John George Swanson, a career soldier, was the among the first Rutland soldiers to die in battle during the First World War when he was killed during the retreat from Mons just thirteen days after landing in France. He was born at Ryhall on 9 June 1875, the son of John Swanson and his wife. John started his army career with the Militia Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, joining up at Grantham in May 1893. In June the same year, he enlisted in the regular 1st Battalion and had a long and varied service career. He first went abroad in February 1894 to Malta, where he remained for two years, and from there went with his regiment to Egypt. He took part in the Atbara campaign in the Second Sudan War, and the fight for Khartoum, and was awarded the Egyptian medal and two clasps, as well as Queen Victoria's Medal. From Egypt he embarked for India, where he spent several years, coming back to England with his regiment in 1913. By now he had been promoted to Sergeant, and was for a time Acting Sergeant Major. He was then posted to Portsmouth where he was due to finish his 21 years' service. But the First World War broke out and so he remained with the Lincolnshires. His battalion helped make up the British Expeditionary Force and John took part in the retreat from Mons. He was reported missing on 26 August, at Inchy as the British stood and fought at Le Cateau. He had been left behind on the ground severely wounded, and was subsequently reported as having died. He was 39 years old. John's grave was lost during the war and so he is remembered on La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial and also on Ryhall's war memorial. His "widow's penny," the bronze plaque given to every family of a soldier who died, is pictured below. In 2014, John's nephew Kenneth Plant left a wreath at the church in Ryhall on the exact hour of the day he died a hundred years ago. Its inscription reads: "The day we lost an uncle, and Ryhall lost a son".
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