CWG: Private John Blake

Private John Blake

John George Blake was born early in 1878, and was the oldest of seven children. His father, Job, was a general labourer, and, with Eliza, John’s mother, brought the young family up in the West Sussex town of Worthing.

Job died in 1898, ages just 36 years old; Eliza found work as a housekeeper, while John was employed as a carter for the railway. By the 1901 census, the family were living in a terraced house near the centre of town, Eliza living there with her three sons, two daughters, son-in-law and granddaughter.

In October 1904, John married Alice Attwater, a labourer’s daughter from mid-Sussex. The couple moved into a house close to the station and went on to have four children; John Jr, Ernest, Bertha and Dorothy. John was by now working as a porter for the railway, a role he continued through to the outbreak of war.

John enlisted in November 1914; he joined the Royal Sussex Regiment, working as a member of the depot staff. Private Blake was shipped overseas, arriving in France in March 1916.

Almost exactly a year after landing in France, John was injured in the line of duty. The medical report confirmed that a “scald on the left arm and neck [had] occurred while on duty on March 1st 1917, in France. He was preparing hot soup for his company in the front line at midnight. He was not to blame. Injury caused by enemy shelling the company kitchen“.

Private Blake was shipped back to England for treatment, and admitted to Netley Hospital near Southampton. While there, he contracted phthisis (tuberculosis), which left his totally incapacitated. He was medically discharged from military service in August 1917.

Further details of John’s life are scarce. He returned home to his family, although whether he took up his job again is unknown. He passed away on 22nd June 1919 at the age of 41. The cause of his death is unknown, although it seems likely to have been related to the tuberculosis.

John George Blake lies at rest in the Broadwater Cemetery of his home town, Worthing.

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