John Henry Lawrance was born at Paddington, London in 1897 to Walter Edward (died 1954) and Harriet Alice Lawrance nee Pye.
The couple had three children John Henry b.1897, Leonard Walter b. 1901 and Violet Edna b.1903. They lived in Paddington and had a drapery business at 374 Harrow Road.
On the night of the 1901 census along with the couple and 2 children were 3 female drapers’ assistants, 1 female domestic servant and a nursemaid. Leonard at the time being only 1 month old.
Harriet sadly died in 1905 leaving Edward with three younger children and a business to run. It was hardly surprising then that in 1906 he married again to Fanny Christmas Yabsley.
By time the 1911 census was taken family along with their stepmother had relocated to Bodmin and owned and operated Lawrance Drapers on Fore Street, Bodmin. Edward had originally come from Constantine, Cornwall.
The shop in Bodmin
John Henry (Johnny) attended the School in Bodmin for six years and was also a Bodmin Boy Scout. When war broke out in 1914 Johnny would have been around 17 years old and although we do not know exactly when he enlisted we know that by 1916 he was serving soldier with the DCLI with whom he had attested as Private 23928.
It is unclear exactly which Battalion that he served with. He is mentioned in connection to the 1st, 2nd 3rd & 7th Battalion throughout his time with the Regiment.
In the winter of 1916 he was in the trenches in France and wrote a letter to his headmaster at Bodmin School;
“Our guns have now started giving the Huns a violent strafe, so I suppose it will not be long before theirs open – then goodbye to letter writing. Last night, by way of a change, they gave us a treat of tear shells which made us fish out our handkerchiefs and keep on dabbing our eyes. We could not have looked a more miserable lot if peace had been declared.”
Johnny managed to pass successfully through most of the heavy fighting that took place in the first Battle of the Somme and rose through the ranks. He was however selected on account of his good work for a commission with the Army and sent home to go to Officers Training School. On the 29th May of 1917 he was Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant into the DCLI and was attached to the 3rd Battalion.
In the April of 1918 the 1st Battalion DCLI had returned to France after spending time in Italy. Johnny now an officer was been quickly sent out to join the 1st Battalion who were at the front line of fighting. Before he left for France he took the time to go back into Bodmin School and have a chat with Mr Wilkinson the headmaster. Mr Wilkinson wrote:
“He looked in and had a long chat with me just before returning to France, talked most ch eerfully and hopefully of his work and expressed the hope that he would be home on leave again before Christmas when he would pay me another visit” Sadly this however was not to be the case. On the 20th August 1917 about five weeks after returning to France he was killed in action age just 20.
Mr Wilkinson the school headmaster said:
“He was a power for good in the school, ever ready to champion the cause of the weak”
Johnny was buried at Rolincourt Military Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the 2 war memorials in Bodmin, a small brass plaque dedicated to those Bodmin Boy Scouts who fell during the war (inside St Petrocs Church) and also the war memorial in Bodmin College which came from the old Harleigh Road School.