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John Edward Greenwell (1895-1918)

Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force died in a seaplane accident who is buried in Stanley New Cemetery

John Edward Greenwell was born on 12 July 1895 in Lamesley. He was the second child born to Robert William and Annie Greenwell. At the time of the 1911 census the Greenwell family were living in Annfield Plain. Like his father, John was working in the colliery. His older sister Georgina was working as a milliner. By the time of his enlistment in 1914 John had left the colliery to work as a journalist.

John initially served with the Royal Naval Division (RND), leaving England to serve in the Dardanelles in September 1915. Whilst part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, he was admitted twice to hospital suffering from a fever. John then left the Dardanelles to travel to France in May 1916, disembarking at Marseilles on 22 May. The following month he was posted to the 189th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery.

On 13 November 1916 John received a serious gunshot wound to his left hand. Following treatment in Boulogne, he was invalided to England and admitted to the 4th London General Hospital. It took John some time to recover from this injury, finally being declared fit for general duty in May 1917. Following this, John applied to join the Royal Naval Air Service which became part of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on its formation on 1 April 1918. Having spent time at Calshot, a Royal Naval Air Station, John was then sent to a seaplane station at Newhaven where he served as a lieutenant as part of 408 Flight. John had not been at Newhaven long before he died on 16 July 1918 when the seaplane he was piloting crashed into a building near the seashore at Newhaven. He was flying a Short Admiralty-type 184 plane.

John’s parents were living on Barn Hill, Stanley around the time of his death. He was buried in Stanley New Cemetery in grave 7 C 266. The inscription on his gravestone reads “Sacred to the memory of Lieu J E Greenwell, only and much loved son of R W and A Greenwell, who met his death by seaplane accident at Newhaven July 16th 1918 after 3 years’ service in the Great European War aged 23 years.”

The Stanley Times newspaper reported the funeral of John, giving details of his service during The First World War, which is attached below.

Civil Parish: Stanley

Birth date: 12-Jul-1895

Death date: 16-Jul-1918

Armed force/civilian: Air Force

Residence: 36 John Street, West Pelton (1901 Census)
16 East Terrace, New Kyo, Annfield Plain (1911 Census)
Dene View, Burn Hill Villas, Stanley (Service Records)

Religion: Church of England

Employment: Miner – Colliery Panter (1911 Census)
Journalist (Service Records)

Family: Parents: Robert William Greenwell, Annie Greenwell
Siblings: Georgina Greenwell

Military service:

Royal Air Force
408 Flight

Medal(s): 1914-15 Star
Victory Medal
British War Medal

Memorial(s): New Cemetery, Stanley (grave 7 C 266)
Book of Remembrance 1914-18, St. Andrew’s Church, Stanley

Gender: Male

Contributed by David D, Stanley, Co Durham