John Swift BUTLER

24/10/1917, 28 Years.
Rank/Service No.:
Sapper 239441
with Engineers, Railway Operating Division.

Grave Section:
Grave No.:
[Kerb] Also / ELIZABETH BUTLER, / who died Jan. 2nd 1926, / in her 78th years.

[CWGC Grave] 239441 Sapper / J.S. BUTLER / Royal Engineers / 24th October 1917

GPS Accuracy (Feet): 16



Burials Register

Register: 5
Page: 456
Page (Row): 31
Burial Entry: 96231
Grave Type: Consecrated
Grave Number: 6067
Forename(s): John Swift
Surname: BUTLER
Abode_Name: 27, Banstead Terrace, Leeds
Description: Soldier, Died At Hospital, West Bridgeford, Notts.
Buried: 2 November 1917
Age: 28 Years
Minister: G. A. Dearden


Enlistment Date: December 29th 1915
BUTLER, Spr. John Swift, 239441. R.O.D. Royal Engineers. 24th Oct., 1917. Leeds (Beckett Street) Cemetery. "C." 6067.

Additional Information

Pre-war, single living with immediate family at 100 Devonshire Street, Sheffield. Employment not known.

A letter in his service record, comments that he had "poor appetite" and "showed weakness" in hospital and that he swallowed concentrated acid as he "feared the possibility of returning to France". All of this culminated in him suffering "depression"

Contained within this same letter is a word that would appear to be similar to that of 'inguinal', which is the groin area of the body. This combined with the mention of the word 'operation' would suggest that Butler suffered significant damage in that area. Further reading of the letters say this was an `inguinal hernia`, not necessarily an injury caused by the war, but there is still a chance that it occurred due to the war.

Also in his service record is a letter found in his pocket, addressed to his mother. Sadly, the first page of this letter has worn down so much that there is no ink present on the sheet. However, there are some sections in the second page that have survived. In this he admits that his father and others may see him as a "coward", but continues "thank goodness" he did not have to re-join the army.

Due to the fact that he committed suicide, which was not viewed as dying honourably, there is a letter requesting the removal of his commemorative plaque and scroll, (this request would appear to have been ignored!)


Source; Ancestry. Key to codes: -= one word missing
- = multiple words missing
(with letters) = some letters of the word present

Letter 1:
letter to 27 Banstead Terrace, Leeds (home of Butler's family).

The first sentence unreadable, however there are the numbers '3049'.
----regret to inform you 239441 J. S. Butler RE. died 4.30pm 24th October at Military Hospital West Bridgford Notts. For funeral arrangements apply officers in charge that hospital.

Captain, Asst, to 0. i/o R.E (at this point the name became too crushed in the stamping to fill in)

Letter 2:
this damaged letter would appear to have been burned, with parts of the ink appearing to have been rubbed out. Name of the sender is removed by these burns, however 'Capt' can be made out just above the burnt area. This could be the same Captain as in the previous letter, as it is also possible to read the heading of one of the military offices based in Chatham.

Butler 239441 R.E. was 28 years of age when admitted to the Pavilion Auxiliary Hospital West Bridgford, Nottingham on Sept 22nd 1917. He was sent home from France in order to be operated upon for Inguinal Hernia, the operation however was never performed --- the condition of his general health was considered '... tory.

- under my care in hospital he showed evidence of general weakness, his appetite was poor, he---dly and had considerable mental depression .... feared the possibility of being ordered back to France.
October 4th 1917. I recommended that he be ... fered to Military Hospital
(convalescent) at and was awaiting the allot d.
the 29th 1917. He was discovered in an -- dition lying in a field in
the vicinity of the hospital.
He was immediately ed to the hospital, he never regained consciousness but
died within a few hours.
A coroner's inquest was held and it was disco-- that he died from swallowing a
of pure c..bolic acid.'

Letter 3:
this letter is considerably more damaged than the previous letter. It is not visible who it has come from or where it is going, but one thing is instantly noticeable - the title "Nottingham soldier's pathetic letter"
'Although he sent a letter stating that he feared be -- sent to France, a West
Bridgford jury had no hesitation- ing yesterday that a young Sapper in the
-ineers, named John Swift Butler, committed -ui lst of unsound mind.
Williams, the deputy coroner for the county d the inquest at the
Mousters Road Miitary H- - ion, of Julian Road, West Bridgford a nurse --
V.A.D hospital, identified body as that home is in Roundhay Rd,
Leeds. -- Monday that he was lying in a ditch in a -- some distance from the hospital she went there and unconscious condition. She attended him-- -
- to them taken to the V.A.D hospital where later. Butler was depressed at
times of going back to France where he had -en on service.
Dorothy --, the sister in charge of hospital to which deceased was -- on September 22nd said, he had not been wounded and feared that he would have to go back to France. He appeared to be-- comfortable at the hospital.
In his pocket was a letter to his mother as follows. 'Will you oblige me by coming to see me as ....'
(At this point the page of this particular letter page ends. On the second page the letter is almost completely blank and only a few words are viewable on the inverted colours view, therefore the following is of the third page)
-- anything . I can help it.
If I got sent away it would break my -- .
I am putting you to a lot of trouble yet now, God help me to bear it. My word, I know if
you could help me a lot. I said I would pay exponentially could get my
father to let you come. not face it at home as I know what my brothers
-- of me "a coward". But thank goodness the army. I '
[the letter ended abruptly. It bore no signature.]

Dr. Treseider's evidence showed that Butler was admitted to the Pavilion Auxiliary
Military Hospital, from France to undergo an operation. The operation was not
performed, however poor condition of his that he (this gap is more
sizeable than the others roughly four lines long)
Contained carbolic body of the deceased. The - for injecting
purposes and would supplied to a wounded -- by a chemist, so must have
been -- for --. He had not either who or supplied it.'
(the final page is so damaged it is almost impossible to read, however one small fragment says)
'....that the man was in fact a coward.'

The coroner's conclusion was that Butler committed suicide at West Bridgford, Notts Military Hospital. His family did receive his Victory Medal though.