Sergeant. 1/6th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment. Service number 159.
John was born at Ranskill in Nottinghamshire in 1879. His parents were John and Sarah. John was a general labourer and Sarah a mill operative. John Benjamin was twelve in the 1891 census and at school. They were living at 22, Cartmel Road in Bradford and John had a younger brother called William aged ten and two younger sisters called Charlotte age seven and Sarah aged 5.
On 20th July 1897 John joined the West Riding Regiment 3rd Volunteer Battalion at Haworth He served continuously with them until 12th March 1908.
By 1898 John had met and married Emma Spencer at St Peter's Church (Bradford Cathedral) on the thirtieth of July. John was 20 and living at Bocking and Emma was 23 and living at 15, Minnie Street in Haworth.
Their first child Sarah Ellen was born in 1899 and baptised at St Michael and All Angel's Church in Haworth on 4th March the same year. They were living in Cross Roads and John was employed as a foundry labourer, probably in Keighley.
By 1901 they were living at 6, Tyne Street in Keighley and John was an iron machine moulder at the foundry. Their second daughter Hilda was born in early 1907, registered at Keighley. Tragically she died in early 1908, having not reached her first birthday.
On 3rd April 1908, John joined the 6th West Riding Territorial Battalion having already served for eleven years with the 3rd Volunteer Battalion West Riding Regiment at Haworth. His address was 6, Tyne Street, Parkwood in Keighley and he was working for Messrs Holmes and Pearson at Royal Ironworks on Goulborne Street.
In 1910 John was renting 14 Peel Place in Keighley from the owner, Mary Butterfield and they were here in the 1911 census. John was a machine moulder and their daughter Sarah Ellen was twelve and working part time as a spinner of worsted yarn.
In 1912 he had already served for four years with the 6th Battalion and was promoted to Corporal on 1st April. He was re-engaged at that rank on 1st April 1914 so he was serving when war broke out. Over the years with them he'd attended annual camps at Redcar, Marske, Peel on the Isle of Man, Ripon and at Flamborough Head.
When war broke out he was embodied with the 6th Battalion on 5th August 1914 and as a Territorial Force soldier he signed the Territorial Force Declaration for overseas service on 15th September 1914. With his many years of experience, he was promoted to Sergeant on 26th September the same year.
John was listed in the nominal roll for the 1/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment when they embarked for France. They boarded S.S. Onward at Folkestone and sailed for Boulogne, arriving on the morning of 14th April 1915.
He sprained his back on 9th June 1915 and was admitted to the 1st West Riding Field Ambulance (at Estaires) and after a period of recovery he was discharged back to his unit on the 12th.
On 23rd June 1915 he was slightly wounded with a gunshot wound to the face and admitted to 1/2 West Riding Field Ambulance. Four days later he was back with his unit. Note, the photo above shows him reclining on a deckchair with a large gash to his cheek, this might be the result of this facial wound.
On 19th December 1915 he was wounded again, this was a shot wound to his face, his chest and arm were fractured and he also had damage to his lower jaw. He was admitted to the 1/2 West Riding Field Ambulance and then to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Siding near Lijssenthoek, where he died of his wounds at 3.10 pm in the afternoon of 27th December.
He was buried by Rev. J. B. Brooker in a soldier's cemetery nearby Map ref: Sheet 27.59 L.22.D.6.3. This would later be named Lijssenthoek Cemetery.
John had served in the Army for 7 years and 271 days.
The 1/6th West Riding War dairy mentions him being wounded:
Dec 20. Early morning. 159. Sgt Woodcock, B. Wounded in right elbow by splinter of shell on Canal Bank.
Emma was his next of kin and she was living at 14, Park Avenue, Victoria Road, Keighley when she received his personal effects in April 1916. She also received his medals in 1921 plus the memorial scroll and plaque the same year. These items are still with the family.
With regard to John's Army remaining pay:
Emma received £2 11s. 4d on 29th March 1916, Sarah received £5 2s. 6d. on the same date.
Emma also received a war gratuity of £8 10s. on 10th September 1919.
She received a widow's pension of 13s. 6d per week from 10th July 1916, which was later raised to 26 shillings per week on 26th June 1918.
John is of course named on his grave in Belgium, but Emma also added the inscription:
"Loved in Life,
Remembered in death.
From his loving wife and daughter."
John's medals were the 1914 – 15 Star, The British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal.
1891 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935
1901 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Tax Valuation, 1910
1911 England Census
British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
West Yorkshire, England, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
National Archives war diary - 1/6th Battalion, West Riding Regiment: WO95/2801/1