b. 19/01/1887 Manchester. d. 09/06/1964 Manchester
John Readitt (1897-1964) was born on 29th January 1897 at 34 Bamford Street, Clayton, Manchester, and was educated at the local St Cross Day School and also attended St Paul’s Sunday School and Church. Always a keen footballer, he played full back for a team in the Manchester Sunday School League. After leaving school he joined his father in his cobbling business in 600 Ashton New Road, Clayton, and on the eve of the start of the Great War, he and his father signed a ten year contract for repairing boots for Manchester United Football Club.
However, John wanted to “do his bit” and at the age of 17 he volunteered for the Army on 12th April 1915, joining the 6th (S) South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wale’s Volunteers), who had been formed on the outbreak of war. The Battalion, part of 38th Infantry Brigade, sailed from Avonmouth to Gallipoli in June 1915. At some stage, he suffered from severe frostbite. After the evacuation from the Peninsula, the Battalion moved to Egypt in February 1916 and then on to Mesopotamia after a short stay.
On 25th February 1917 at Alqayat-al-Gaharbigah Bend, Mesopotamia, Private Readitt advanced five times along a water-course in the face of heavy machine-gun fire at very close range, being the sole survivor on each occasion. These advances drove the enemy back and about 300 yards of the water-course was made good in an hour. After his officer had been killed, Private Readitt, on his own initiative, made several more advances. On reaching the enemy barricade he was forced to retire, but gave ground slowly continuing to throw bombs. When support reached him he held a forward bend by bombing until the position was consolidated.
After his VC action, he was unwell and spent some time in hospital in Kut-el-Amara. During the war he rose through the ranks to Sergeant and after the Armistice was transferred to Z Reserve and discharged from the Army on 18th July 1919. Four months later, he was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 26th November 1919. He then returned to work in the family business.
In March 1921, he married Lily at St Paul’s Church, Philips Park, Bradford, Manchester. The couple later had two sons, John and Frederick, as well as one daughter. In July, he was one of four local VCs introduced to the Prince of Wales when he was touring Lancashire. Three years later, on 12th July 1924, he was one of the official guests at the unveiling of the war memorial at St Peter’s Square, Manchester. After World War II, he attended the VE Parade celebrations in June 1946, and in 1956 attended the VC Centenary Celebrations at Hyde Park.
Between 1958 and 1962 he attended three of the VC/GC Association Dinners, as well as a special banquet in 1962. He died after a long illness at 2 Bury Brow, Clayton Bridge, Manchester on 9th June 1964, and he was buried in Gorton Cemetery, Manchester. The grave is shared by his widow, Lily, who died four years after John. On 27th April 2000 Spink’s sold his medals to Michael Ashcroft for £40,000. They included his VC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. He was also awarded the Al Valore Militare from Italy.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: GORTON CEMETERY, MANCHESTER.
John Readitt's medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
John Readitt VC is buried in Section Z, Grave 223.
War Illustrated, 11th August 1917
Manchester Cenotaph (courtesy of Steve Hoar)