Raymond PICKFORD
Rank: Private
Number: 235430
Unit: 17th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 8 October 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: Vis-en-Artois Memorial,

Raymond's parents were William and Fanny. Her maiden name is thought to have been Daniels and the couple probably married in the early 1880s at St Mary's Church, Stockport. They lived first in Hazel Grove where William practised his trade as a wheelwright and where their first three children were born. Late in the decade, the family moved to Marple where they lived at Beaconsfield Terrace and, later, Market Street and High Lane.

Reporting his death, the local newspaper stated that Raymond had been a pre-War member of the local 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. However, his original Cheshire service number, 265149, was not issued until after the beginning of 1917 and he will have joined as a conscript. Around the same time, his younger brother, Fred, joined the army as a regular soldier.

With the War nearly won, the British Army was constantly on the attack by early October 1918. However, the Germans were still very capable of putting up a strong resistance and, on the 6th, the British found themselves facing a heavily defended German front line near the village of Villers-Outrreux. The position was defended by thick banks of barbed wire and the Germans had a considerable number of well placed machine guns. It was impossible to make progress so the Tommies "dug in" for two days, while heavy artillery was brought up to destroy the wire and put the machine guns out of action.

The bombardment opened and, by 1am on the 8th, it was thought that sufficient damage must have been done to allow the infantry to go forward. In fact, the wire had not been destroyed but had actually been strengthened by the Germans and, as the troops came to it, they found themselves easy targets for the machine guns. Those that could do so retreated back to the British trench to await reinforcements. These arrived in the early afternoon and another, more successful, attempt was made to capture the village. Over 130 men had become casualties - dead or wounded.

From letters sent to his family, it would seem that Raymond had been shot in the leg. It was a relatively minor wound and he stayed at duty for a little while but was then sent back to the dressing station. While making his way to the rear, a shell exploded nearby and killed him. Writing home, a friend said that he saw Raymond's body and he was "not in any way mutilated". This was probably a great kindness to his family - but Raymond has no known grave and it is likely that there was little of him left to bury. For a now unknown act of bravery Raymond was awarded the Military Medal which was sent to the family after his death. The local newspaper stated it was a posthumous honour but, in fact, the MM could not be awarded posthumously for action on the day he was killed. It must, therefore, have been during an earlier action when Raymond undertook his brave deed.

Further information can be found about Raymond and Fred in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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