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John Slee was born in 1895 in Patterdale. His father Robert was working as a Wagonner at Greenside mine. John was the ninth child to be born to his mother Margaret, who also gave birth to a tenth child, Arthur, when the family lived in Patterdale, firstly in Rookings and then by 1891 at Blowick.
By 1901 John’s father had died and John was living with his widowed mother, and six of his siblings in Escomb, Durham. His older brother Robert was head of the household and was a general labourer and Fred and Harry, two of his brothers were Putters in one of the local Coalmines.
So far we have not been able to trace John between 1901 and the time of his death. In the early part of 1915, John went to Carlisle where he enlisted in 8th Division Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and trained as a Driver with the Division's ammunition column. As a Driver, John would have been responsible for two of the horses in the six horse team that pulled the two ton ammunition wagons. The 8th Divisional Ammunition Column was an integral part the 8th Division Royal Field Artillery and was formed at Hursley Park, Winchester during October 1914 from regular army units returning from around the British Empire. They proceeded to France in November 1914, a much needed reinforcement to the British Expeditionary Force and remained on the Western Front throughout the war. We know that John arrived in France to join them on the 4th September 1915. During 1916, they were in action at the Battle of The Somme and in March 1917 fought in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line before moving to Flanders. The 8th Div. RFA fought in two major battles during 1917, 'The Battle of Pilckem Ridge' and 'The Battle of Langemarck' but these occurred after John had died so we cannot attribute his injuries to a specific action. Even so, travelling in the slow moving ammunition columns must have been quite dangerous in itself, as German shelling of the trenches and support lines was fairly constant. Being seen by a German spotter plane would make them a valuable target.
We don’t know the full circumstances of John’s death, except the date he died, the 2nd June 1917, and the place, the 1st Northern General Hospital in Newcastle. The fact that he is buried in St Andrews and Jesmond Cemetery in Newcastle-
As well as his grave in Newcastle, John is commemorated on the Patterdale War memorial and the Glenridding Village Hall Roll of Honour, alongside his older brother Robert, who was a Sergeant in the Northumberland Fusiliers and who died just 5 weeks before John, and another brother Harry (Service #306791), who served in the Royal Navy (having joined up in 1904) and survived the war.
If anyone knows anything more about John or his family please let us know.
Driver John Slee
43422, 8th Division. Ammunition Column., Royal Field Artillery
Born 1895 Patterdale. Died 2nd June 1917, Aged 22 in Newcastle.
Son of Robert and Margaret (nee Young) Slee, once of Blowick Patterdale
John and his family in the 1901 Census when they were living at 1 High Albion (?) Street, Escomb, Durham. His elder brother Robert was Head of the family.
A photo of the children at Patterdale School in 1889, which was before John was born but is likely to have included his elder siblings, Robert, Margaret, and possibly Fred. We have tried to identify as many of them as possible on our Patterdale School Then and Now page.
John’s Medal Index Card (above) and below his entry in the army “Register of Soldiers Effects” bequeathing is money and pension to his brothers and sisters and his sister in law and her children.