Biddulph & District Genealogy & Historical Society Biddulph Grange

Biddulph and the Great War

'There Shall Be In That Rich Earth A Richer Dust Concealed'

'We Will Remember Them'

Private Jonathan Cheetham

44308 9th Bn Royal Fusiliers died September 21st 1918 Age 32

Jonathan was born in Biddulph in 1886 and his birth was registered at Congleton. He was the son of William Isaac and Sarah Ann Cheetham. Jonathan was baptised at St. Lawrence on July 11th 1886 and the entry records that his father was a grocer of Bradley Green. By 1891 Jonathan’s family were at the Swan Inn where William was publican. By 1901 the family had moved to Congleton Road and William had changed his occupation yet again. Jonathan’s father was now described as a butcher.

A move to 85, High Street followed, where the butchery business was developed. By 1911 both 24 year old Jonathan and his older brother Joseph were described as butchers. Jonathan had taken over the business from his brother by 1916 and had married the previous year on December 25th at St. Lawrence, to Ethel Harrop. Both were aged 29 years. Ethel was from 11, High Street and Jonathan, still a butcher, of 85, High Street.

Jonathan enlisted at Hanley. It is believed this was early in 1916. He joined the 9th Battalion (City of London), Royal Fusiliers. This battalion trained at Colchester and Aldershot before they went to France in May 1915. This perhaps means that Jonathan may have joined the battalion in the field with a draft replacement unit later in 1916. However his medal card gives no date of entry.

The 9th Fusiliers were attached to the 36th Brigade, 12th Eastern Division and by 1916 were holding their front line trenches in the La Bassee canal area of Flanders where they sustained heavy losses and replacement troops were urgently required. Earlier in 1915, before Jonathan had arrived, the battalion fought in the Armentieres area and later in October they were in action during the Battle of Loos, sadly losing many of their men. In December the Fusiliers were engaged in operations rounding up spies in the Béthune area.

By June 1916 the battalion were in the Somme district based at Flesselles, near Amiens. On July 1st the division were in reserve and not in action until they were needed to fight in the Albert area, then the second attack on Ovillers, followed by more brave actions at Pozieres and Thiepval during the Battle of the Somme. In 1917 Jonathan and his mates were in the Arras Offensive in the spring, with further actions at Arleux and Scarpe. Then, during October, the 12th Division were transferred to fight in the Battle of Cambrai and saw action in November during the tank attacks at Bonaves and Lateau Woods. The 12th Division, in March 1918, fought to hold the enemy advance over the old Somme battlefield at Bapume and Bazentin-le-Grand. The enemy pushed our lines back and with the men suffering from lack of food, water and sleep, sometimes for periods of 24 hours at a time, they were always in danger of capture in this retreat.

By August the tables had turned on the enemy forces and their advance halted. Many losses were inflicted on the battalion during this period and when the 9th Fusiliers joined the battle on the Hindenburg Line, which commenced on September 18th, more tragic news followed. Private Jonathan Cheetham sadly fell in these actions on September 21st during an attack on an enemy stronghold at Malassise Farm and Fishers Keep at Epehy.

Jonathan is now at rest in the Epehy Wood Cemetery, near Peronne. He is remembered on the Biddulph memorials. A plaque has also been placed in the church tower at St. Lawrence: “This tablet is erected to the memory of Our Brother Ringer, Jonathan Cheetham, who fell in the Great War Sept. 21. 1918. Duty Called. Thy will be Done.”

After her husband’s death Ethel continued to run the business but she too died a few years later. Her obituary which appeared in the Chronicle on January 5th 1924 reported, “The deceased was a war widow, her husband shortly after a brief married happiness, losing his life in the war. From the time of his enlistment, early in the war period, she had successfully carried on the retail butchery business in High Street, that he had established and built up, and was regarded by all who knew her as a capable, hard-working business women. Deceased was 37.”

Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.

A list of all the medals awarded to the men of the Biddulph area has been compiled and can be viewed here.


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