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20202 Private Caesar PicklesCaesar Pickles was born on the 1st August 1877 in the town of Colne in East Lancashire. His parents Michael and Emma Pickles (nee Child) married at St. Bartholomew`s Church in Colne on the 8th June 1867. Caesar had three brothers and five sisters; Frederick (1872), David (1876), Sarah Jane (1879), James Foulds (1880), Fanny (1883), Betsy (1885), Emma (1888) and Alice Caroline (1889).

In the Census taken in 1891 the Pickles family lived at 16 Parliament Street in Colne where Caesar`s father Michael worked as a cotton weaver in one of the local mills.

Caesar married local girl Alice Maud Bennetta in St. Bartholomew`s Church on the 12th December 1896, the marriage record noting both were aged 19 years old. Caesar`s occupation at the time was a `skinner` in Sagar`s Leather Works in Colne.

By 1901 Caesar and Alice were living at 9 Dent Square in Colne and they had two children, John Irving (1897) and Emma Jane (1898).

The Census of 1911 shows Caesar and Maud still living at the same address in Dent Square but by now the family had increased in size with the addition of; Alice Caroline (1902), David (1904), Elizabeth Ann (1907) and Annie (1909). Caesar`s occupation is now described as a `flesher` at the leather works. Another daughter arrived in 1912 and she was named Alice Maud after her mother.

Unfortunately Caesar`s service papers are not available but later information states that he enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in February 1915 at the age of 38. Around the same time he enlisted Caesar and Alice`s eighth child was born, another daughter and they named her May Louvain Pickles.

According to Caesar`s Medal Index Card he was originally credited with the 1915 Star but this was later struck through and a date of embarkation for France given as 8th March 1916 which confirmed that he was not entitled to that particular medal. After arriving in France he would have spent a week or two at the Base Depot before being posted to the 10th Battalion.

In early May 1916 the 10th Battalion as part of the 112th Brigade of the 37th Division were still occupying the same sector they had been in since September 1915 which was around Hannescamps and Bienvillers.

Sadly, Caesar Pickles died on the 10th May 1916 when a rifle grenade landed in the midst of nine men killing him and 17624 Pte A.E. Wilcock and wounding six others. The ninth man in the trench also survived, his surname was also Pickles and he was in fact 22375 Private John Irving Pickles, Caesar`s eldest son.

Extract from the Battalion War History: BIENVILLERS 

8th May 1916 – Battalion relieved the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. The first platoon entering at 8pm and relief was completed at 9.30pm. Everything was very quiet, one man accidentally wounded.

9th May 1916 – Enemy was busy with trench mortar bombs and rifle grenades but no damage was sustained by the Battalion.

10th May 1916 – Orders received to hand over to the 8th East Lancashires trenches 72 to 77 inclusive. The dispositions of the Battalions were altered and the line held as follows;

From right to left, B Coy trenches 78 to 83 inclusive. C Coy trenches 84 to 86 inclusive. A Coy trenches 87 to 90 inclusive and D Coy trenches 91 and 92. B and C Companies each had 3 platoons in fire trenches and 1 platoon in support trenches. These dispositions allowed for the MONCHY SALIENT to be under one command. Enemy artillery was very quiet but rifle grenades and trench mortars caused us some trouble. One rifle grenade fell amongst a group of nine men, killing two and wounding six, otherwise no casualties.

In May 1916 the local paper reported on Caesar`s death, the article also quoting from a letter that John Irving Pickles had sent to his mother.

“Caesar Pickles of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment has been killed at the front. The deceased soldier, who was 39 years of age, was formerly employed at Messrs. Sagar`s Tannery, Cottontree (Colne). He enlisted in February 1915 and went to the front in March this year. He has a son, aged 19, at the front, and they were in the trenches together. The son enlisted 9 months ago.

In a letter the Captain of the late Private Pickles Company says; “Dear Mrs Pickles, it is my painful duty to have to inform you of the death of your husband, who lost his life on Wednesday, May 10th. He had not been with us very long, but his genial disposition had made him many friends, and I know I am voicing the opinion of my Company when I say he was one of the best of men. Your grief is ours also, for he was a man of grit, a fine example to all, and died a hero`s death”.

The Reverend H. Stuart, Chaplain, writes – “Your husband was a brave and efficient soldier, and one much respected, and held in affection by Officers and men. He fell whilst doing his duty to his country, and to the great cause we have in hand to which God has called us as a nation”.

Mrs Pickles` son has written home to his mother respecting his father`s death, and in his letter he stated “I was with Dad when he was `done in`, and I think I was lucky not to have been killed at the same time, as I was blown against the trench. He died without saying anything. It was the shock that did it, as he had only one wound. I feel I can do nothing now. We were all joking and laughing when the shot came over us. Try and keep your heart up. I know how you feel, and I hardly know what to say, as I am so full of grief to think that Dad should have been `done in` after being in the trenches only a few days.

Sadly, not long after the death of her husband, Alice also lost her baby daughter May Louvain, her death being registered in the September quarter of 1916.

Caesar Pickles was later buried in Bienvillers Military Cemetery alongside Private Wilcock who perished on the same day. Alice Pickles had the following words inscribed at the foot of Caesar`s headstone;

  From Loving Wife and Children

CWGC photo taken in July 2016

CWGC photo taken in July 2016

After the war Alice Pickles would have taken receipt of her husband`s British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled. She would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for his country.

Rank: Private
Service No: 20202
Date of Death: 10/05/1916
Age: 38
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 10th Bn.

Additional family information
22375 Private John Irving Pickles 10th Battalion LNL

John enlisted in about September 1915 and he embarked for France after January 1916 and at some point after his arrival he was posted to the 10th Battalion LNL. After witnessing the death of his father John remained with the 10th Battalion until he was transferred to the A.S.C. on the 10th October 1917.

John Irving Pickles survived the war and also received the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service. In 1920 he married Ada Lord at St. Bartholomew`s Church in Colne. John and Ada had four children together, two boys and two girls. Their first child, a son, was named Caesar after his Grandfather, sadly Caesar died soon after birth.

In 1939 John and Ada were still resident in Colne, living at 49 The Crescent, John was employed at the Electricity Works as a labourer and Ada was a weaver for a silk and cotton manufacturer. Their second child, another son named Irving Pickles had been born in 1925 and so by 1943 at the age of 18 he was called up for service in WW2. Irving joined the Royal Navy and became D/KX178524 1st Class Stoker on H.M.S. Mounsey, a frigate. H.M.S. Mounsey went into service in December 1943 and she served on escort duties to convoys in the North Atlantic as well as escorting Arctic Convoys to the Soviet Union.

On the 2nd November 1944 H.M.S. Mounsey was escorting a convoy in the Barents Sea when she was hit and subsequently damaged by a Gnat torpedo fired from a U-Boat. The damage from the torpedo caused the death of several members of the crew including nineteen year old 1st Class Stoker Irving Pickles.  H.M.S. Mounsey did not sink but returned to port for temporary repairs.

The name of 1st Class Stoker Irving Pickles is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

His father John Irving Pickles passed away at his home in Colne on the 22nd December 1952 aged 55 years.

Janet Davis
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