Eastleach War Memorial – John William Adams

The birth of John William Adams, the son of Thomas and Mary Jane Adams of Eastleach Turville, was registered in 1894. Thomas was born around 1845, also in Eastleach Turville. By the time of the 1861 Census, Thomas, aged 16, was living in Eastleach with his parents, Thomas and Sarah, and his five brothers (one of whom was Hedley Adams’ grandfather) and two sisters, ranging in age from twenty-one to three years of age. The extended Adams family had long-standing Eastleach connections.

Thomas and Mary Jane Jefferies, also born in the village in 1855, married in 1878. A first marriage in 1866, to Leah Cook from Poulton, had ended in 1872 with her premature death at the age of 33. In the 1871 census Thomas, described as an Agricultural Labourer, and Leah were living at Church Lane with Harriett Cook, a six year old step-daughter born in Devon and their son, Harry, aged three. By 1881, Thomas is described as a watercress grower of Eastleach Martin and Mary Jane is caring for Harriett, Harry and their own child, Lucy Elizabeth, aged two. Thomas appears to have prospered and by 1891 he is described as a watercress grower, carrier and general dealer, living at Bridge Cottage. Harry, now twenty-three and a chimney sweep, and Elizabeth, a scholar, have been joined by a brother Richard Thomas, aged two. By 1901 John William had arrived and was at the village school, where in 1903 he “passed an excellent examination in Religious Subjects”. By 1911, John, now a farm labourer, was the only child still at home. His father was a small farmer and his mother a shop-keeper. Their quiet rural life beside the River Leach was about to end.

Bridge Cottage then

John, known to his family as Jack, enlisted with the 9th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment and found himself with the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force, who occupied Amara in Iraq in June 1915. Quite when he arrived in Iraq is unclear, but in 1917 his battalion saw action in the Battle of Kut al Amara, in pursuit of the enemy towards Baghdad. Jack was wounded weeks before his death and was admitted to Ward 10A in the 32nd British General Hospital in Amara, a small town on the left bank of the Tigris. In letters home he talks of making very good progress and tells his parents that “there is nothing to worry about”.  On 20th February 1917, he writes “I am going on extremely well, and am having the best of attention. The wound in the foot is quite well now and the shoulder nearly healed up. Neither of these were much. The thigh (left one) will keep me on my back for a month  yet, after that I shall be sent  down river to Basra, and then on to India. I shall not be properly fit under a year.” Poignantly, he ends this letter asking for photos of his parents, one or two of home and one of “the valley view in particular”.

By 21st March the news from Amara was not as positive. His leg had been in splints for a month and the fracture was not healing. His doctor wanted to amputate but Jack wanted to give it longer. His condition began to deteriorate and he finally decided to accept the advice given. The amputation had taken place the week before. He reported how fast it was healing and how much better he felt. There was talk of being in England by July and how he was longing for “some of our own vegetables and one of your famous rabbit puddings.” Sadly, this was his last letter home. On 29th March, Matron Hodgins wrote to Bridge Cottage to give the news that Jack had passed away that morning having taken a turn for the worse several days earlier. He was buried the following day with military honours at Amara Cemetery.

Bridge Cottage, August 2014