Although as yet it has not been possible to prove the connection, John is almost certainly the brother of Francis Pickles. It is a relatively uncommon surname and both men had a father called Frederick and lived in fairly close proximity to each other. Frederick Pickles, recorded by the War Graves Commission as John’s father, lived at 2 Adcroft Street, Stockport.
Nothing is known of John’s early life except that Army records, published after the War, note that he was born in Nantwich and joined up at Ashton under Lyne. The 93rd Brigade was formed early in the War as part of the Army’s 20th Division. It went overseas in the summer of 1915 and John’s service number suggests he was probably an original member.
The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916 and, three months later, was still making slow progress. After the failures of the first day, the following weeks of the Battle were characterised by a series of relatively small “bite and hold” attacks. One such attack, involving the infantry from 20th Division took place on 7 October. Their objectives were secured and, as the front line had advanced, so the artillery also moved forward. On the 8th, John and his comrades went into new positions near Guinchy. The Brigade’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, has only scant details of the following days. It was a quiet time for the men of 20th Division. However, the artillery batteries kept up a regular fire, day and night, firing about 20 rounds an hour onto new targets. Of course, there was German artillery retaliation which the Diary records as “fairly heavy at all times”. Although there are no details of casualties, John was almost certainly killed by the enemy shellfire.