Rifleman 5917 John Heath

Heath John 96 428x600

Died Home on Sunday, 18th October 1914, age 34.
Buried in Grave PP. 105. at Sheerness (Isle-Of-Sheppey) Cemetery, Kent, United Kingdom.

6th Bn., King's Royal Rifle Corps.

Husband of Mrs Betsy Heath, of 12a Tudor Street, Coneygree, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Dudley, Enlisted: Lichfield, Resident: Unknown.

Never served abroad.
Medal entitlement: No medal entitlement.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3057560/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
1 Court 5 House, Horseley Heath, Tipton, Staffs.
James Heath (37, Coal Miner, born Penduck, Gloucester), his wife Eliza (33, born Tipton), and their 4 children: Elizabeth (14, born Tipton), John (11, born Tipton), Ada (7, born Tipton), and Eliza (2, born West Bromwich).

1901 Census
27 Tipton Road, Tividale, Rowley Regis, Staffs.
James Heath (46, Coal Miner - Hewer, born Gloucester), his wife Eliza A. (44, born Tipton), and their 7 children: John (22, Stoker of Stationary Engine, born Tipton), Ada (19, Housemaid, born Tipton), Eliza (13, born Tipton), Tom (11, born West Bromwich), Lilly (6, born Tipton), and James (1, born Rowley Regis).

1911 Census
6 Tividale Street, Tipton, Staffs.
James Heath (56, General Labourer, born Gloucester), his wife Eliza (54, born Tipton), and 5 of their 7 surviving children of 10: John (31, General Labourer, born Tipton), Eliza Ann Ellesmore (22, Married, born Tipton), Thomas William (17, born West Bromwich), Lillian (15, born Tipton), and James (11, born Tividale).

Marriage of John Heath and Betsy Edwards registered December quarter 1911 at Dudley (12th November 1911).
Birth of Mary Jane Heath registered March quarter 1915 at Dudley (21st March 1915).

Personal Data

Brother of James Heath.

John Heath enlisted with the King's Royal Rifles Corps (KRRC) on 27th January 1904. He was aged 23, a labourer, and described himself as Church of England. He was 5 feet 3¾ inches tall with a 36½-inch chest, weighed 134 pounds, had a 'sallow' complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. He had large burn scars over his right collar bone and the right side of his neck, also scars on both shins.

John stated that he had no previous military experience except for his current attachment to the 4th Battalion South Staffs, then the militia. This may not have been true as there is evidence of a prior enlistment in 1900, and in August 1905 he was found guilty at a Court Martial of 'fraudulent enlistment', and sentenced to 7 weeks imprisonment.

This did not prevent a military career as he spent the next 3 years serving in Malta and Egypt, being awarded a Good Conduct medal in October 1907. On 24th August 1908, his service came to an end and he transferred to the Reserves.

Strangely, John was convicted in civil court of 'wounding a pigeon' in February 1909, and then 'unlawfully killing a pigeon' in November 1910 and was imprisoned for a month. As a reservist this was recorded on his military records.

Action resulting in his death

At the outbreak of war John was still a reservist with the King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC); he was mobilised on 23rd August 1914 and attached to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion KRRC. The 6th were a Depot/Training unit and were based in Sheerness for most of the war. John was admitted to Sheerness Military Hospital on 6th October 1914, and died of pneumonia on 18th October. John never had the chance to serve abroad in the Great War, and hence had no medal entitlement.

John was buried on the 21st October at Sheerness Cemetery, Isle-Of-Sheppey, Kent. His widow Betsy was awarded a pension of 15 shillings per week for herself and their one child.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 31st October 1914
Soldier's Death.
The death is reported of Private John Heath of Dudley Port, no. 5917 of the King's Royal Rifles who died at Sheerness hospital on October 18th. The funeral took place at Sheerness with military honours on the 21st. The deceased leaves a widow, but no family.
Editor's Note: John's widow, Betsy, gave birth to a daughter 5 months later on 21st March 1915. The baby was named Mary Jane.