John William Dovaston was born on 21st October 1893 in Atcham, Shropshire to Frances Henrietta Dovaston [née Maley] and her husband William Daniel Dovaston, the eldest of four children. His father’s profession on the 1911 census is shown as a solicitor.

John was educated at Wellington College in the years 1907-08 after which he attended Oswestry Grammar School for a short time.

He subsequently joined the 7th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) as a private soldier, No.19723, probably in the second half of 1915 before being sent over to France as part of a draft of re-enforcements in 1916. This is indicated by John’s lack of a 1914-15 Star, awarded to men who entered a theatre of war between 23rd November 1914 and 31st December 1915. The 7th Battalion had arrived in France on 28th September that year.

Another event closer to home that took place on 27th September 1915 attracted the attention of the press as the Birmingham Daily Post, amongst others, reported.

It is believed that at some stage during his Battalions contact with the enemy John was injured in some way and repatriated to England where he eventually ended up as a patient in the Berrington War Hospital, near Shrewsbury.

The hospital, built in 1793, was originally the Atcham Union Workhouse. In 1916 it was acquisitioned by the military and became the Berrington War Hospital, named after the nearby location of Berrington train station, before becoming successively a general hospital, maternity hospital and finally a geriatric hospital after the war. When the hospital closed down the buildings were put to use as administration offices and storage for the Shropshire Health Authority. However, these too were closed in 2000 and after a period of lying empty, the site was redeveloped into modern housing with the original main building being retained.

On Wednesday 2nd May 1917 Private John William Dovaston, latterly of 7th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. He was subsequently buried in Shrewsbury General Cemetery, Shropshire, to be joined later in the year by another OW, also a casualty of war. John is also commemorated on the War Memorial in the village of West Felton, near Oswestry.

The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) is perpetuated today in the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles.

See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for JW Dovaston.