not recovered so he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

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Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

The prosperity of the family is confirmed by the fact that John left nearly £2,000 despite never having had gainful employment.

John’s younger brother, Thomas Latham Porter (1900-1985) was too young to serve in the war. He did well in life, describing himself as a company director when obtaining probate for his father in 1950.

John’s older sister Betsy (1891-1975) studied medecine after the war, qualifying as an LRCP and MRCS in 1924. She remained at her father’s home of Hawthorns, Caldy Road, West Kirby until she retired when she moved to Anglesey. Presumably she practised as a doctor in West Kirby. She never married.

Birth: 10 Jan 1895 at 54 Carisbrooke Road, Walton, Liverpool
Death: 22 Aug 1916 killed in action at Bazentin-le-Petit, Somme, France; aged 21
Addresses: Caldy Road, West Kirby (01), Wallfield, Mostyn Avenue, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: student; Caius College, Cambridge University
Unit: 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers)
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; GH, WK, CG
Sources: CWGC, MC, BR, PR, CGB, DA, LDP, Census: 01, 11, Probate, UK Medical Directory


3 thoughts on “John Edward Porter

  1. Thank you for this write up about my Great-Uncle John Edward Porter. All three officers of his Company were casualties on 22 July 1916, Captain Garvin, 2nd Lt. Porter falling and 2nd Lt. Sharp being wounded.

  2. We have a copy of the letter sent by 2nd Lt Sharp to John’s parents after his death and the Red Cross letter.

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