Memories shared of Garstang soldier

John Wheeldon, a World War one Soldier from Garstang.
John Wheeldon, a World War one Soldier from Garstang.

In the week leading up to Armistice Day the granddaughter of a World War One soldier has shared her memories of her grandfather who served in many fierce battles.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of John Wheeldon’s death and Brenda Peterson, from Hest Bank, has chosen the landmark to revisit his stories.

John Wheeldon, a World War one Soldier from Garstang.

John Wheeldon, a World War one Soldier from Garstang.

John joined the Lancashire Fusiliers at Bury Barracks in 1916 and transferred to the 2nd/5th Loyals while he was in France.

He served in many battles on the Somme, Ypres and Armentières but was fortunate to come through them – and several poison gas attacks – without harm.

“I remember he had this huge black cross made of metal, he had it for protection,” said Brenda.

“It used to hang on his wall at his home in Garstang and I remember him saying it was the cross that saved his life.

John Wheeldon pictured at the age of 91 in his Garstang home with the picture of The Loyals.

John Wheeldon pictured at the age of 91 in his Garstang home with the picture of The Loyals.

“He got shot in the chest during battle and the bullet got stuck in the cross, he was quite proud of it and now it has been passed on to me.

“I am not surprised he survived the war, he was a hard man.”

John was pictured in the paper in 1983 after his daughter, Hilda Johnson, discovered a picture of the Loyal Regiment.

The then 91-year-old, who lived on Wyre Lane, Garstang, recognised himself as one of the Loyals seen on the photograph which was taken in Cambrai, France in 1918.

The photo was reproduced from the historical book The Loyal Regiment.

At the time John recalled that the photo was taken when the Allies had finally got the Germans on the run.

“We found the German soldiers’ spiked helmets in a large house which they had evacuated after using it as a store,” said John in 1983.

“Just prior to that incident it had been raining for ten days and we had been living on iron rations in trenches knee-deep in mud.

“We collected drinking water by spreading out our groundsheets, and our clothing was infested with lice.”

After the war John returned to his home near Manchester and later ran a livestock smallholding.

He later moved to the Garstang area.

After his death in 1987 Brenda researched her grandfather and discovered he was an ancestor of Thomas Whieldon (1719-95,) the influential master potter at Fenton Low, Staffordshire (1740-80).

Brenda and the family were fortunate to have John return home after the war but so many families were not granted their wish.

On Sunday November 11, Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, marks the end of the First World War and acts as a memorial to members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.