John Charles Mitchell – Great War Soldier of the 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade

This is one of a series of short biographies dedicated to the men of 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade who served in the Great War.

My great grandfather (Edward Giltrap) also served in this Battalion and was fortunate enough to survive the war.

If anybody has any further information that they would like to add, please do contact Lorraine Johnson via this website or by email to lajohnson@denhamjohnsonbattlefields.co.uk

 

John was born in Stapleford in 1888, the oldest child of John Mitchell and Elizabeth (née Neal).  John and Elizabeth had three children, John’s siblings were: Agnes (born 1891, died 1893) and Harold (born 1893).  Sadly, John’s mother Elizabeth died in 1907and in 1909 his father re-married, his second wife being Ann Maria Birch.

In 1891 the family were living at Alexandra Street in Stapleford and by 1901 they had moved to 14 Park Street where the family were based until after the First World War.  In 1911 John was working as a Correspondence Clerk and his father was working as an engine driver.

On 8th December 1915, John attested in Middlesex for the army and posted to the Army Reserve, by that time he had moved to Wood Green in North London and was working as a chief clerk.  On 8th July 1916, John was mobilised and posted to 2 Company, 15th (Reserve) Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, Private R/29995, to train at Seaford Camp in Sussex, transferring to the newly formed 18th Battalion, Training Reserve in September 1916 when the Army’s Reserve Battalions were reorganised.  During August 1916, while at Seaford Camp, John was admitted to Ravenscroft Hospital for four days; his illness diagnosed at the time as colic.

In November 1916, John was transferred to the Rifle Brigade.  He disembarked at Le Havre on 10th November and joined 47th Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur before being posted to 16th Battalion, Rifle Brigade at Bollezeele on 28th November, Rifleman S/27252.  From the end of November 1916 until the beginning of January 1917, the Battalion was variously in the Line, in Reserve and in Support.

On 5th January 1917, John was disciplined for being ‘Improperly dressed on Parade’ and was deducted 3 days’ pay.  This may have been the start of a significant bout of illness, however, as exactly a week later he was taken by 134th Field Ambulance to 46th Casualty Clearing Station at Mendinghem suffering from Influenza. Five days after this he was moved from the CCS to the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Wimereux and on 2nd February was returned to England, departing from Boulogne.  He was admitted to hospital, presumably the Huddersfield War Hospital, on 6th February where he began to recover from Influenza.  This is unlikely to have been his only health problem however as medical notes in his service record read:

“Sent to Convalescent Home.  Readmitted [to hospital] 2nd July suffering from appendicular colic.  Operated upon & thickened appendix removed.  He had previously had several attacks.  On 6th August 1917 had a violent attack of …….. with pain over stomach, evidently had a perforation.  Operated upon 8th August but died on August 9th from septic peritonitis.”

The cause of his death was recorded as “Gastric Ulcer” and other records relating to his death continue to refer also to Influenza being a contributing cause.

John was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

He is buried in a family plot in Stapleford with his mother; I was privileged to be able to pay my respects to Rifleman John Mitchell on 20th August 2020, sadly his grave is in quite a state of disrepair now.

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