Private Charles MYCOCK
 

Regiment/Service:
North Staffordshire Regiment
(Prince of Wales)
Unit:
1st/5th Battalion
(Formerly: 3rd Battalion)
Service Number:
203120
(Formerly: Private 26837 and 20542)
Date of Death:
14 March 1917   - Killed in Action
Age:
36
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
A. 14.



Personal History:


Charles (known as "Wag") was born in the October/November 1880, at 63 London Road, Buxton, the son of Edwin (Quarryman) and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Mycock. He had six older brothers and sisters, William, Mary, Sarah Alice [see Footnote below], George, Annie Martha and Ada (1871 Census RG 10/3634 and 1881 Census RG 11/3454).

The 1891 Census (RG 12/2778) shows the family at the same address, with two more daughters, Amy and Nelly. However, Charles was not living at home at the time, and his whereabouts are not apparent from the Census. He was back home again in 1901 (Census RG 13/3269), although the family had moved to 103 London Road, and father Edwin was self-employed as a "Grocer Shop Keeper". Charles was employed as a "Bathchairman" - also self-employed.

On the 6th January 1909 Charles married Annie Wilkinson. They had two children, Phyllis and Frederick, and in 1911 (Census RG 14/21242) were living at 21 Byron Street, Buxton, where Charles was employed as a "Window Cleaner". When he enlisted in 1915 Charles was 5 ft. 5 ins. (1.65 m.) tall. He gave his religion as "Wesleyan" and occupation as "Horse Driver". Theirs was ".. a pious family" .

Charles' father, Edwin, died in the December quarter 1916 and in reporting his death 'The Buxton Advertiser' expressed great sympathy for Charles' widowed mother: "The poor old lady has been hard, yes, very hard, hit by the War brought on by the dastardly and ambitious Prussians. Quite recently her loved grandson, Joe Harrison, fell nobly and now this blow comes with unusual severity on the grief stricken mother and family.

She has, moreover, five other grandsons who have given themselves to the service of King and Country, and three sons-in-law, truly a noble sacrifice."
It went on: "Needless to say, his devoted wife, little son and daughter have the sympathy of a wide circle of friends, but the poor woman is bowed down with grief."

Charles was educated at the Board Schools, but ".. although well read, football had a greater fascination for him than the slate and desk ..". The 'Advertiser's' lengthy report went on to give many details of his footballing expertise, including victories with Fairfield in winning the North Derbyshire League. He also played in Buxton's season as runners-up in the Manchester League as ".. inside left to Harry Lees.it was on Silverlands [Buxton's home pitch] that his wonderful dexterity and smartness elicited the applause of the spectators, the well-to-do and the worker."

Rather poignantly the account concluded: "Never would 'good old Wag' think of defeat until the referee signalled the end and now … the town he loved so well will never see his cheery face again. Destiny proved otherwise and our old friend played his last game fighting, with his comrades, against the greatest enemy humanity ever encountered. Charlie Mycock was a pocket Hercules, a British lion in the true sense of the word. Poor 'Wag' fell fighting with every inch of his might."

Effective from the 8th October 1917 Charles' wife, Annie, received a Pension of £1:2s:11d ((£1.60) per week for herself and their two children. They were by then living at 316 Gleadless Road, Heeley, Sheffield.

Military History:
Charles' Service papers show that he enlisted into the 3rd Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, in Buxton, on the 6th December 1915, but not called up until 6th June 1916.

The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion had been formed in August 1914 at Whittington, Lichfield, as a depot/training unit, it remained in UK throughout the war. In September 1915 the Battalion moved to Forest Hall (Newcastle) for duty with the Tyne Garrison and moved in October 1916 to nearby Wallsend.

After Charles' mobilisation in June 1916 he was posted to Derby from the 8th - 12th June, then on to Wallsend before being posted to the 1/5th Battalion in France, arriving at Boulogne on the 11th October 1916. He joined it in the field on the 27th October. Just before he was posted aboard, Charles overstayed his leave and was fined 3 days pay.

The 1/5th Battalion had also been formed in August 1914 in Hanley, part of the Staffordshire Brigade in North Midland Division. The Division landed at Le Havre on the 4th March 1915. On the 12th May 1915 it became the 137th Brigade in 46th (North Midland) Division and moved to Egypt in January 1916, returning to France next month.

Charles joined the 1/5th Battalion in October 1916, in a fairly quiet time for the Division. In 1917 they were in action during the Operations on the Ancre, Occupation of the Gommecourt defences (4th March) and the attack on Rettemoy Graben (12th March).

"Whilst following up the retiring army in this area [Gommecourt], there was on March I3th, I917, some sharp fighting, as he took up a position in a strongly-wired trench known as Rettemoy Graben. This position, after being bombarded for a day, was attacked by the 5th North Staffords and 5th South Staffords ; the 7th Division attacking on their right, with Bucquoy as their objective.

The attack was made at 6.00 p.m. on a very dark night, but owing to the wire only being partially cut (due to the limited time at the disposal of the Artillery), and the enemy fighting a very stubborn rearguard action, the attack was unsuccessful, and the two battalions mentioned suffered heavy casualties." (Divisional History)

Charles was reported missing on the 14th March 1917 and deemed to have been killed in action
on that day. After (officially) 1 year 97 days with the Colours - his Service from the 6th December
1915 until called up on the 6th June 1916 was not credited, Charles was one of 30 Officers and
men killed on the 14th, 16 of whom are buried alongside him in Rossignol Wood Cemetery.
(One plus10 other men of the 5th Battalion are buried in Shrine Cemetery, Bucquoy.)
The remainder are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

42 Officers and men of the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment, who attacked Bucquoy Graben on
the North Staffs' right flank, also lost there lives in the action on the 14th March.

The Battalion History gives a graphic account of the Battle (pps. 81-85):

It reads, in part:

"Our Battalion had the extreme left flank of the attack against the BUCQUOY GRABEN. On and about
March 1st, the Boche had gone back out of GOMMECOURT on to his new Line in front of ESSARTS
and BUCQUOY; but he was still in MONCHY."

The ground evacuated was held by outposts, and there were not the usual lines of trenches, and in March
13th it was held by the Notts, and Derby Brigade. The remaining two Brigades of the Division were behind.
The original scheme for the attack was that the 5th North and 5th South Staffs. were to capture the first
Line, and then the 6th North and 6th South Staffs, were to pass through and take the high ground further
East The Leicesters were to exploit any success, and the Lincolns, were to provide our Battalion with
'mopping up' and carrying parties.

As there were no trenches to jump off from, or assemble in, the Royal Engineers were to lay out a line marked
by tapes, from which the attack was to start. At the second officers' meeting on the 10th lots were drawn,
with the result that Keeling was to command 4 'A' Company. Goss 'B' Company, Hammersley 'C' Company, a
nd Wilton 'D' Company. On the 11th (Sunday) Colonel Fawcus came back and resumed command. The Artillery
were busy cutting the wire on the 11th, when the four of us went up to BlETZ WOOD to reconnoitre. We got a
very good view of the ground from the edge of the wood, having to crawl on our hands and knees to do so.

The few days previous to the attack were very busy ones for everybody, as there was so much to arrange
in such a very short lime. The ground was marked out with flags, and we practised the men over it three
times. On the I2th we were told that the show was postponed for 24 hours, and would not take place until
the night of the I4th/15th, so that we imagined we had an extra day in which to complete all our arrangements
and instruct the N.C.O.s.

The order of our Companies for the attack was ' A ' on the right,' C ' in the centre, ' D ' on the left. These three
Companies were to go over the first line of BUCQUOY GRABEN, and afterwards into the second line, which
they were to hold. Two platoons of' B' Company were to remain with the C.O. as reserve, whilst the other two
platoons were to be on the left, to defend 'D' Company's flank. It was also arranged that each Company should
have some R.E. men to carry ammonal tubes for blowing gaps through the wire if required.

On the 14th, about noon, we got orders that the attack would take place that night, and that we were to be in position on the tape by 11 p.m.    It was now decided that instead of a creeping barrage there should be an intense bombardment from Zero till plus 15, when it would lift to the second line, and at plus 23 it would lift, off the second line. It should be explained, perhaps, that all attacks are planned to start at an unknown time, called ' Zero'.

The aftermath of the Battle is recorded a few pages on:

"Unfortunately the attack had failed entirely on the right. The wire was very strong, and had not been properly cut. The 5th S. Staffs, on the right had failed, and so had the two right Companies of the 5th North. "D" Company, on the left, under Captain Wilton, had partly forced their way through, as had also the two Platoons of "B" Company on the left. Captain WlLTON, for nearly an hour, although wounded in the stomach, made a most gallant effort to hold the line, but, exposed as he was on the right flank, he and his men were overwhelmed. They must have fought to the last, as, two days later, when the Germans retired, he was found dead surrounded by many of his gallant men. For his bravery, on this and other occasions, he was posthumously awarded the M.C. Lieutenant G. E. E. Williams, who was with him, was made prisoner.

It was no fault of the Battalions that the attack had failed. The barbed wire had not been sufficiently cut by the Artillery, and the Germans were ready. The battle, too, was fought on a pitch-black night, pouring with rain, and the men, after a five hours march, had to advance over shell-craters and disused trenches full of mud and water.

Lieutenant Mate was in charge of the two platoons of "B" Company on the extreme left, and gave the following description of his share in the battle:
"The attack was well timed. I was the last platoon to be lined up on the tape, for I was on the extreme left of the Battalion. I had only been there two minutes when I received the order to advance, and I was able to reach my objective and consolidate my position. A greater resistance, however, was offered on the right, and the wire entanglements there also provided a great difficulty. The German lines were penetrated at several points, but eventually the enemy was able to regain the trenches by a strong counter-attack. I was able to hold out in my own little sector, and was relieved next day, everybody wet through, and looking like mudlarks."

Sergeant F. FOSTER was one of this party, and, although wounded, he rallied his men together and repeatedly resisted the enemy bombing attacks, until his supply of bombs had run out, and he was ordered to withdraw. For his gallantry he was awarded the Military Medal.

The casualties had been very heavy. Captains S. B. WlLTON and A. F. WEDGWOOD, and Lieutenants A. G. HAMMERSLEY, T. E. LEWTY, D. H. KRAUSS, and G. H. TORTOISESHELL had been killed. Lieutenant G. E. E. Williams was a prisoner, and four officers had been wounded.
Captain WEDGWOOD, although his name had not been drawn in the ballot, had obtained permission to lead his Company. When he found his men checked by the wire, he had tried to cut his way through with a wire-cutter, and had then been shot dead. Lieutenant LEWTY was trying to bomb an enemy Machine-gun, which was holding up the attack, when he too was killed. Lieutenant A. G. HAMMERSLEY was found dead a few yards away, surrounded by a dozen of his men. They had succeeded in getting through the two belts of Boche wire, when they were caught by the same Machine-gun, only a few yards from the enemy trench. The losses amongst the men were 28 killed, 22 missing, and 100 wounded. The best tribute that can be given is that of an officer who wrote, "The behaviour of the men was splendid, and a glorious sight, from the point of view of devotion and discipline, was to see small clusters of dead around each fallen officer, when we went to the battle-field later on."

Another officer, not of the Battalion, but one who knew well many of the men and officers, and himself came from North Staffordshire, wrote:-" It was a gallant attack, and the Divisional Staff told me that the North Staffords would have got through if anyone could. Captain Wedgwood died facing the enemy, and cheering his men on and no soldier would have wished for a nobler death. They buried him along with six other officers in a little cemetery two miles away. It lies in a hollow, and beside a country road, with a tree or two near by, and a wood not far away, past which he had marched the evening before with his men. The wood has a name, ROSSIGNOL (Nightingale) WOOD, which he may have thought of with pleasure, as he sat there that night taking his last meal before the attack; and, though the trees are splintered and smashed, it will be green enough in the spring, and be a shelter to the little graveyard in that desolate country."

Two days after the battle the Germans retired from BUCQUOY and on March 18th the Battalion occupied the enemy quarters at GOMMECOURT, where they remained for nearly a week."



Footnote:
· Charles' sister, Sarah Alice, married Joseph Harrison in the June quarter 1893.
   Their oldest son, Spr. Joseph Edwin HARRISON, Royal Engineers, was killed
   in action on the 14th November 1916

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser, 21 April 1917
· "Breaking The Hindenburg Line, The Story Of The 46th (North Midland) Division"
    by Major R. E. Priestley, M.C., R.E. (ISBN-10: 0548784302)
· I am grateful to Martin McNeela for extracts from "The 5th North Staffords & North Midlands
  Territorials 1914-1919"

Link to CWGC Record
PtCharles Mycock's grave
Charles Mycock's parents' grave at Buxton
Charles' name on his parents' grave
Charles is also commemorated on his parents' grave in Buxton Cemetery
Position 14 March 1917
Charles' Battalion's Position - 14 March 1917
North Staffs graves
North Staffs graves in Rossignol Cemetery
poppy