Baxenden Lads: Skellern JJ

28th October 1918

PTE. 44494 JOHN JAMES SKELLERN of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was killed in action in France on October 28th 1918, only fifteen days before the end of the war on November 11th. (N.B. He died eleven days after Pte. Anderson of the same regiment)

John was the last man from Baxenden to be killed in action. Before he enlisted he lived with his wife Clara and their daughter at 520 Manchester Road, Baxenden. He formerly worked as a spinner at Victoria Mill, Baxenden. He regularly attended St. John’s Church, Baxenden, and he was also a respected member of Baxenden Working Men’s Club in Hill Street. He was actually the first and only member of the Club to fall in action. At the time of his death John had been in the Army only four months. Fourteen weeks of these he spent in training in England, thus he was in France only two weeks before his death.

The secretary of the Working Men’s Club, Mr. Nuttall, wrote to Mrs. Skellern expressing the members’ “sincere condolences with you in the loss of your dear husband while fighting for King and Country – we hope you will be granted help and strength to overcome the very trying time you are going through”.

John was killed with two of his friends by a shell whilst resting by the roadside near the small village of Wassigny, near Le Cateau, shortly after its capture by advancing British forces. All three were buried by their comrades in the village communal cemetery. There are a total of twenty nine British war graves in the cemetery -a lasting commemoration of the sacrifice made in the liberation of one small village.