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Casualty BWM. Pickford. Grenadier Guards. Wetley Rocks, Stoke on Trent. KIA, Attack on Gonnelieu, Battle of Cambrai 1917.

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Correctly named 27997 Pte E Pickford Gren Gds

Born in Cheddleton Staffs in 1896 to George and Mary, Ernest Edward is first found with his family living at 56 Wetley Rocks in 1901.
In 1911, he has oved from home and is lodging at Spring Fields Farm in Consall, Staffs, where he is working as a servant.

We find a wound report dated July 1917 which states he has been in field for 3 months. The wound report tells us he was wounded slightly by a shell and gassed at that time also.

He was serving with the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards, the 3rd Company.

This would put him with the 3rd Guards Brigade at the time of the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November – 7 December 1917.

They were taking part in the Attack on Gonnelieu on the 1st of December 1917 as a part of the Battle of Cambrai.

3rd Guards Brigade
1st Grenadier Guards
4th Grenadier Guards
2nd Scots Guards
1st Welsh Guards
3rd Guards Brigade Machine Gun Company
3rd Guards Trench Mortar Battery

Attack on Gonnelieu

The position taken up by the Brigade was just under the crest of the ridge, running north from Gouzeaucourt Wood, and the 1st Battalion bivouacked for the night within half a mile of the camp in Havrincourt Wood, where the stores and transport had remained. As the night was bitterly cold, one blanket per man and the officers’ trench kits were fetched, and eventually, when the cookers came up, tea and porridge was given out to the men.
At 4 A.M., after the Company Commanders had returned from reconnoitring, orders were issued for the 1st Battalion to move by Companies in artillery formation, and take up a line on the railway between Gouzeaucourt on the right and Villers Plouich on the left. By 9 A.M. the Companies were in position: No. 2, under Captain Rhodes, on the right and in touch with the 4th Battalion Grenadiers; No. 3, under Captain Spence, in the centre; No. 4, under Captain Lawford, on the left; and the King’s Company, under Lieutenant Harvard, in reserve.

Both the railway and a sunken road which ran parallel with it were shelled incessantly by the enemy, while machine-gun bullets also swept down the line from the direction of Gonnelieu. The 4th Battalion Grenadiers and the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards were ordered to undertake the attack, while the 1st Battalion was to be in support, and guard the left flank as the advance progressed. At 6.20 A.M. the attack began, and a rather feeble bombardment was continued for ten minutes by three Brigades of R.F.A. Twenty-two tanks had been allotted to the Division, eight of which were to co-operate with Seymour’s Brigade.

As soon as the attack started, the 1st Battalion advanced under a hail of bullets, although there was no artillery fire, and many men fell at once. The 4th Battalion Grenadiers, which it supported, was at first so successful that it outstripped the troops on the left, and consequently had that flank in the air. Lord Henry Seymour sent orders to the 1st Battalion to secure the high ground to the north of Gonnelieu, hoping that by this means it would not only secure the left flank of the 4th Battalion, but also materially assist it to hold the village. The 1st Battalion had therefore to advance half left, and after going about 600 yards it was joined by men of various regiments.

Complete success attended the first part of the attack, and the three leading Companies, by a free use of the bayonet, captured the first German trench they reached. It was then necessary to “mop up,” and clear all possible hiding-places where any Germans might be lurking. Apparently the enemy had been taken unawares, and there were traces everywhere of surprise and precipitate flight. One German officer was caught while changing his clothes, and had nothing on but a shirt. The men stood up, and fired their rifles from the shoulder at the retreating Germans, and the Lewis gunners did their work well. A large number of the enemy were killed, and 110 prisoners were taken.

Having succeeded so well with the first trench, the 1st Battalion continued its advance until it arrived at a well-wired trench north of Gonnelieu. The three leading Companies managed to get through gaps in the wire, and push on, but when they topped the ridge they were met with a terrific machine-gun fire, which staggered them, and caused many casualties. It seemed madness to advance in the open against well-posted machine-guns, and orders were therefore given to withdraw to the trench they had already gained. In the meantime five tanks were seen advancing up to the ridge south of Gonnelieu; three of them were put out of action before they reached the village, and none were able to enter the village itself.

It was here that Ernest was given his presumed death date, 1/12/1917.

He is remembered upon the Cambrai Memorial

His next of kin, his parents are noted as living at Rose Cottage/Hope Chapel, Wetley Rocks, Stoke On Trent.

Ernest is entitled to a Pair.
The medal has an original silk ribbon.

(Attack on Gonnelieu information retrieved from THE GRENADIER GUARDS IN THE GREAT WAR OF 1914-1918 By Lieut.-Colonel The Right Hon. SIR FREDERICK PONSONBY)

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