John Ernest Doorbar was born on July 24th 1881 in Biddulph; the youngest son of Hugh and Margaret. In 1891 the family resided at the Royal Oak Inn on the High Street, where Hugh was the publican. By 1901 Hugh had died and John and his widowed mother lived in John Street. The 1911 census records John as single, 29 years of age and a miner. He was still living with his widowed mother and sisters at Fern Cottage, Lower John Street.
John’s older brother, Timothy Sherratt Doorbar, had served with the Cheshire Regiment through the 1900-02 campaigns in South Africa. A local newspaper reported that Timothy had the Queen’s medal with five clasps for Paardeberg, Drufontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, and the relief of Kimberley and that he also held the King’s South African medal with two clasps.
A photograph survives of John’s other brother, George Done Doorbar, in military uniform – but as yet it has not been possible to find any information on this brother’s military service. Perhaps John was encouraged by his older brothers’ exploits and adventures and so enlisted at the Biddulph recruiting office in the late summer of 1914 – joining the local company of the 1/5th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment. Training was initially at the Butterton Hall camp near Newcastle-under-Lyme in drill, marching and discipline. Following this the battalion then moved to the Harpenden/Luton area for their intensive training.
With training complete the pals were now attached to the 46th North Midland Division, where they were inspected by King George V in February 1915. On March 14th, they embarked at Southampton to cross the English Channel. John and his many Biddulph pals were now on their way to foreign parts and war, arriving at Le Havre to move forward to their concentration area for the final preparation for the battlefield.
Events were moving fast at the front with the division ordered to the Ypres salient where the 2nd Battle of Ypres was to be fought. By July the division held positions adjacent to the railway cutting near the village of Zillebecke, preparing for an attack on Hill 60. The 1/5th North Staffords in which John served in ‘A’ Company, No 3 platoon, were now a close target of the vicious enemy field guns and the brave men were in newly dug trenches which were far from ideal for their protection.
On Sunday July 25th 1915, as a result of heavy shelling, John Ernest Doorbar sadly lost his life. He had served only five months at the front. He died the day after his 34th birthday. Near to where he fell at the now beautiful Larchwood Railway Cutting Cemetery, Private Doorbar lies at rest. In August, an account appeared in the Chronicle that reported: “Two Biddulph soldiers namely Private C. Wilshaw and Lance Corporal Robinson were part of the burial party”.
On August 28th 1915 the Sentinel printed a letter from Private A. Wallett, a Brown Lees man, who went out with some of the Butterton Hall contingent in the 1st-5th North Staffords. Private Wallet said, “All of his company felt the death of Private J.E. Doorbar. They had placed a cross, with his name burned on it, over his grave.”
By October Lance Corporal Robinson had also fallen on the field at the infamous Hohenzollern Redoubt attack.
John Ernest Doorbar is commemorated on the Biddulph churchyard memorial and the cenotaph on the High Street.
Kath Walton & Mike Turnock.