John Glenwright Heslop was born on 15 August 1891 in Hunwick, Co. Durham. His father George was a miner (a master wasteman in 1901) in the colliery there. His mother Margaret was a native of Cumberland, having been born in Allendale. John Heslop was a student at Bede College 1910-1912, boarding at 149 Gilesgate in the city with three other Bede men, Walter Holmes, Thomas Cook, and Joseph Atkinson, the last of whom who was killed in the conflict in his first engagement on 25 April 1915 at Ypres. In common with most of his fellow students he spent these two years as a Territorial Force volunteer in the college’s “A” Company in 8 D.L.I.
Upon graduation in 1912 John Heslop took up a post at Pelton County School as a certificated Assistant Teacher. In December 1914 Heslop enlisted at Durham into 8 D.L.I., giving as his address 7 Rough Lea Terrace in Hunwick, his parents’ home. He served with the battalion continuously with many of his Bede friends until his death in action in France on 28 March 1918 – a long service, interrupted only briefly in March 1916 due to myalgia (muscle pain). He was one of those twenty-one men who posed for a picture after the slaughter of Gravenstafel Ridge in April 1915 captioned “Bede. All that was left”.
There are numerous mentions of Heslop in The Bede magazine through the war years: he played on the battalion’s winning football team in a brigade competition during a rest month out of the line at La Creche in December 1915, receiving a medal from the General; and he was attached to the Signal Section of the battalion in May 1916. In April 1918 it was reported that Heslop was the last of the original contingent of Bede men who went out to France in April 1915 still serving in the battalion, the others all having been transferred, promoted or killed.
In late March 1918 the division was retreating under enemy attack to a line from Chaulnes to Curlu on the Somme. The fighting was such that on 25 March due to losses the 150th Brigade was reformed to a single composite battalion of approximately 540 officers and men. On 26 March the division fell back under orders to a line between Rosières-en-Santerre and Vauvilles repelling an enemy attack on the line on 27 March. Over the next few days further orders to withdraw were received with the enemy always in close pursuit eventually to a line between Mézières-en-Santerre and Démuin.
Private John Heslop’s sacrifice is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, and also on a cross and war memorial at Hunwick, along with the names of his nephew and brother-in-law who were also both killed during the war. His name is also listed on the Bede College 1914-1918 cross, plaque, and roll of honour.