Sapper James MYCOCK

Royal Engineers
105th Field Company
(Formerly: 202 F.C.)
Service Number:
Date of Death:
27 May 1918
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Bay 1

Personal History:

James was born in Lowe, Staffordshire in the June quarter 1887, the son of John and Mary Ann (née Twigg) Mycock. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2779) the family were living at Hayling Cottages, Burbage, Buxton. James had two older brothers and an older sister, John W., Thomas and Hannah. On the 17th December 1895 Mary Ann died and John (Quarryman) re-married Betsy Ellen Stubbs, in the March quarter 1898.

In 1901 they had moved to Harpur Hill, Buxton and three children of the second marriage had joined the family, daughter Edna, and sons Henry Harold and Joseph Edwin (Census RG 13/3271). 

Ten years later James was still living at home with the family
at 11 Haslin Row, Harpur Hill, Buxton, and employed as a
"Limestone Quarry-Man Rockman". Another younger brother
had been born, Arthur Richard.

In the 8th November 1913 James married Nellie Jones and lived at 13 Crowestones, Buxton. They had
a daughter, Mary Phyllis, born on 4 April 1914 (died 16 August 2003 at Redhill, Surrey) and another daughter,
Enid Lilian, born 21 September 1915 (died 27 July 1990 at Terschelling, Holland). As James was posted to
France on the 10th November 1915, he would probably have just had chance to meet his youngest child
before leaving. [The photo - right - is James' wife, Nellie, in later life.]

Military History:
Unfortunately, James' Service Records have not survived, but it is known that he enlisted into the County Palatine Royal Engineers at Manchester. His Medal Index Card shows that he entered France with 202nd Field Company on the 10th November 1915 as a 'Pioneer', becoming a 'Sapper' later, allowing for training, he must, therefore have enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the War. 

On the 5th August 1914 - the day that he took over as Minister for War - Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum issued orders for the expansion of the army. Initially he was aiming for 100,000 volunteers, collectively called Kitchener's Army or K1. Eventually enough men came forward not only to fill the ranks of K2 and K3, but also to form reserves. They were initially formed up into six Divisions of K4, and were initially numbered 27 to 32. However, three additional Divisions were formed after troops were withdrawn from service around the Empire and took precedence in taking the Divisional numbers 27 to 29. Thus K4 was renumbered 30th to 35th Divisions and the units were initially trained not as reserves but as fighting units.

James' 202nd Field Company was part the 30th Division which embarked for France on 8 November 1915, coinciding with the date on his MIC. In 1916, during The Battle of the Somme, (1st July - 18th November), James' Company was engaged in The Battle of Albert, (1st -13th July 1916); The Battle of Trones Wood (7th - 13th July 1916), and The Battle of Le Transloy (1st - 18th October 1916).

James was named in the Times OCL 21 August 1916 under Royal Engineers wounded. The War Diary for 202nd Field Company records that between 1st and 11th July 1916 19 other ranks were wounded. The War Diary of 30 Division C.R.E. has an account of Royal Engineers Operations which shows that 14 of these other ranks were wounded on 8 July 1916.

Most likely he recovered from his wounds and was discharged from hospital to Base Details at No 4 General Base Depot Royal Engineers at Rouen. From there he was posted to 105th Field Company.

At The Battle of Messines (7th - 14th June 1917) the Division was selected to be one that would make the assault and was placed in the front line between the Wulverghem-Messines and Wulverghem-Wytschaete roads. On 8 July 1917 at The Battle of Pilkem (a phase of the Third Battles of Ypres) - 31st July - 2nd August 1917 - the 25th Division was in Corps Reserve.

Moving into 1918 James would have fought at The First Battles of the Somme, 1918, 21st March - 5th April 1918, particularly actions at The Battle of St Quentin, (21st - 23rd March); The First Battle of Bapaume, (24th -25th  March). Later, during the Battles of Lys, he was at The Second Battle of Kemmel.

James was lost - the CWGC does not attribute a cause of death - the day before the opening of The Battle of the Aisne, but without his Service Papers it is not possible to ascertain the cause of death. (Normally it would cite 'killed in action' or ' died of wounds'.) However, Spr. A. T. Brinkhurst, Spr. T. Dodd, Spr. E. Gilberthorpe, Dvr. H. T. Howell, Spr. E. C. Leeder, Cpl. D. McGougan, Spr. G. C. Murphy, Spr. A. W. Palmer, Spr. E. Pennington, Spr. W. H. Powell, Spr. J. E. Putnam and L/Cpl. A. Wood, all of the 105th, were also killed on the 27th May.

After their losses in the first two phases of the German 1918 Spring offensive in March and April, four British divisions, including the 25th, were sent to the Chemin des Dames, a normally quiet sector of the French front, to rest and recuperate.

On 27th May the sector proved anything but quiet when the Germans unleashed phase three of their offensive there, and the British (and French alongside them) were hurled backwards in the direction of Soissons. Sapper James Mycock and his comrades were no doubt killed as the attackers swept right through the infantry in the front lines and even the artillery, engineers and other supporting services came under heavy attack.

The War Diary for the period from 26 May 1918 until the end of the month shows that James' Company was at Jonchery, "… engaged in active operations. …. Casualties during this action were heavy. Major Lloyd and 2nd Lieut Walmsley are missing believed killed, 2nd Lt Armstrong was wounded and 2nd Lieut Atkinson is missing, believed a prisoner of war. - Of 135 O.R.s who went into action, 8 were killed, 2 died of wounds. 37 were wounded (& at duties), 2 are missing believed prisoners, 3 were wounded and missing and 19 are still unaccounted for."

Like most of his comrades killed that day James has no known grave and is commemorated alongside them on the Arras Memorial. At the time of taking the photo of his name on the Memorial (above) the section had been badly eroded. It is hoped it will (has been) restored in the Centenary period.

· I am grateful to the War Graves Photographic Project and Michelle Young for the photo of the name on the Arras Memorial,
  which is in need of renovation
· I am also grateful to the family of Enid Lilian Mycock for the photos of her parents, James and Nellie
· I am also grateful to colleagues on The Great War Forum for extracts from the War Diaries.
· British Official History, 1918 Volume III

Link to CWGC Record
The Arras Memorial
James Mycock's name on the Arra Memorial