John Thomas Belfield was born in 1884 and baptised on 31 May 1885 at St Peter's Church, Macclesfield, the son of Sarah and James Belfield, a carter of 10 Pool Street. In 1891, seven-year-old John was living at the same address with his parents and siblings Joseph (8), James (5) and baby Hannah (9 months). Ten years later in 1901, John was employed as a silk weaver, the family was at the same address and included three more children: Wilfred (6), Amy (3) and Edith (2).
By the time of the 1911 census, John's mother had died, the family included two more boys, William Ewart (9) and Fred (7), and John was employed as a bricklayer.
The family later moved to Daybrook Street.
When war was declared in August 1914, John quickly volunteered for service with the local 7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment as 2105 Pte. John Belfield. Three of his elder brothers had already served with the army before the war: William Belfield and Joseph Belfield with the 7th Cheshire's (Territorial Force), and James Belfield with the Royal Horse Artillery.
Having survived the 1/7th Cheshire's disastrous debut at Suvla Bay, John experienced conditions on the Gallipoli peninsula that defied description (in the summer heat, flies and other vermin flourished in bloated, unburied corpses, causing epidemic sickness, whilst the winter brought storms and freak blizzards that resulted in dreadful hardship and suffering).
Following evacuation, John and the remnants of his battalion recovered and re-equipped in Egypt before participating in numerous actions in Palestine (at Gaza, El Mughar, Jerusalem and Tel 'Asur). The 1/7th Cheshire's were subsequently redeployed to the Western Front and arrived in France in June 1918, where they took part in the Battles of the Marne, Soissonais, Ourcq, the capture of Baigneux Ridge, and the final Battle of Ypres where the Battalion was involved in the fighting in the Ypres Salient, Flanders.
It was during the latter that John Belfield was fatally wounded. Precise details are not known but he would have received emergency treatment from the Cheshire's medical officer at an Aid Post just behind the front line, before evacuation to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinge. There, surgeons would have done all that was possible to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries and died on 5th October 1918, a veteran of the campaigns in Gallipoli, Palestine and France.
John Belfield's death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 25 October 1918:
PTE JACK BELFIELD, Ches Regt, whose sister resides at 26 Daybrook St, Macclesfield, has been killed in France... Pte Belfield, who was 26 years of age, enlisted in the local Territorials shortly after the outbreak of war, and served in the Dardanelles, Egypt, Palestine, and France. While in Gallipoli he had an attack of dysentery. He was educated at Daybrook Street School and before enlistment was employed by Messrs J and T Brocklehurst (1911) Ltd. Deceased attended St Peter's Church and was a member of the football team. Pte Belfield was over on leave three weeks ago.
Private John Belfield is buried in grave ref. XXIV. H. 26A at the nearby Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) holds casualty details for Private John Belfield, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, both John and his brother, William Belfield (who died in July 1917 and is buried in Macclesfield cemetery), are commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael's Church and St Peter’s Church war memorials.
As a tragic postscript, on 14th October 1918 (just nine days after John's death), his brother-in-law, James Ernest Corke, was killed in action in Belgium.
Brother of Joseph Belfield, who served with the RAMC and was unofficially reported killed by a friend in June 1916 after a shell fell on them, but who had in fact been taken to hospital and survived the war; Wilfred Belfield, who served with the 1/7th Cheshires and later as Sgt 286420 with the 468th Field Coy, Royal Engineers; Tom Belfield, who enlisted with the 2/7th Cheshire Regt but was discharged, and later served as Private 109170 with the 15th Sherwood Foresters; and James Belfield, who served with the motor cycle corps, machine-gun section and later as Cpl 203777 with the 537th Labour Corps.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages, Deaths
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: Holy Trinity Church, Hurdsfield
Cheshire Parish Marriage Registers: St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery website
Macclesfield Times: 25 October 1918
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.