John William (Will) Darby

Date of birth: 1876
Place of birth: Derby
Regiment: South Lancashire
Battalion: 2/4th
Rank / Service No: Private, 29815
Died: 29th December 1917, aged 41 years
Buried: Cement House Cemetery, Langemarck, Belgium (Plot X, Row E, Grave 49)


It is difficult to ascertain what Will’s connection with Southampton was, but here is story nonetheless.


Will was the second of 4 known siblings born to Kidger and Mary Elizabeth Darby (nee Cowlishaw), who married in Derby in 1870.

It must be assumed that one child died in infancy.


Kidger was born in Ashby de la Zouch in 1844 and he died in Shardlow in 1929. Mary was born in Castle Donnington in 1847, and she passed away in Derby in 1919.

This is surely more than a coincidence, but the family lived at 74 Darby Street in Derby !!


Will married Ruth Sage in Burnley in 1909. Ruth was born in Bengal in 1881 and she passed away in Worthing in 1965.



Florence   b. 1873 Derby   d. 1955 Derby   Married Richard Curzon in Derby on 27 October 1901.

John William 

Walter Henry   b. 1880 Derby   d. 1973 Wellingborough   Married Maria Nevard in Derby on 12 November 1905.

Thomas   b. 1890 Normanton   d. 1937 Billesdon, Leicester   Married Elizabeth Milner in Derby in 1909. Married Jennie Augusta Tyler in Normanton in 1930.


The 2/4th Battalion was formed at Warrington in September 1914. It moved to Ashford in Kent on 8 February 1915, and was attached to the 172nd Brigade in the 57th Division.

The division moved to Aldershot for further training and on to Blackdown in October 1916. It landed at Boulogne on 16 February 1917 and took over the frontline north of Le Tilleloy.


The Division took part in the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 October – 7 November 1917) and there is the possibility that Will died of wounds received during this battle.


He probably was buried somewhere other than Cement House, and was one of many graves brought in from surrounding cemeteries and battle grounds after the Armistice.

The cemetery now contains 3,592 Commonwealth WW1 burials.


Will’s headstone reads: “ He lived to serve, living now in a larger world he still serves. “



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 29th June 2016


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