John Lawrence

Stop number YELLOW 10: Continue walking along this lower path until you reach the uphill path that goes past the large white broken column for the six men killed in 1902 when digging the High Wycombe to Marylebone railway line. (Incidentally one of the survivors from this disaster, Bertram Smith, was to lose his life in WW1.) The CWGC grave for John Lawrence is on your right, opposite the Railway Six monument.
J Lawrence CWGC grave
J Lawrence CWGC grave
Now read the story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for the Page story.

John Lawrence's grave The Pineapple pub, West Wycombe Road
John Lawrence's grave The Pineapple pub, West Wycombe Road
John Lawrence 1879-1916

My name is John Lawrence and I was born in 1879. I was born and raised on the outskirts of High Wycombe. We were never a wealthy family and worked in the chair industry. My father, Henry had been a chair maker, my mother Ann was a chair caner and it was only natural, after my father’s death, that I followed them into the chair making industry. I became a chair polisher. Our household always seemed very busy, noisy and chaotic especially when my little nephew Gilbert was around. However, this was nothing compared to the horrific sights and sounds of the Somme.

I joined the army in May 1916 and in July 1916 I was sent to France. I was based in the reserve trenches behind the front line near Couin Wood. The noise was indescribable. Shells were going off every second with no way to escape. I experienced dreadful things whilst remaining in those trenches; things that I hope no one else will ever have to endure again.

In August 1916, I was home on leave in Wycombe. On the 8th August after having a shave and a wash, I was having dinner at about 1pm with my mother. I asked my mother if she would fetch me a drink and she went to the ‘Pineapple’, our local, to get it.

I had been very worried about my mother. She was not very well off financially and I was especially worried about her since I was to return to France in just 3 days. I knew that my mother was owed some money, but it worried me that I wouldn’t be able to help sort out the matter. The last words I ever said to my mother were ‘I have got three more days to be with you, Mother.’ Whilst she was out getting my drink, a wave of despair overwhelmed me. It all suddenly seemed so pointless. Everything seemed so uncertain, and I knew that in just a few days I would return to the bloodbath of the Somme. It all became too much, and it was at this point that I decided to take my own life.

At 1.55pm, Gilbert came by to see me and my mother. He asked my mother where I was, and she answered that she wasn’t sure. He noticed that the stair door was ajar, and concluded that I was upstairs. It was there he found me, suspended from the bed rail. Gilbert immediately removed the cord from around my neck, but it was too late.

At the inquest into my death, witnesses came forward to say that I had seemed very worried about what would happen to my mother when I went back to France. This was very true, and my thoughts were also consumed by what was waiting for me back on the front line. The Coroner’s verdict was suicide while in a fit of temporary insanity.

John Lawrence researched and performed by Isolde, Wycombe Abbey
John Lawrence researched and performed by Isolde, Wycombe Abbey
To see the performance on YouTube click here.

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