John Burgess was born in Macclesfield in 1889, the son of Sarah Jane and Lawrence Hidderley Burgess, a general labourer. In 1891, three-year-old John was living at 22 Elizabeth Street, Macclesfield with his parents and siblings Edith (11), William (9), Elizabeth (7), Sarah (2) and baby Laurence, 7 months. In 1901 the family was living at 22 Crossall Street, Macclesfield and included four more children: Tom (9), Jessy (4), Wilfred (3) and Denis (8 months).
By 1911 the family had moved again, to 9 Union Street, Macclesfield, and John was employed at a foundry as an iron and brass moulder.
In 1916 John married Mary Annie Slater in Burnley, Lancashire. Mary lived at 6 Haven Street, Burnley, but by 1939 she was living with her widowed sister Doris Williams in Hoylake, Cheshire.
John served in the Royal Engineers, first as a territorial with service number 2289 and later with the regular Army with service number 471686. He was drafted to France in April 1917.
John's death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 8 February 1918:
A GALLANT SOLDIER - ROYAL ENGINEER KILLED
News was received on Monday that Sapper J Burgess, Royal Engineers, son of Mrs L H Burgess, 9 Union St, Macclesfield, was killed in action on January 23rd. Major Lecker has written to the late soldier's wife: "It is with the deepest regret and sympathy that I have to inform you of the death of your husband, who was killed in action instantaneously by a shell bursting near him on the 23rd inst. He was killed with two others who were with him, about two o'clock in the afternoon. We recovered his body and buried him today in the British Cemetery. A Roman Catholic padre conducted the burial service. Your husband was a gallant and efficient soldier, and his loss is deeply felt by the whole company. All the officers and men of the company join me in conveying to you our deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement."
Sapper Burgess was 28 years of age and was educated at St Alban's School and attended the Church there. Previous to joining up, he was employed by Mr M H Watts as a moulder, having been in his service since leaving school. He entered the Army in July 1916, going out to France in the April following. Sapper Burgess has three brothers serving - Pte T Burgess, Ches Regt; Pte W Burgess, Lancs Fusiliers; and Pte L Burgess, with the Territorials in Egypt. The two first named have been wounded and are now in England.
Sapper John Burgess is buried in Grave Ref. I. F. 2. of the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentieres, France. His father asked for the inscription ON HIS SOUL SWEET JESUS HAVE MERCY R.I.P. to be added to his headstone.
In Macclesfield, Sapper John Burgess is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael's Church and St Alban's Church war memorials, and on St John's Church Roll of Honour.
Brother of Thomas Burgess, who served as Private 49594 with the Cheshire Regt; Wilfred Burgess, who served as Private 203236 with the 5th Lancs Fusiliers, and later as Pte 73826 with the Royal Defence Corps; and Lawrence Burgess, who served as Private 290921 with the 7th Cheshire Regt. All three are believed to have survived the war.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards
WWI Pension Record Cards (WFA/Ancestry/Fold3)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 8 February 1918, 23 September 1921 (photo supplement)
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.