John Major was born on the 4th October 1874 at Leighton Buzzard. Although his first name was registered as Jack most records show him as John. His father, George Major a labourer and a Carman, married his mother, Sarah Pratt, on the 22nd September 1862 at Leighton Buzzard. They had eight children all born in Leighton Buzzard:
- Ann Jane born in 1863.
- Ann born in 1864.
- John born and died in 1867.
- Mary Ann born in 1868.
- Minnie born in 1870.
- Thomas born in 1872.
- William born in 1876.
During the 1871 census the family were living at America Road, Leighton Buzzard. Sadly, John’s mother Sarah died in 1880 at Leighton Buzzard. At the time of the 1881 census the family were still living at America Road.
John’s father, George, married Sarah Ann Tring on the 25th December 1884 at All Saints Church, Leighton Buzzard. Sarah already had a daughter who is believed to be Elizabeth Tring born in 1882 at Leighton Buzzard, but shown as Lily Tring in the 1891 census and Amelia Elizabeth Major in the 1901 census, but Amelia Elizabeth Tring in the 1911 census and her marriage in 1912. George and Sarah had five more children all born in Leighton Buzzard:
- Sarah Ann born in 1885.
- Florence Major born in 1890.
- Henry George (shown as George in 1901 & 1911 census) born in 1894.
- Daisy Bell Major born in 1898.
By the time of the 1891 census the family had moved and were living at Bassett Road, Leighton Buzzard. John was employed as a farm labourer. They were still living at 56, Bassett Road, Leighton Buzzard in the 1901 census but John had left home and joined the army.
Early Army Service.
John’s early Army Service Records have survived and show that initially he enlisted as Private 2636 on the 12th February 1894 at Leighton Buzzard for six years in the Militia joining the 3rd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. The following was recorded: He said he was born at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, his age was 19 years 1 month (actually 4 months) and his address was Bassett Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. He said he was not an apprentice and was employed as a labourer by Morgan and Co. Leighton, Bucks. He was not married, had no children, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and had never served in the Military before.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Age equivalent to: 18 years 0 months. Height: 5 feet 3 ¾ inches. Weight: 119 lbs. Chest: 31 – 33 inches. Complexion: fresh. Eyes: Hazel. Hair: Reddish brown. Identifying marks: Scar right eyebrow 2 scars outer side left forearm. He said his religion was Church of England.
He was Medically examined on the 13th February at Bedford and passed as fit. There is a single entry on his Statement of Service which records that he underwent 49 days drill and then on the 21st April 1894 he joined the Bedford Regiment.
John’s second Army Service Record shows that he enlisted as Private 4885 on the 20th April 1894 at Leighton Buzzard in the Bedfordshire Regiment for short service of seven years in the Colours and five in the Reserve. The information recorded was almost identical to that of his Militia record except that his age was shown correctly as 19 years 6 months and he gave his next of kin as his father, George of Bassett Road, Leighton Buzzard, and brother Thomas (serving in the Beds. Regiment), younger brother William and older sisters Jane, Mary and Minnie.
On the 21st April 1894 he underwent another Medical examination at Bedford and was again passed fit. On the 21st May 1894 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.
On the 11th December 1895 he was posted to the 1st Battalion and began his service overseas in India. On the 20th April 1896 he was granted his 1st Good Conduct Pay award. He signed a declaration dated the 1st August 1898: Elected to come under Regulations governing issue of Messing Allowance in accordance with provisions of Army Order 65 of 1898, although this was entered after the 16th November 1898 when he was appointed Lance Corporal.
On the 21st December 1898 he was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education and on the 1st April 1899, he was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education on the 20th April 1900 he was granted his 2nd Good Conduct Pay award.
On the 12th October 1901 he extended his service to complete 12 years with the colours and received a bounty and gratuity of £26/10/0 under GOCC 716 of 1901. On the 24th March 1902 he passed the Regulation Exam for Corporal and on the 10th July 1902, he was promoted to Corporal. On the 14th April 1903 he passed the Professional Exam for Sergeant.
His record shows that: Re-engaged for the Bedfordshire Regiment at Nowgong (India) on 12th June 1903 for such period as shall complete 21 years’ service. Then on the 1st April 1904: Placed under the Regulations governing the issue of service pay in accordance with provisions of Army Orders 66 of 1902 and 193 of 1903. Then handwritten: Class 1 1.4.04.
On the 11th September 1905 he was Appointed Lance Sergeant, and, on the 27th October 1906, he returned to the UK. On the 29th October 1906 he was discharged free after 12 years’ service Lance Sergeant.
On his discharge it would seem that he immediately applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary. As part of the process he had a Medical examination on the 18th November 1906 at Police Headquarters Hatfield by the Force Surgeon to ensure he was fit enough for Police duties. He would also have had an interview and told to wait for a date of Appointment.
John’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived and shows that on the 20th December 1906 he was posted to C Division at Watford. The following was recorded: He said he was born on the 4th October 1874 at Leighton Buzzard. His height was 5 feet 9 inches, chest 38 ½ inches, complexion fresh, eyes hazel and hair dark brown. He said he could ride a pedal cycle and swim and later gave his next of kin as his wife Sarah Jane Major.
He underwent his Probationer training on the Division by a senior experienced Constable under the Supervision of his Superintendent. At the end of his training he was Appointed as Constable 232 on the 17th January 1906 and formerly Attested on the 21st January 1907 at Watford.
General Order 4 of the 9th February 1907 announced John’s appointment from the 17th January 1907 as PC Major 232 C on £1/3/11 per week.
John married Sarah Jane Chapman on the 7th March 1907 at Leighton Buzzard. They had three children:
- George Ernest born in 1907 at Gt. Berkhamsted.
- William Thomas (registered as Thomas William) born in 1909 at Gt. Berkhamsted (married in 1936 at Hitchin to Gladys Esther Blows).
- Winifred Jane Major born in 1921 at St. Albans (married in 1947 at Hitchin to William Herbert Blows brother of Gladys above and a distant relatives of PC 280 Horace Blows).
General Order 19 of the 23rd July 1907 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/3/11 to £1/5/8 per week from the 4th July 1907.
John’s Police Service Record shows that on the 3rd October 1907 he was transferred from C Division at Watford to D Division at Great Berkhamsted.
In January 1908 John passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid.
(Abridged) Published on the 28th November 1908 in the Watford Observer under the headline Shocking Family Tragedy, Nurse Commits Suicide: Berkhamsted was startled on Sunday morning by the news that former nurse in the town, who had married little over year previously, bad put an end to her life. The unfortunate woman, Mrs. Minnie Gertrude Bunn, formerly Nurse Bignell, was well known and highly respected in the town, and the circumstances of her death brought very general sympathy with the bereaved relatives. Particulars were made known at the inquest, which took place before Mr. Lovel Smeathman, Coroner for the division, in the George Street Mission Room, on Monday evening. Inspector Peck and Police Constable Major made the necessary arrangements.
Evidence was heard from the deceased’s husband, brother, father and step children to the effect that the deceased had been in good spirits and had no apparent reason to harm herself. Dr. J.B. McBride gave evidence of finding Mrs. Bunn lying on her back at the foot of the bed, with a partially closed razor lying at her feet. She had a large jagged wound in her throat, which looked as if the razor had been used several times. It was very deep, and had severed the windpipe, the carotid artery and the deep arteries of the neck and there was a lot of blood and death would have been very quick. He offered an opinion, when asked by the Coroner, that, having been a nurse, she would have found a different way to end her life had she been sane.
The Coroner offered the Jury a choice of two verdicts, suicide whilst temporarily insane or an open verdict. The Jury decided upon suicide whilst temporarily insane.
General Order 5 of the 2nd February 1909 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from 14th January 1909.
Boys Will Be Boys!
Published on the 24th April 1909 in the Watford Observer under the headline Boys in Mischief: Henry Redding and Frank Edney, boys of Berkhamsted, were charged with malicious damage to a cottage belonging to Lord Brownlow on the 4th inst. The case was heard at a separate Court at the conclusion of the ordinary cases. Mrs. Redding said the cottages had been a playground for years. Police Constable Major gave evidence to the damage done by the boys to the cottage in Bank Mill Lane. Alfred Johnson, of the Ashridge Estate Office, said the proceedings were taken as a warning more than anything else. No conviction was recorded against the boys, but they were ordered to pay 5s each towards the costs.
General Order 2 of 13th January 1910 gave instructions to dozens of Police officers in connection with the General Election of January 1910. Voting was carried out over several days and schedules were drawn up detailing where and when officers would perform duty. The following excerpt refers to John: Schedule D Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Western or Watford Division 27th January 1910. Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty D PC 232 Major J Great Berkhamsted Great Berkhamsted
During the 1911 census records Police Constable John Major, wife Sarah Jane and sons George and William as living at George Street, Great Berkhampstead.
A Minor Blemish.
John was severely reprimanded by the Chief Constable on the 20th March 1914 as he had been found under the influence of drink whilst on duty. A Police Surgeon’s certificate which showed there were extenuating circumstances prevented him from receiving a more severe penalty.
General Order 20 of the 2nd February 1915 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/10/4 to £1/10/11 per week from the 17th January 1915.
Army Service During The War.
John’s WW1 Army Service Record has not survived and there is no trace of a Medal Roll Index Card or any Medal Rolls but his Police Service Record shows he was loaned to the Army as a Drill Instructor, at Bedford, from the 9th September 1914. The fact that he was “on loan” tends to suggest he was still receiving Police pay which would explain why he received the pay increase in 1915. Constable 174 Lewis Saunders and Constable 173 William James Whippe were also “loaned” as Drill Instructors at Bedford.
Again, from his Police Service Record on the 28th April 1916 John enlisted in the 9th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and served 2 years 9 months before being discharged on the 22nd January 1919 as a Sergeant. It would seem, owing to the lack of a medal roll that he did not serve overseas and did not qualify for any medals.
Like every other soldier John would have been granted 28 days leave on his demobilisation and he would have used this time to apply to re-join the Police. He underwent a Medical Examination on the 22nd January 1919 by the Force Surgeon to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. Having passed this, he was re-Appointed the day after which would have been day following the date of the end of his leave period.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 23 of the 25th January 1919 listed 25 Police Officers who, having been released from H.M. Army, had been re-appointed to the Force. John was shown as: PC 232 Major J. D Division at Gt. Berkhamsted from the 23rd January 1919 on £2/11/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken. John was re-attested on the 29th January 1919. The Electoral Roll of 1919 lists Jack and Sarah Jane Mayor as living at 132, George Street, Great Berkhamsted.
General Order 215 of the 18th October 1919 instructed John that he was being transferred from D Division at Gt Berkhamsted to C Division at Leverstock Green from the 27th October 1919. Under a Force reorganisation of boundaries Leverstock Green moved from C Division to D Division on the 13th January 1923. The Electoral Rolls of 1920 to 1924 list John and Sarah Jane Major as living at Leverstock Green.
General Order 6 of the 21st January 1925 instructed John that from the 2nd February 1925 he was being transferred from D Division at Leverstock Green to E Division at Letchworth. The 1925 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list John and Sarah Jane Major as living at 34, Common View, Letchworth.
General Order 3 of the 3rd January 1927 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/10/0 to £4/12/6 per week from the 16th December 1926.
On the 4th March 1931 John retired as a Constable on an ill health pension of £241/3/3 per annum.
On the 28th May 1934 Jack Major died aged 59 years at Letchhworth.