John Sorrell was born 1899 in Dudley, the son of William Sorrell, a miner and his wife Elizabeth. By the 1911 Census, Joseph is recorded as attending school, his older brothers sold sacks along with their mother. The family lived at 20 Ox Street, Ruiton in Dudley.
John was too young to volunteer at the outbreak of war, but he appears to have put his name down for call up under Lord Derby’s Scheme in 1915. He joined the 7th Worcestershire Regiment in early 1916. This was a territorial unit that was based in Kidderminster and recruited in Dudley, and he is likely to have served with the Reserve Battalion at home until he was 18.
John landed in France and was posted to the 1/7th Worcestershire Regiment sometime before March 1917. He was reported wounded in the Malvern News on the 5th May 1917, probably during the April when the battalion, along with the rest of the 48th Division pursued retiring German forces to the Hindenburg Line.
On recovery, John was posted back to the frontline, this time joining the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment. He killed in fighting over several days on the Menin Road east of Ypres, during the Passchendaele Offensive. In this period of bitter fighting the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment lost 9 officers and 208 other ranks – roughly half their fighting strength.
John Sorrell is buried at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, just north of the Menin Road. In addition to his commemoration at Christchurch Malvern, he also commemorated at St James the Great Church, Eve Hill, Dudley and on the Dudley Civic Memorial.
Tragically John was one of three brothers of the Sorrell family to be killed in France. Charles died on 5th July 1916 serving with the 22nd Machine Gun Company. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. His brother Joseph also served in the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment. He was killed in action on 26th September 1918, and is buried in Pigeon Ravine Cemetery, Epehy. A fourth brother, James, joined the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment and survived the war.
In the first few months of 1916, John married Rose Lewis – probably in Malvern (their marriage was recorded in Upton-upon-Severn Registration District which included the southern half of the town). The couple’s home address was 1 Yew Tree Cottage, Bellars Lane, Great Malvern – this may well have been Rose’s parents address.
Rose and John did not have any children together, but Rose had given birth to Leonard Grenville in May 1911. Prior to giving birth she had been living with her sister and brother in law at 8 St Mary’s Terrace, Arboretum, Worcester. Her occupation recorded at this time was gloveress (probably working at home rather than in one of the city’s glove factories).
Rose did not re-marry after the war. She was recorded at various addresses in Malvern, Dudley and Warwick during the 1920s and 1930s. The last record being at 8 Cherry Street, Warwick in 1939. Leonard died in Milton Keynes in 1995.
Malvern News 5/5/17
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
Medal Rolls WO 329: The Nataional Arhives