Sergeant John Edwin Guest, 61614, Royal Garrison Artillery, 122nd Siege Battery
John Edwin Guest was born at Churwell on the 3rd December 1889, the elder child and only son of David Guest and Mary Murdock, who married in Leeds in spring 1889. Sadly Mary, aged 28 years, died in mid February 1896 and David Guest married Annie Smith in late 1901. By 1911 David, a commercial traveller for a rags and mungo merchant, and Annie had moved from Morley to live at Manor Road, Ossett with John Edwin, a rag merchant and his sister, Nellie. David Guest lost his second wife, Annie who died in 1912 aged 40 years.
There is evidence that John Edwin Guest, rag merchant, petitioned for naturalisation as an American citizen on 4th January 1915 having sailed from Liverpool and arrived at Portland, Maine on the 15th March 1914. The outcome of the petition is unknown, but he had returned to the UK later in 1915 and that summer he married Constance Ellis in the Salford area. The couple had two children: Ronald Guest born in 1916 and Joan Guest born in 1918, both born in Blackpool. It is known that Constance lived at 101, Boothley Road, Blackpool and it is likely that this address was the Guest family home.
John Edwin Guest’s army service record has not survived but it is known that he enlisted at Blackpool and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was subsequently awarded the British and the Victory Medals for service overseas, but he did not receive the 1914-15 Star, indicating that he did not serve overseas in a theatre of war before the 1st January 1916. There is evidence that he served in 382nd Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, but he was in service with the 128th Siege Battery at the time of his death.
The Royal Garrison Artillery Siege Batteries were deployed behind the front line, tasked with destroying enemy artillery, supply routes, railways and stores. The batteries were equipped with heavy Howitzer guns firing large calibre 6, 8 or 9.2 inch shells in a high trajectory.
The 122nd (Siege) Battery, R.G.A. was formed at Dover on the 23rd March 1916. The nucleus of the Battery being formed from details of Sussex, R.G.A. (Territorial Force). 122nd Siege Battery was part of 15 Corps Heavy Artillery near the Belgium coast from August 1916 until the end of November 1917 where they transferred to 10 Corps in the Second Army. In November 1918, the 122nd Siege Battery was serving with the R.G.A., 66th (Howitzer) Brigade, in the Third Army. The 122nd (Siege) Battery consisted six 6 inch Howitzers and approximately 137 men.
The War Diary for Sergeant Guest's 122nd Siege Battery ends in January 1918 and it is not certain where the unit was when he was killed by a German shell, except that they were in the Aisne area of France where he is buried.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for John Edwin Guest:
"Ossett Gunner Killed - The sad news was received on Monday that Sergeant John Edwin Guest (29), only son of Mr. David Guest, Rose Cottage Manor-road, Ossett had lost his life in the war. The deceased was well-known in the borough being a rag merchant in civilian life. He leaves a widow and two children, now residing with his wife's parents at Blackpool.
It is nearly two and half years since he joined the army, and he has been in France about ten months. The greater part of this time, however, he spent in hospital, being badly gassed while working the guns soon after his arrival in the war zone. A postcard, dated the 3rd inst. was received from him by his father, indicating that at the time the card was posted he had just resumed duty with his battery after convalescence. Deceased's widow received news of his death in a letter from an army chaplain, dated February 7th, in which the writer said: 'He was killed yesterday by a bursting shell, whilst doing his duty. It will be some little consolation for you to know that he was killed instantly and could not have suffered any pain. I buried him this afternoon in an authorised French cemetery in the presence of the commanding officer of his battery and several of his fellow gunners. The grave will be properly kept and his battery will erect a cross over it as a tribute to his memory. I can only dimly realise what pain and sorrow this news will bring to you. I assure you of our deepest sympathy, and pray that God will give you all the strength and comfort you will so greatly need'."
Sergeant John Edwin Guest was killed in action on the 6th February 1918, aged 29 years, the son of David Guest, of Ossett and husband of Constance Guest, of 101, Boothley Road, Blackpool.. He is buried at grave reference 162 at the Montescourt-Lizerolles Communal Cemetery,2 Aisne, France. Montescourt-Lizerolles is in the Department of the Aisne, with two contiguous villages. It is about 12 kilometres south of St.Quentin and 13 kilometres due east of Ham.
The Communal Cemetery was used by British troops in February and March, 1918, and by the Germans when they captured the place in March. There are now 30, 1914-18 and a small number of 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, nearly a quarter from the 1914-18 War are unidentified.
Sergeant John Edwin Guest is remembered on the South Ossett Parish War Memorial at Manor Road, Ossett and his name was included in the Commemoration Programme for the unveiling of the Ossett War Memorial in 1928. He was also remembered on the Ossett Conservative Club Roll of Honour held by WMDC Library Service.
1. "Ossett Observer", 16th February 1918