JB began his life in the
city of Liverpool in August 1929. He was surrounded by a very
close knit family of whom he was fiercely proud. He was a fantastic
brother to his loving sister and an inspirational role model to
all that knew him.
John paid very close attention to his family and their respective
welfares. He was highly regarded by them all, and someone that
they could all turn to in difficult times - he was in fact their
little hero. They regularly visited JB at his little Hacienda
in Spain and spent some wonderful times there together. He will
be sorely missed by each and every one of them.
From a military point of view, JB's career began with National
Service in 1947, where he served with the South Lancashire Regiment.
He saw service in Trieste, Austria from where he was demobbed.
Civilian life did not suit John and after five years he enlisted
as a regular soldier into his beloved regiment XX The Lancashire
Fusiliers and began his service in Cyprus as a Regimental Drummer.
Unfortunately for JB the drum straps that supported the side drum
were a standard size and John found it difficult to march as he
kept tripping over the drum. To make amends, he was posted to
a Rifle Company as a Rifleman.
I would like to point out that during the EOKA Campaign John was
awarded a mention in Dispatches for an Act of Duty above and beyond
the call of his normal duties, of which I am certain his family
are very proud.
At the end of 1959 the Battalion was posted to Osnabruck, Germany
and once settled in, JB became the Battalion Sports Storeman,
and as a very keen footballer, he took charge of the Battalion
Football Team. It was also at this time Lt. Colonel James Wilson
took command of the unit, later to become General Sir James Wilson
K.B.E.M.C who also was very keen on football. He wrote the main
football columns for the Sunday Times. One afternoon whilst watching
JB coaching the team he decided that JB's coaching tactics were
twenty years out-of-date and ordered John to return to the UK
and report to Everton Football Club and to the then Manager Harry
Catterick. This had all been pre-arraged by the CO.
JB returned two weeks later with volumes of pamphlets on football
skills. As a result, the Battalion football team flourished from
this new found information as to how the modern game should be
played and it was from this moment on that the name 'Spartacus'
was bestowed on JB by Colonel James - a name he is still known
JB's other passion was helping to train the Battalion boxing team.
The most poignant moment that I can recall was our journey to
16 Light Ack Ack Battalion only to find that one of the team failed
to make the regulated weight. Rather than loose the two points
Spartacus stepped up to the mark to represent the Battalion. His
opponent was 6ft tall and hit JB that many times that John thought
that the 600 spectators present were all throwing gloves at him.
Even though the towel was thrown into the ring, Spartacus kicked
it out and finished the fight. Speaking to John after the fight
he asked how did I think he had done. I replied "at the end
of the second you had him worried, he thought he had killed you".
John also had a unique talent as an impersonator and his renderings
of Dame Shirley Bassey 'Big Spender' and Louis Armstrong's 'What
a Wonderful World' was something to behold. Standing on stage
with a white handkerchief and belting out the lyrics - the highlight
of some wonderful evenings in The Corporal's and Sergeant's messes.
All of us present here today will remember our own good times
with JB and I am sure that you will all agree that the legacy
he leaves behind will be that of a man who loved his family and
friends, his Regiment and the uniform he wore. A man who never
spoke ill of anyone and will be remembered for a long time to
In closing, may I express the family's and the regiment's sincere
thanks for the wonderful care that JB has received during his
stay here at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.