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WW1 Casualty: Rifleman 2787 James Pickavance -

Rifleman 2787 James Pickavance

From the Prescot Reporter, with caption

Unit/Regiment 1st/5th Bn., South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death 25/05/1915 Age at Death 36
& Reference
Menin Gate
Panel 37
CWGC Family Details (if shown) Husband of Clara Pickavance, of 19, Carlton St., Prescot, Lancs.
Census Details In the 1881 census, James is just one year old and lives at 11 Beaconsfield Street, Prescot, with his parents James (25) and Ellen (32). Also present are James’ step-sisters Kate (12) and Margaret Brown (8). The elder James is a Watch Pinion Maker.

By the time of the 1891 census, James had two additional brothers, John (9) and George (4). They still lived at the same address, but the step sisters were no longer recorded there

The family had moved to Springfield Row, St Helens, by 1901, but James was not recorded as living with them, only George and John living with their parents. James was now aged 21 and living as a boarder at the home of Edward and Ann Cropper at 13, Houghton Street, Rainhill. He was employed as a General Labourer.
Birth/Marriage/Death Registrations Birth registered Q2/1879, Prescot, Volume 8b, Page 662

Marriage to Clara Loughran registered West Derby, Q2/1903, Vol 8b, Page 627
SDGW – Where Born Prescot, Lancs
Enlisted Prescot
Resided Prescot
How Died Killed in Action Theatre of War France & Flanders
Research Ref. No. P222

Service Details

The 5th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, had just started its annual training in camp when war broke out in August 1914. It was sent to Edinburgh until October, then moved to Tunbridge Wells until February 1915. It was then ordered to France, sailing on the 13th aboard s.s. King Edward., arriving at Le Havre the same day.

Over the next few days the battalion marched to billets at Le Bizet, and then undertook instruction in trench warfare. The system was for companies from a battalion to be attached to other battalions for spells in the line, before the sector was allocated to the battalion on its own. In addition to the trench duty, the battalion undertook its share of pioneer work and training in rapid fire.

The Battalion was moved around regularly without seeing action, until 28th April when it was moved to Vlamertinghe, Belgium in readiness to take part in the 1st Battle of Ypres, which had started on the 22nd.

On 2nd May, the Germans launched a violent attack, accompanied by a cloud of chlorine gas, and the battalion was moved into the line for the first time. On 3rd May, it was moved to the new line in front of Wieltje, and then on the 4th it was again moved to Shell Trap Farm. At dawn, they engaged the Germans but by 4pm the enemy was within 400 yards of the British lines, from where they began a heavy bombardment of the British lines.

More shell fire continued through the next day, culminating in heavy concentrated fire about 5 p.m. which resulted in a considerable number of men being buried, many of them killed and wounded. The enemy fire continued until midnight and four attempts were made by the Germans to take the farm, but all were repulsed.

At 2 a.m. on the 6th, the Battalion was relieved and moved to La Brique, having incurred considerable casualties.

On the 8th May, the battalion was once more sent up to the Wieltje sector as it was thought that the enemy had broken through, but it proved to be a false alarm and on the 9th it returned to La Brique, leaving 'C' Company and a machine-gun detachment at Wieltje. Early on the 10th, the battalion moved to the bank of the Yser canal where it remained until the 13th, when it was moved back to the support lines.

It was more of the same throughout the next two weeks of May, then at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 24th, the Germans released the largest cloud of gas seen so far in the war across a wide stretch of the British lines, followed by a large assault force. Their followed almost a full day's desperate fighting, often in very confusing situations, 'B' and 'C' companies occupied French Switch, a trench connecting the British and French troops, but they suffered from very heavy shelling of the trench, which inflicted considerable casualties.

The remainder of the day and all of the 24th was spent in reorganisation and consolidation, also re-establishing contact with the French. The battalion remained in the front line until 1st June, but no serious German attacks were launched after 25th May, although small scale actions continued. Both sides were now exhausted, having been in almost continuous contact for 33 days.

In this period, Sergeant Gordon (25th), Rifleman Pickavance (25th) and Corporal Yates (31st) were all reported as Killed in Action. The fortunes of war denied graves to these men and they are remembered on the Menin Gate.

A clipping from the Prescot Reporter of 14th September 1917

James Pickavance's Medal Index Card confirming his arrival in France on 13th February 1915. His entitlement was the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal

James Pickavance's inscription on the Menin Gate

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