First World War Project

John DALTON (of Teynham)

b. 20th/22nd December 1897
d. 13th December 1918. Aged 20

Private/Signaller, Service Number 56968
9th Battalion
West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)

Étaples Military Cemetery
Plot 47, Row D, Grave 8
Died of Bronco Pneumonia

Étaples Military Cemetery


Son of James Edward and Jane Mary (née Wilson), of Teynham, Kent. His father died in 1902, leaving his mother living at No.6 French's Cottages, Barrow Green. This was a family with strong local (Teynham and Lynsted) history in agriculture. Although his father, James, was employed on the railway as a Plate Layer. On enlistment, John gave his occupation as "dairyman".

John was underage for overseas service, but only by a few days - 18 years and 338 days. Consequently, he was given the medical classification "A4"; a designation given to men under 19 who would be A1 or A2 when aged 19. In his case, "Fit for General Service" and of "Good" physical development. The only caveats were the 'slight' defects of "Left varicocele - pronounced vascular feature of the testicle; and "understandard for chest but will develop."

He was tall for that time, standing 5 feet and 11½; chest measurement of 35 inches, 2 inch expansion. He weighed 148 lbs.

John's headstone inscription (above) was chosen by his mother, Jane Mary, as next of kin.

The kinship declaration of 25th August 1919, gives John's family members as: Edward James (27) and Herbert George (20) - both living in the family home; while his sister, Ellen Jane Taylor (28), was living at Brookland Stores, Brookland, Ashford, Kent. The married couple moved from Triggs Row, Teynham, where her husband had been an Assistant Grocer). Other siblings in the family tree (below) were infant deaths.

East Kent Gazette of 4th January 1919
DALTON: On December 13th, at Étaples, France, from broncho-pneumonia, John, the dearly loved second son of Mrs. Dalton, Barrow Green, Teynham, in his 21st year. From his sorrowing Mother, Sister, and Brother.

East Kent Gazette of 13th December 1919

IN MEMORIAM: DALTON: In loving memory of a dear son and brother, Private John Dalton, 3rd West Yorkshire Regiment, who died at Etaples, France, from pneumonia, December 13th, 1918.

Free from all sorrow, grief, and pain,
Our loss is his eternal gain.
From his loving Mother and Brothers.

Soldier's Effects. Having died in hospital, John had some tangible personal possessions that were sent to his mother comprising: Photos, pipe, wallet, purse, two religious books, badges and titles, 2 note books and a "wound stripe". His extremely limited period serving overseas probably explains the lack of War Gratuity and outstanding pay because he did not meet the required threshold?

He was posthumously awarded the Victory and British War Medals. [See Appendix 1]

Military Experience of John Dalton

Private John Dalton enlisted on 23rd November 1916, signed up on 24th November, into the Reserved Battalion for the Cavalry Regiment." From this training Battalion, John was transferred into the 5th West Yorkshires.

John Dalton's records show episodes of sickness associated with his chest - which had been commented on as 'under developed'. The first was for catarrh and bronchitis at Canterbury Military Hospital between 14th and 30th December 1916.

He was transferred out of the Cavalry Regiment (receiving Cavalry rates of pay) initially into the 33rd Infantry Brigade Depot and then (26th October 1917) three days later into the 2/7th Battalion. From the Depot, John was posted into the 1st Battalion (6th Division) on 29th October 1917.

Already carrying a question-mark over his chest development, John received a "gunshot wound of the chest. Simple flesh contusion or wound." He was first admitted to the 18th Field Ambulance then moved to No.3 Casualty Clearing Station before being moved to the Base. On 21st March 1918, John was transferred to Sick Convoy.

The War Diary for February 1918 places John close to Annequin, East of Bethune; relief was back to Beuvry. He was "In the Line" from 17th to 24th February, after which he was again in Beuvry and his Battalion provided working parties to (e.g.) bury cables.

It is not clear how John was injured but the process of "Relief" is a good candidate. He was serving in the left Sub-sector of the HULLUCH SECTOR. They were subject to the risks of Relief as well as being subjected to sustained Trench Mortar fire. The Battalion Diary reads:

20th March: Weather fine – Situation normal – Enemy artillery active in back areas.
21st March: Weather fine and warm – Enemy dropped a Trench Mortar barrage on reserve line and heavy M.G. fire on N. Posts of Outpost Company at 11.30 pm and continued until 12.45p.m. No casualties were caused.
22nd March: Weather fine and warm – Situation normal.

On 28th March 1918, John Dalton was formally "posted" to the "B.E.F." but this was a technical posting out of the 7th Canadian General Hospital (Étaples) into UK Depot aboard the "St. Denis" as he was hospitalised with a second serious bout of sickness that was described as "inflamed connective tissue - chest", for which he was admitted to the 3rd Northern General Hospital, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. This second admission may have been related to his earlier injury and general weakness of his chest. He was discharged two months later, on 27th May 1918 - "Condition better. To Duty I." He was transferred into the 3rd Battalion on 25th May 1918 - Reserve Battalion.

Circumstances of the death of John Dalton

With a track record of a weak the chest, John did not return to the British Expeditionary Force overseas until 21st November 1918, as part of the 9th Battalion West Yorkshires. He disembarked in France on 23rd November 1918. His service overseas came to an end from Bronco Pneumonia three weeks later with "Dangerous Pneumonia" on 6th December 1918.

We know that John died from complications arising from influenza - "Died from Bronco-Pneumonia from exposure whilst (at) Military duties at 7th Canadian General Hospital (Étaples)." With only three weeks active service, his role was not military in a fighting sense.

The Diary for November places John's Regiment in the area of HASPRES, between Cambrai and Valenciennes.
By 6th November, the Battalion was resting in Billets at LE TRIEZ. On 7th November, "a further advance was carried out, the Battalion being in Reserve. Good progress was made. The Battalion marched to ROISIN at 14.00 hours. On arrival there a further move was ordered to MEAURAIN and on to GUSSIGNIES. Two Companies remained in the Chateau at GUSSIGNIES the other two Companies were in a Sunken Road close by." They rested in Billets at HERGIES from 8th November.
The speed of advance led to a lack of rations so that, on 9th November, "No rations arrived but a certain amount of bully and biscuits were dropped by aeroplanes."
"10th November: The Battalion front was taken over by troops of the 20th Division during the day a new position being taken up by the 32nd Infantry Brigade, the Battalion being in BOIS BOURDON. Cavalry patrols were pushed out to gain touch with the enemy.
11th November: Orders received that the 63rd Division were going through 34th Infantry Brigade being in Support. On arrival of the latter Brigade the 32nd Brigade were ordered to proceed to GUISIGNES CHAUSEE.
The move was cancelled however on receipt of Brigade Order to cease hostilities at 11.00 hours."

With cessation of hostilities, the Battalion moved from BOIS BOURDON by route march to billet in WALLERS from 29th November.

It is here that John Dalton was serving at the time he fell so seriously ill.

At WALLERS, the whole of December is described in one entry: "Battalion engaged in cleaning up, sanitary work, inspections, etc. Training principally consisted of Ceremonial Drill, route-marching Physical Training, etc.

A number of Coal-miners have been demobilized during the month.
Most of the men are billeted in private houses, a large number of them having civilian beds.

Christmas was quietly spent, the troops were specially well catered for, there being an abundance of Turkeys, Pork, and Plum puddings in addition to the usual rations, extra issues of cigarettes, cigars, chocolate, beer and wine were also made.

The Brigade Concert party produced their second Xmas Pantomime on Boxing night. A good deal of entertainment has been provided during the month, including Boxing Competitions, Football, Dances, etc. The Battalion has now settled down in earnest to the important task of clearing the area of all salvage.

The Battalion having settled in comfortable quarters for the winter, this period has been devoted to Salvage work in the Area, short Regimental Parades, Education and a variety of Sports, dances and entertainments all of which have been keenly attended by all ranks.

A considerable number of them – roughly 300 men - and 5 officers ... have been demobilised and the Battalion strength much reduced in consequence."

Family of John Dalton

Family tree for John Dalton of Teynham

Additional Documents

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald carried this report on 15th February 1919, which serves to illustrate how the epidemic was being experienced at home and how indiscriminate it was as to age, gender, or occupation:


The following interesting report on the influenza epidemic in Faversham during the past year was presented at the meeting of the Faversham Town Council last week:-

During the year there were two distinct outbreaks of Influenza, one in July and one in October, November and December. The former in this district was comparatively mild in character and only caused two deaths, but the latter was very severe and widespread and caused many deaths being the worst since 1890, if it did not surpass that in severity, as many believe.

(Week ending)
February 9th
  2 to 5 years
July 20th
  5 to 15 years
August 24th
  15 to 25 years
October 19th
  25 to 45 years
October 26th
  45 to 65 years
November 2nd
  Over 65 years
November 9th
November 16th
November 23rd
November 30th
December 7th
December 14th

NOTE.- Over 80 per cent of the deaths occurred between the ages of 15 and 45 - the prime of life - not in extreme old age or infancy.
Six of these deaths should be referred to other districts.

It is difficult to estimate the number of cases that occurred; but between two and three thousand would not be an over-estimate I should say if all the slight cases are included; on this basis the case mortality is low; but the death-rate among the complicated cases was very high indeed; there were few deaths from influenza pure and simple; but when certain complications set in they were most refractory to treatment. Pneumonia was the most formidable symptom, but many died without any gross signs having developed; apparently from a general Toxaemia. In some cases the complications might have been attributed to exposure of want of early treatment, but in others they developed in spite of every care.

Previous attacks did not seem to afford any protection, in fact persons who had had attacks in June had second attacks in October.

The large number of cases and their severity made it very difficult to obtain proper nursing; the Cottage hospital and the Nursing Home were utilised for the worst cases. The infectivity of the disease seemed to be greatest where many people were gathered together, as in schools and factories, and seemed to be lessened by dilution with fresh air; free ventilation gave more protection from attacks than anything I could discover.


Leaflets were distributed based on the recommendations of the Local Government Board and large placards were publicly exhibited.

The Infant Departments and one Girl Department of the Public Elementary Schools were closed for a time; also all the Sunday Schools. Also the afternoon performances of the public entertainments in the town.

Owing to the impossibility of obtaining nurses or help of any kind, it was impossible for the Authority to make any public provision of this nature.

The outbreak was so universal that it was impossible to say that any particular occupation or district was effected more than others.

I am, Yours obediently, CHARLES J. EVERS. M.D., M.O.H.
January 1919.

The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 1st March 1919 also contained official advice on management that appear almost impossible to adhere to for large families in small homes or crowded tenements; the need to work to buy the food or doctor's time needed; soldier's at all times; naval personnel. All that said, subsequent research questions whether this influenza discriminated according to occupation.


The following memorandum has been issued by the Local Government Board of precautions to be taken by the public:-

The golden rule is to keep fit, and avoid infection as much as possible.

The way to keep fit is to cultivate healthy and regular habits, to eat good food, and to avoid fatigue, shill and alcoholism. Healthy living does not of itself ensure against attack, but it makes the patient better able to withstand the complications which kill.

The early symptoms of influenza are usually those of a severe feverish cold. Though the actual cause of the disease is unknown, we do know that it is rapid in onset, that it is most infectious in its early stages, and that it is spread by discharges from the mouth and nose, and that it kills mainly by its complications. Every person suffering from the disease, no matter how mild the form, is a danger to others.

It is not always possible to avoid infection, but the risks can be lessened by - Healthy living, working and sleeping in well-ventilated rooms, avoiding crowded gatherings and close, ill-ventilated rooms, wearing warm clothing, gargling the throat and washing out the nostril, by wearing a mask and glasses when nursing or in attendance on a person suffering from influenza.

Do not waste money on drugs in the false hope of preventing infection.

Those attacked should go home, go to bed, and keep warm. Call in a doctor. Occupy, if possible, a separate bedroom or bed that is screened off from the rest of the room. When coughing or sneezing, hold a handkerchief in front of the mouth; the handkerchief should be boiled, or burnt if of paper. use a gargle, consisting of a solution of common salt (one teaspoonful to a pint of warm water) to which a few crystals of potassium permanganate are added - enough to make the solution pink. Be careful during convalescence in order to avoid relapse or complications. Avoid meetings and places of entertainment for at least one week after the temperature has become normal.

The mask, which may be made of gauze (four layers) or butter muslin (three layers), should cover the mouth and nose. To protect the eyes it is advisable to wear goggles.

It is stated that no drug has yet been proved to have any specific influence as a preventive of influenza."

[Note: the same newspaper carried claims from snuff retailers that those who took snuff appeared to be protected....]

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