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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 123860
Labour Corps
Who was Killed in Action on Sunday, 3rd June 1917
Age 38

Buried. Grave V G 11
Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery

Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Pas de Calais, France1

John William Bettle was born in Beeston, Notts in 18782, the eldest son, third child, of John James Robinson Bettle and his wife Eliza (née Warrick). Both John senior and his wife were natives of the Cranfield area of Bedfordshire and it is likely that it was his job with the Midland Railway that brought them to Beeston in about 1878. By 1891, they and their family of nine and his wife's elderly father, were living at 18 Queens Road, Beeston with John working as a railway shunter and the young John William, then aged 12, an apprentice saddler.3. By 1901, while his parents and much of the rest of the family remained in Beeston, John William had moved to Walsall in Staffordshire to take up a job as a harness maker4. However, in 1903, he married Mary Ellen Fuller and moved back to live in Beeston, where their son, also named John William, was born in the following year5. By 1911, he and his wife and child were living at 50 Collington Street, Beeston with John William continuing to work as a saddler and harness maker6.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that John William enlisted towards the end of 19167 with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, becoming part of the 1st (Reserve) Garrison Battalion which had been formed at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in February 19168. Although this battalion remained in England until it moved to Ireland in May 1918, this did not include Private Bettle who was transferred to the Labour Corps, probably when it was formed in the Spring of 19179. After his arrival in France he was assigned to 255th Area Employment Company, one of several such Companies formed to carry out a range of vital labouring tasks within a defined area (hence its name) of the war zone. These included railway building and repair, road clearance, moving ammunition and stores, etc. Most of the men assigned to these units would have had experience of manual work but some were chosen for their specialist skills. This may have been the case with Private Bettle, who was able to provide his saddlery and harness skills. Much of this work was performed within the fighting areas and was exposed to shelling and, it seems that Private Bettle was killed in these circumstances9.

Private Bettle was buried in the Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery. This cemetery, in the Pas de Calais region of France, contains 2,650 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 10 of which are unidentified10. He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal11.

Poignantly, on 1st September 1917, his widow gave birth to a daughter, May Bettle12.

Percy Bettle, John William's youngest brother, served with the Sherwood Foresters and was killed on 21st March 191813. Their mother, Eliza Bettle, died in 1925 followed by their father, John James Bettle in 192814.

John William's Army financial effects of 2 4s 10d were paid to his widow on 22 November 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of 3 on 28 October 191915. His widow, who never remarried, and their two children, continued to live at 50 Collington Street, Beeston until at least 1930. Mary Ethel appears to have later moved to 7 Dennis Avenue, Beeston, She died on 27 February 195916. John William jnr married Phyllis Anne Kirchin in 1932 and died in 1978, then living in Toton.17. May married William A Wakefield in 1938 and died in 200518.

1The photograph of Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1878 (Ref 7b 178).
He was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 9 July 1878. The register records his birthday as 10 August 1878.
31891 Census, Piece 2671 Folio 130. John William's then surviving siblings were Eliza (b. 1874), Annie (b. 1876), George Thomas (b. c1880), Lilian (b. c1882), Walter (b. c1884), Harry (b. c1886), Enoch (b. c1887) and Arthur (b. 1890). Another brother, Percy, was born in 1893.
41901 Census, Piece 2700 Folio 38 : 26 Lower Foster St, Walsall, Staffs.
5Mary Ellen was born in Newthorpe, Notts in c1880, the dau of Henry & Ada Fuller. They married in Basford Registration District (of which both Newthorpe and Beeston were part) in Q1 1903 (Ref 7b 338). Their son, John William Bettle jnr, was born in Beeston, Notts on 23 January 1904.
61911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Sched 378. It seems likely that John William was working for the saddler and cycle dealer, Thomas Bennett, then trading at 132 High Road, Beeston. It may be significant that when John William junior joined the Boys Brigade in Beeston in 1917, he recorded his employer as 'Bennetts'.
7His service is calculated as less than 12 months based on the amount of his War Gratuity
8Details of 1st (Reserve) Garrison Battalion's formation and deployment is from The Long, Long Trail website : www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/kings-own-yorkshire-light-infantry/ .
9Details of the formation and work of the Labour Corps is from The Pioneer website : www.royalpioneercorps.co.uk/rpc/history_main1.htm.
10This description of Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery is based on that included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
11Walter's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com. Unfortunately, no embarkation date is recorded on the card
12May's birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1917 (Ref 7b 425). Her full birthdate is recorded on her death registration.
13His memorial page may be viewed here.
14Mary Ellen Bettle died on 25 September 1925, aged 70. John James Robinson Bettle died on 3 January 1928. They were buried in Beeston Cemetery.
15Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
16Mary Ellen Bettle is recorded at 50 Collington Street, Beeston in the 1921 and 1930 Electoral Rolls. 'M E Bettle' is recorded in a 1952 street directory and 'May E Bettle is recorded at that address in a 1958 directory. She died on 27 February 1959 (Basford Registration District Q1/1959 3c 73) and cremated in Nottingham (probably at Wilford Hill Crematorium) on 4 March 1959.
17John William Bettle junior married Phyllis Anne Kirchin (b. 14 Mar 1906). He died on 30 May 1978 in Nottingham while living at 70 Portland Road, Toton, Notts. His widow died on 21 December 1993.
18May Bettle married widower William Archer Wakefield in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1838 (Ref 7b 191). She died in Nottingham in November 2005.

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