Sunday, 26 June 2011

J N Rickeard

John Noel Rickeard
Born 1882 St Newlyn East  Killed in Action 28 June 1918
Pte G/30980 1st Battalion Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)

John was one of the sons of a successful farmer and auctioneer, Silas Rickeard, and his wife Isabella.  The Rickeards farmed at St Newlyn East and later moved into Newquay where Silas had his auctioneering business.  

John apparently didn't enjoy rural life; he moved to London and became a civil servant. In September 1911 he married the beautifully named Lilian Cynara Lucie Marshall, the daughter of a hairdresser, at Emmanuel Church in Camberwell.  The couple may have had a son, Aubrey,  the following year.  

John joined the Middlesex Regiment initially, transferring to the Royal West Kent Regiment.  1st Battalion was part of 13th Brigade in 5th Divison.  (1st Battalion DCLI were also part of this Division).  Depending on when he joined the Battalion, John may have seen action at Mons and the First Battle of Ypres in 1914, the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.  In 1916 the Division joined the Battles of the Somme, fighting at High Wood, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy before leaving the Somme on 5 October 1916.  !917 saw them fight in the Battle of Arras and the Third Battle of Ypres.  The Division was briefly moved to Italy at the end of 1917, but returned to the Western Front in March 1918.

In late June the British were planning local attacks on the enemy, one of which would be carried out by 5th and 31st Divisions.  I have been unable to find any reference to the part John's Battalion played on 28 June 1918, but as the 1st Battalion DCLI were in the same Division, I can give an overview of the attack, which was known as the Action of La Becque.  The objective was to be a line just west of the Plate Becque, which would involve moving beyond the German front line and capturing  the villages of  L'Epinette (1st DCLI) and Le Cornet Perdu (12th Gloucesters).  The 13th Brigade were to the right of the 1st DCLI.

At on 28 June 1918 the British artillery opened its barrage, starting at the German front line and slowly moving forward to the Plate Becque.  At 6.40am the troops started their advance and according to the DCLI diary met with little resistance.  The front line companies reached their objectives by 7.20am and were digging in by 7.30am.  500 Germans were captured along with a good number of enemy guns.  The 1st DCLI suffered a loss of around 40 per cent.  

13th Brigade also reached its objective and the whole operation was a success, drawing congratulations from the Commander-in-Chief and his staff.  Sadly, John was unable to take part in the celebrations.  He is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Lilian Rickeard did not remarry and died in Camberwell in 1964.  John had left her just over £400 in his will.
Back in Newquay, Silas Rickeard was involved in some good works for the town.  He was one of the landowners who donated land to make the Trenance Gardens for the town - during the Depression local unemployed men laboured to dig out the land to make ornamental gardens and lakes.  The Gardens and Boating Lake are still a beautiful and peaceful  part of Newquay - a great shame that John could not see his father's legacy.  

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