John Lewis Leach


About John Lewis

  • Name
    John Lewis
  • Initials
    J L
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
    15 November 1886
  • Birth town
  • Resided town
  • Commemorated
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
  • Date of death
    12 April 1954
  • Married
  • Occupation
    Cotton Mill Grinder

Service Information

  • Army

  • Service Number
  • Rank
  • Regiment
    Royal Defence Corps


John Lewis was born on 15 November 1886, at 42 Bedford Street, Manchester, the son of John Bunce Lewis, a medical assistant, and Elizabeth Leech. His father died in 1886, so John never knew his father and his parents did not marry. He is recorded on his birth certificate as John Leech, but appears to have taken the surname Lewis.

In 1891 John, aged four, was living with his maternal grandparents and his mother at 38 Shepperd Street, Crewe and is listed as John Lewis Leech. His mother married Thomas Allison in 1893 and in 1901 John was listed as John L Allison, aged 14, crumpet seller, living at 18 Fleet Street, Manchester with three step-siblings.

On 30 November 1912, John married Elizabeth Ann Holt; they lived at 38 Butler Street, Abbey Hey, Gorton, Manchester and had seven children, John (1913), Gladys (1915), Harold (1917), James (1921), Edwin (1923), William 1925 and Fred (1930).

John attested on 22 May 1915 and joined the 13th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, but was discharged on 19 June 1915, due to severe varicose veins. He attested again on 19 July 1915 joining the 18th Service Regiment Manchester Battalion (a PALS Battalion), and landed in France on 6 November 1915. On attestation, he stated his occupation as a grinder at the cotton mill.

He later transferred to the No 5 Observatory Company of the Royal Defence Corps. These units manned observation posts aimed at giving early warning of German air attacks and were composed of soldiers either too old or medically unfit for active front-line service.

John transferred to the Royal Flying Corps on 17 November 1917 and the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 1 April 1918 and was finally transferred to Class G of the Royal Air Force Reserve on 26 April 1919, “which released him from service, but he was liable for recall whilst on the reserve until the class was disbanded and all airman in the class discharged on 30 April 1920.”   He was invalided out of RAF due to moderate varicose veins in his legs and abdomen.

John was serving with the No 5 Observation Company when he passed through Peterborough East Station on 24 September 1917 (having previously passed through in August). He wrote in the visitors’ book that he “Wishes to say that I hold one of the most Patriotic Names (I.E.) (backwards) S for Scotland I for Ireland W for Wales E for England & L – for the Kaiser” and also “Lewis Leech late of Penleys Charleys Aunt.” From research, we have discovered that “On February 29, 1892, W S Penley produced the famous comedy Charley’s Aunt at Bury St. Edmunds, appearing as Lord Fancourt Babberley.” However, we have not yet managed to find a connection to John.

In 1939, John and Elizabeth were still living at 38 Butler Street with four of their children, Gladys, a dress machinist, William and Fred, plus another child whose record is still closed. John is listed as size mixer, crane driver, electric. John died from carcinoma of the liver and stomach in Manchester on 12 April 1954, aged 68. On his death certificate he is named as John Bunce Lewis and was described as a retired night watchman at a textile warehouse. Elizabeth died in November 1951, aged 60 years.

Can you tell us any more about John? What was his connection to Penley and Charley’s Aunt; was he in the acting profession? Please get in touch if you can tell us more.

Campaign Medals

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