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James Wilcock Garstang was born in 1893 in Preston to Margaret Wilcock a single lady who was also from Preston. Two years later Margaret had another son and he was named Richard Garstang Wilcock.

On the 4 February 1897 Margaret Wilcock married William Garstang in St. Luke`s Church in Preston.  Margaret and William went on to have another six children but sadly two of those died in the October quarter of the same year; Henry (1898-1908), Alice (1900), Thomas (1902-1908), Ann (1904), Albert (1906) and Thomas Henry (1911).

In 1911 the family were living at 120 Bootle Street in Preston. William Garstang was working as a spinner in a cotton mill and James was a cotton creeler. James was also using the surname Garstang and was recorded on the Census as the son of William Garstang.

On the 17 September 1912 James enlisted into the Army when he was around 19 years of age. Unfortunately there does not appear to be any surviving papers for him so information about his service is fairly limited.

However we do know that he was allocated the service number 10440 and that he went to France with the 1st Battalion disembarking on the 12 August, 1914. He served throughout the war but was apparently wounded on a couple of occasions although not too seriously. On the second occasion it seems that he was sent back to England for treatment and spent time in hospital in Huddersfield.

James was a Signaller and was one of two Preston lads to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal after the actions of 10th-11th July, 1917.

Extract from the Battalion War Diary – 10th July 1917

“About 6 a.m. on the 10th July the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of the front system – the river, Nieuport-les-Bains, and the back areas, Coxyde and Coxyde-les-Bains. This increased during the day and about 7.25 p.m. the enemy successfully attacked, taking our trenches up to the east bank of the river. The two battalions in the front line were practically annihilated. An advance party, totalling four officers and thirty six other ranks, which went up to the left battalion in the early morning of the 10th, was present during the attack, and of these only two men returned.

The Battalion occupied the trenches on the west bank of the Yser as the front line, `A` and `B` Companies being in front and `C` and `D` in support. After the attack the bombardment slackened slightly, but it was not until five the following morning that it really ceased. About 8 o`clock in the evening the enemy`s aeroplanes dropped bombs on Rinck Camp, which was occupied by details of the Battalion, and one man was killed and an officer and six other ranks were wounded, the officer and one of the men being attached. Total casualties for the day were four officers and thirty four other ranks missing, three officers and twenty eight other ranks wounded and two men killed”

Excerpt from the Battalion War History for 11th July 1917

The following day (11th) was spent reorganising the defence but about half past eight that night three men of the King`s Royal Rifles swam across from the enemy`s side of the river to report that there were still some twenty men on the further bank. As soon as this became know 23983 Private Higson who was one of the battalion scouts, secured a rope and swam across the Yser with it closely followed by Captain H.A. Pallant, M.C. R.A.M.C. who was attached to the Battalion. The pair were responsible for bringing over the men who were not able to swim or who were exhausted. All twenty of the King`s Royal Rifles were safely brought across.

By the 31 July, 1917 the Battalion had been moved to Clipon Camp which was about one mile to the northwest of Mardyck village.

The entry in the 1st Battalion War Diary for this date reads;

“31.7.17 – “10440 L/Cpl Garstang and 10574 Pte Hindle awarded D.C.M. for conspicuous gallantry as Linesmen on July 10th and 11th in maintaining communications with new front line on West Bank of Yser”

James` D.C.M. citation reads as follows:-


(10574 Private Joseph Hindle was also from Preston and was a pal of James`. He enlisted with James Garstang on the same date in 1912 and the two of them went to France on the same day in August 1914).

News of the awards soon reached the good people of Preston and the local paper the Preston Guardian published the following article.


Extract from War Diary – 25 August, 1917 – Clipon Camp

“The Division was inspected by General Rawlinson. Ceremonial Parade with presentations of Medal Ribbons (Captain Pallant DSO, Lt. Allen DSO and Lance Corporal Garstang DCM) followed by a march past. General Rawlinson wrote an appreciation of the appearance and smartness of the Division.”

James Garstang received his Distinguished Conduct Medal from the Mayor of Preston, Alderman Cartmell on the steps of the Town Hall in Preston on Saturday, 29 December, 1917. The Preston Guardian reported on the event and the article also refers to Private Joseph Hindle .


Unfortunately there is no way of knowing precisely when or where James was injured or whether he went back out to the front and re-joined the 1st Battalion.

The only other information available is that at some point he was promoted to Corporal and joined the Military Foot Police with the number P/15835.

James was discharged from the Army on the 4th December, 1919 under K.R. 392 xvia (Surplus to military requirements having suffered impairment since entry into the service) and was awarded a Silver War Badge No. 475112.

James also received the 1914 Star, British War and Victory Medals to go with his Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On the 31 July, 1920 James married a widow Annie Catterall in St. Luke`s Church in Preston. James died in Preston in 1953.

Authors notes:

Four other members of the 1st Battalion also received awards for their actions on the 10th – 11th July, 1917;
D.S.O. – Captain H.A. Pallant – for his efforts in rescuing a part of Kings Royal Rifles on the evening of the 11th July.
D.C.M. 23983 Private Higson – for swimming across the Yser under heavy fire with a rope.
Military Medals – Private Shannon and Private Sutcliffe for their endeavours to get messages over the river on 10th July.

Additional family information
James` younger brother also enlisted. 11019 Private Richard Garstang Wilcock and he also joined the 1st Battalion. Richard embarked on the 1 May, 1915 with a batch of reinforcements but sadly he was posted as missing a few days later. For official purposes he was presumed to have died on or about the 9 May, 1915.

Richard was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and because his body was never recovered his name was recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to 10440 CPL. J. W. GARSTANG. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Terry Morland says:

    thank you janet for taking time to write this piece have learnt a bit more about my granddad James garstang

    great article

  2. Janet Davis says:

    Hi Terry,

    Thank you for your kind comments, they are very much appreciated. I`m pleased you liked the article and that it`s helped you to learn more about your Grandfather, another brave man as they all were.

    Kind Regards

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