Dick Pickstone

Second Lieutenant Dick Pickstone was a member of the 17th Battalion, Manchester Regiment when he was killed in action, aged 21, on 12th October 1916 during the Battle of Le Transloy, part of the Somme offensive. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Pier and Face 13A. 

Early Life

The 1901 Census has Dick (who was born in July 1895) was living with his father Eli, and Mother Mary, and siblings Harry and Albert. Dick was the middle son. At the time Eli was a Beer Retailer at the Railway Inn found in the Beswick/Bradford district of Manchester. According to the 1911 Census they were still living in Ashton New Road, Manchester. There is no evidence of their home now, nor the Railway Inn, as they were cleared for Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Current Google map references show many of the roads in the area were cleared and renamed. The Ordnance Survey Six-Inch map of 1923 shows the original layout and names of streets in the area.

At the family home, by 1911 there had been two additions to the family, Nellie aged five—a sister to the three boys—and Mary’s mother, Helen Bradbury, who was 67 and a widow. Eli was still showing up as a Beer Retailer although there is no evidence to show where. Harry at eighteen was working as a clerk at the Bradford Iron Works. Beswick and Bradford had a number of iron works close by, all gone now with the building of the Etihad Stadium in the area. Both Dick and Albert were listed as being at school, four schools are listed on Ashton New Road in 1923 so it has not yet been established which one they attended, but Dick appears on the Manchester Central High School Memorial.

Winchester Training College

In completing the work for many of those who attended Winchester training College, it has been hard to establish the reason for deciding to become a teacher. Quite often the back ground of the individual does not follow a pattern with attendees of the college coming from a range of social backgrounds. In 1913 Dick arrived at Winchester Training College and began his two year course, which would have ultimately lead to his qualifying as a teacher. He would have completed only one year before war was declared.

The College as Dick would have known it

Student life was not as today. Typical for higher education institutions of the time, the timetable was rigorous, rules of behaviour strict and chapel attendance compulsory. Martial Rose’s history of the college  gives an idea of the strict rules:

The main entrance on the terrace was not to be used by students, nor were they allowed to use the main driveway to the college from Sparkford Road. Students were required to approach the college from lower down the hill and enter through the west door near the Vice-Principal’s study. When on the terrace they might walk on the gravel, but the turf was preserved for the staff.

This showed some of Dick’s initial thoughts of the college, but they became tempered as he settled into an independent way of life, we continue to read;

On either side of the main terrace entrance was a stone sphinx which received festal paint at frequent intervals, and as frequently both were removed to surprising parts. An early copy of The Wintonian comments, ‘a concrete stand and iron band now fix them firmly to the land’. But not firmly enough, for they finally disappeared altogether.

Students organised their own events. There were sports teams with regular fixtures on Wednesdays and Saturdays, sports facilities, entertainments evenings, and debates.

Reference to Dick was made in The Wintonian 1910-1914

Written by Dick Pickstone “The first Juniors have now tasted the joys of school practice. Although the work was new to us, we managed,… to struggle through to the end.

We who went to the then King Alfred’s College can relate to the above some sixty years later, when we attended.

From Winchester to War

Many students also joined the 4th Battalion Hampshire Regiment Volunteer Force (B Company). Provision was made in the college timetable for drill and training. From his medal card it appears that he was in the 4th Battalion the Hampshires as war broke out. His physical examination on joining the Territorial College Company tells us that he was 5ft 7½in tall with a chest measurement of 34½in, normal vision and fair physical development.

He enlisted in the Hampshires at College on the 16th September  1913, and was embodied in August of the following year, one year into his College course.  He was appointed Lance Corporal in May 1915 and then Corporal in June 1915. One issue to be resolved is the fact that in October 1914 the battalion was sent to India to replace those troops being allocated to the Western Front yet for some reason his medal record card shows that he didn’t go overseas until August 1916 and then it was with the 14th Manchesters as a Second Lieutenant. Dick was posted to the 14th Manchesters on his commissioning.

When Dick enlisted in the Hampshires while he was at College section 16(f) stated:

That you will be liable to serve in any place in the United Kingdom without further agreement, but not in any place outside the United Kingdom unless you voluntarily undertake to do so.

The most plausible explanation then would be that Dick did not give that undertaking when some of the Hampshires left for India. There is also the possibility that the unit he was with as documented in May 1915, the 3/4th Hants Depot Battalion, was not part of the group posted to India. By February 1915 there is documentary evidence that Dick was prepared to serve overseas when he signed ‘An agreement to be made by an officer or man of the Territorial Force to subject himself to liability to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom in the event of a National Emergency.’

Again in May of that year he signed  the form which stated:

Dick Pickstone L.Cpl 3/4th Hants Depot Battn

Hereby consent to serve in the Territorial Force during the present period of embodiment in any corps or any unit of a corps to which I may be transferred or drafted with a view to service overseas.

The above undertaking is to be treated as part of the obligation I undertook with respect to service outside the United Kingdom.

 

In March or April of 1915, Dick would have been placed under Officer Training as it took some four months to complete. Subsequently, he was commissioned on 31st July 1915 as a Temporary Second Lieutenant, and this was announced in the London Gazette Supplement page 7728 dated 5th August 1915. The 14th Manchesters were a reserve Battalion from which postings were made to other Battalions.

In May 1916 Dick was admitted to 1/4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln, from Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase, with a large polyp obstructing his left nasal passage. A medical board convened on 6th June 1916 decided that there was no indication that an operation was necessary and that his condition was improving under treatment. It was recommended that he be allowed sick leave for a month.  By the 22nd July 1916 he was declared fit for General Service when the medical board re-examined his case.

Dick was posted to the 17th Manchester Regiment, when is yet to be established, but we know that from the Medal Record card that he entered the Western Front in August 1916. The date is relevant as it shows that he was a part of the replacement  units sent in after the massive losses in the early days of the Somme offensive.

The 17th Manchesters were assigned to the 30th Division whilst in training at Belton Park in April 1915, and when they arrived in France they were still part of the same Division. They were moved to the Somme area to be part of the reserve and to be used as needed as the offensive developed. The more that this offensive is studied the more it becomes apparent that the logistics behind the whole push were enormous and the number of men and weapons involved on an industrial scale. Impressions of a mincing machine swallowing up soldiers in a fashion never been seen before on both sides is justified but the sheer scale of the action is monumental.

It is into this cauldron that Dick found himself entering. The Battle of Le Transloy was the last offensive of the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in the 1916 Battle of the Somme in France. The soldiers of the British, French and German armies endured miserable conditions, in which the Germans were able to keep going in the knowledge that the onset of winter would end the Somme offensive, despite the many extra casualties caused by illness. The British and French benefitted from superior numbers, which enabled the Allied Commanders to relieve divisions after shorter periods in the line. Persisting in such an offensive has subsequently given rise to criticism of the Allied Commanders but in putting the British share of the battle into the context of strategic subordination to French wishes, it shows Joffre’s general Allied offensive and the continuation of French attacks south of Le Transloy, which had to be supported by British operations.

Within the confines of the battle in which Dick was personally involved this is what happened on the day. The 30th Division attacked on the left of XV Corps with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 17th Manchester of the 90th Brigade. The Royal Scots managed only to advance 150 yd (140 m) into machine-gun fire and were forced to withdraw whilst some parties of the 17th Manchester got into Bayonet Trench before retiring. It was at this time that Dick was killed in action on 12th October 1916. He was 21 years old.

His body was never found and his name is remembered on the panels of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Dick died without making a will. When his effects were finalised his father was sent £64 6s 3d and the only item mentioned on his inventory, a wristwatch.

Left – Thiepval Pier and Face 13 A and 14 C, taken by Pat Naylor and Peter Lidgitt

Thiepval pre 1929 from the Silent Cities 1st Edition by Sidney C Hurst P.A.S.I Methuen and Co, London

 

Thiepval Memorial taken by Pat Naylor and Peter Lidgitt

 

Researcher and Author: John Westwood

Sources

Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (2018). Home page. [online] Available at www.cwgc.org/ [Accessed 2018].

Hurst, S.C. (1929). The Silent Cities. London: Methuen and Co.

The National Archives. 2/Lieutenant Dick PICKSTONE The Manchester Regiment, WO 339/35120. London.

Rose, M. (1981). A history of King Alfred’s College, Winchester 1840-1980. London: Phillimore.

Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.

 

 

University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code Record
47M91W/ P2/4 The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/ P2/5 The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/ P2/6 The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/ P2/7 The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/ P2/8 The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/ P2/10 The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/ P2/11 The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/ P2/12 The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/ D1/2 The Student Register
47M91W/ S5//5/10 Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/ Q3/6 A Khaki Diary
47M91W/ B1/2 Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/ Q1/5 Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/ R2/5 History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/ L1/2 College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office archive
71M88W/6 List of Prisoners at Kut
55M81W/PJ1 Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903
All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.