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John “Jack” Cummings Haswell (1897-1918)

Hesleden man served in the 1st/8th Battalion DLI whose grave marker from France is now situated in Hesleden

John Cummings Haswell, known as Jack, was born in August 1897 in Wingate. He was one of eight children born to Matthew and Hannah Haswell, five of whom were still alive in 1911. Hannah was originally from Canada but by the time of her marriage to Matthew was living in the Easington area. Matthew is listed as a coal miner, although on the 1911 census he is now described as disabled. He died in 1916, when John was aged 19.

After leaving school, John began working at Castle Eden Colliery as a miner. He enlisted in Hartlepool, although the date of this enlistment is not known. John began his service in France on 9 October 1915 as part of the 1st/8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI). He was ranked as a private with the service number 21342.

Little is known about John’s military service. He was wounded on 14 April 1918 and died just under two weeks later on 27 April, and was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France. The wooden cross initially placed on John’s grave when he was buried, is now in Hesleden.

The story of how this cross came to be in Hesleden, through a trip to the cemetery by John’s mother Hannah, has been submitted by a family member, Mildred Tempest:

When the war ended my Gran Hannah Haswell was informed that her son Jack was buried at Etaples Cemetery, north of Boulogne in Northern France and they had erected a wooden cross on his grave.

The Salvation Army paid for my Gran to go to France to see her son’s grave. While there she was informed that a proper headstone would be erected, and asked if she would like his wooden cross. She then took a small piece of wood out of the corner of the cross and put it in a matchbox to make sure it was her son’s cross when she received it.

When the headstone was erected the Salvation Army paid for my Gran to go over to see it. When she arrived she noticed the date of his death had been put as 24 April instead of 27 April. On notifying them they immediately sent for the stonemason to change the date and he put the 7 over the 4 which is still like that today. When the wooden cross arrived my Gran checked the corner where she had removed the small piece of wood and it matched the piece in the matchbox.

The wooden cross was placed in St John’s Church, Hesleden on the left side of the pulpit alongside the crosses for two other soldiers who were also killed in the war. My uncle’s cross was the middle one of the three. When the church was de-consecrated I, as his niece, was asked what I would like to do with the crosses. I then went to the church and collected all the three crosses and contacted the Durham Light Infantry offices to see if they would like them for their museum. They were very pleased to accept them and would display them in their new offices or the DLI museum.

It is a very sad story about my uncle Jack as my Mam was only six years old when he died and never got the chance to know her brother. His other sister, my aunt Jen, told me the story of her Mam and brother. He was the last son of my Gran and Grandad and the Haswell line died the day John Cummings Haswell died. I know this is a story about my family but all over Great Britain there will be stories about other families losing their loved ones in the war and it is so sad that a lot of men and women lost their lives to save us. It’s with great gratitude we owe these people a Great Big Thank You for our free lives today.

This story, along with photos of John and the three wooden crosses are also available on the North East War Memorials Website:

In October 2017 the three wooden crosses were moved from the DLI collection and are now located in the Methodist Church in Hesleden.

Birth date: 22-Aug-1897

Death date: 27-Apr-1918

Residence: 44 Burdon Street, Hesleden (1901 Census)
26 Burdon Street, Hesleden (1911 Census)

Employment: Miner – Castle Eden Colliery

Family: Parents: Matthew Haswell, Hannah Haswell nee Cummings
Siblings: Elizabeth Haswell, Alice Haswell, Jane Haswell, Margaret R Haswell

Military service:

1st/8th Battalion DLI
Service number 21342

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

Memorial(s): Battalion History 1/8th DLI
Clock, Bell and Plaque 1914-18 1939-1945, St. John’s Church, Hesleden
Monument 1914-18 1939-45, Cemetery, Hesleden

Gender: Male

Contributed by Grays4430, Blackhall Colliery

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