1884 – 1915
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me19
It was in the small hamlet of Crosemere1 that John Arthur Evans’s life began. Born in the late Spring of 188411 he was the sixth of eight children born to agricultural labourer Arthur Evans and his wife Sarah Ann. Although Arthur was illiterate20 he understood only too well that hard work and accepting responsibility was the essence of survival; values he instilled in his children and which young John Arthur would carry with him throughout his life.
Benefiting from a stable home life much of John’s childhood was spent attending school2 possibly taking on odd jobs37 as and when the family funds needed boosting38. On reaching his early teens and with school behind him3 John’s life changed gear as he took on the mantle as wage earner, helping with household costs38. Understanding that to fulfil this responsibility he needed reliable and lucrative employment, John left home in pursuit of work on local farms3 where he became skilled at working with cattle4, becoming well known as a “good-hearted fellow and capital worker”41. It was a path upon which John continued for several years and undoubtedly would have maintained had it not been for the cataclysmic events which erupted across Europe during the Summer of 1914.
The deteriorating relationships across Europe did not escape the quiet backwaters of Crosemere and Cockshutt; in the aftermath of war being declared, local youngmen from across the social divide23 answered the call to enlist. Aged thirty, John was facing difficult choices; bide his time whilst upholding the burden of domestic responsibility or follow his conscience and join “the colours”41. To begin with, the former seems to have won through, but as the year ground to an end, the news was grim: the retreat from Mons33, the fall of Antwerp5 and the decimation of the BEF7 at Marne despite victory33; finally, the inevitable impasse of trench warfare along the Western Front33.
Only John would know what spurred him into enlisting. In all probability it was a painful decision, based upon many ponderings such as a sense of moral obligation, peer pressure and news from the battlefields. Nevertheless, in early 1915, he volunteered for enlistment34 with the 5th (PALS) Battalion of the KSLI15. On completion of training, Private JA Evans, Service Number 112779 wasposted to France17 where he entered the Western European Theatre of War on 22nd May6.
The ending of the Second Battle of Ypres42 at the end of May signalled a period of static but brutal warfare42 during which John was engaged in various barbarous hostilities, including the Battle of Bellewaarde29 during which one thousand men died within twelve hours on a battlefield measuring a half-mile square and the Battle of Hooge37, where the Germans attacked with flame projectors. In between times, unequivocally fearful of a gas or flamethrower attack37 John would have been subjected to relentless sniper and shell attacks17. It was during one such altercation17, on 15th September 191514, that Private John Arthur Evans was killed by a German shell whilst he and his platoon made their way back to rest camp, from the trenches41. Along with a comrade, he was laid to rest “the following day in a quiet spot close by”41.
Private John Arthur Evans’s final resting place is at Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Belgium, Grave I.E.139. He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal6.
On 30th September 191540 a Memorial Service was held in the Parish Church of Ss Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, in tribute to Private JA Evans who “earned a good name while in the Army, for he was spoken of as a gallant and obedient soldier and a credit to the British Army”41.
We Will Remember Him.
Private John Arthur Evans, 11277, 5th Bn. King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Killed in action in Belgium on 15th September 1915.
Buried at Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. Grave I. E. 13.
Who is the one whose time has come,
Who won’t return when the work is done.
Who’ll leave his bones on the blood-stained stones
Of the red, red road to Hooge?36