John Lawrence Viles

John Lawrence Viles
Born at Bluntisham in 1892, John was the eldest of three children delivered to John, a railway worker, and Althea (née Lawrence). In 1901 the family lived at Darwood Place, St Ives. By 1911 they had moved to The Wilderness, St Ives. John worked as a grocery assistant for local grocers Johnson and Randall. John's mother died in 1911 aged 43yrs, when John was 20yrs.

John enrolled with the Hunts Cyclists and probably spent the first months of service on coastal defence in Lincolnshire. He was transferred to the Tank Corps.

Tanks were first used in WWI at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916. Initial performance was mixed, and the tanks were notoriously unreliable. Plodding along at four miles per hour, they did do a great deal to increase mobility and break the stalemate of trench warfare.
WW1 tank
World War I tank at the Front
John survived many battles in his tank. In January 1918 a flu pandemic arose. Initially the symptoms were typical, but in August 1918 a more deadly strain began in France. October 1918 was the most deadly month, the pandemic lasting through to 1920. Between 50 and 100 million people died worldwide.

On 9 October 1918 John was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. It is likely he caught the influenza virus and this lead to pneumonia. He died the following day, Wednesday 10 October 1918, aged 27yrs. He is buried at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, France.

First news of his death was published in the Hunts County News on 18 October 1918. The grieving family posted a memorial in the same edition. More news was published on 25 October 1918.

Do you have a photograph of John or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1901 Census
1911 Census
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Commemorative Certificate

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