John Gerard Annal

John Gerard Annal
Private John Gerard Annal, Somerset Light Infantry. Photograph published in The Wellingtonian Magazine:

John Gerard Annal was born in Warboys near St Ives, Huntingdonshire in 1892, the son of Henry Sinclair Annal and his wife Caroline (née Jowitt). Henry was a chemist and after marrying Caroline in 1888, he moved from Portsmouth to Warboys and finally settled in Melksham, Wiltshire, where the family were living in 1901[1].

When John was 14 he entered Wellington School, Somerset. He left in July 1908 and at the time of the 1911 census, aged 19, he was working as an apprentice to a chemist in Clevedon, Somerset[2].

On the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined the Somerset Light Infantry and after being shipped out to Bombay in November 1914, the regiment was sent to the Gulf in May 1915. A few months later, John was wounded and hospitalised but soon returned to action. In January 1916, his regiment was sent to Basra as part of the 37th Indian Brigade and, in April 1916, while fighting in Mesopotamia, John was wounded again and captured by Turkish forces. He was held as a Prisoner of War but died of dysentery on 15 June 1916.

That we know so much about him and his experiences in the war is thanks to a series of letters written by John to his old headmaster, George Corner, and published in the school magazine, The Wellingtonian. The letters have been transcribed and can be read here: Lives Of The First World War.

Melksham War Memorial. Photo:

John was buried in the Prisoner of War Cemetery at Mosul[3]. It seems that his body was later exhumed and buried in a war cemetery (probably Basra)[4]. He is commemorated on panel 12 of the Basra War Memorial. His name also appears on the Melksham War Memorial in Canon Square and on memorials at Melksham United Reform Church and St Michael’s Church, Melksham. There is also a memorial plaque for the Somerset Light Infantry at Wells Cathedral on which it can be assumed John’s name appears.

He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star and the Victory and British medals[5][6]. His entry in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects shows that his effects (valued at £19 17s 4d) were left to his father[7].


John Gerard Annal (Apprentice Chemist, Soldier) 318906 Group G
Born: 1892, Warboys
Died: 15 June 1916, Mesopotamia
Father: Henry Sinclair Annal (Chemist) 318511
Mother: Caroline Jowitt 338506

John was named after his grandfather, John Gerard Annal (1818-1894). This older John was born at Grimness, South Ronaldsay and left Orkney as a young man to join the Coastguard. He eventually became a Chief Officer of the Coastguard in Goodwick, Pembrokeshire.



1901-Henry S & Caroline Annal census Melksham RG13-1930 f.24 p.5
1901 census, Henry S & Caroline Annal, Melksham. TNA ref. RG13/1930 f.24 p.5

1911-John Gerard Annal census Clevedon RG14-14803 s.132
1911 census, John Gerard Annal, Clevedon. TNA ref. RG14/14803 s.132

Grave Registration Report, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Index No.MR38, Basra Memorial Part 1 p.8

Grave Registration Report Form (Concentration), Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Iraq 64, Schedule 3c.Rev p.41

John G Annal Medal Index Card First World War WO 372-1-98316
Medal Index Card, First World War TNA ref. WO372/1/98316

Service Medal and Award Roll, First World War WO329-889
Service Medal and Award Roll, First World War TNA ref. WO329/889

John Gerard Annal-Register of Soldiers' Effects National Army Museum 1991-02-333 No.580892
Register of Soldiers’ Effects. National Army Museum ref. 1991-02-333 No.580892


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