2nd/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment
Thomas Pocock lived at 44, Amity Road, Reading. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Pocock. The 1911 census indicates that he had two older brothers Albert and Harry and one younger brother Ernest Frank who were living in the family home. His mother had given birth to ten children of whom seven were living. Thomas was a labourer at the biscuit factory like his father and older brothers. He was aged 22 when he was killed in action on 9th October 1917. This day marks the beginning of the third phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.
Passchendaele by Martin Matrix Evans describes the scene that Thomas Pocock would have been a part of: “..troops moved up in anticipation of the attack of 9 October. Lieutenant P. King described the horrors of the march up from Ypres. ’It was an absolute nightmare. Often we would have to stop and wait for up to half an hour, because all the time the duck boards were being blown up and men being blown off the track or simply slipping off – because we were all in full marching order with gas masks and rifles, and some were carrying machine guns and extra ammunition’.
At 5.20am on 9 October the 2/9th Manchester Regiment and the 2/4th East Lancashire (both 198 Brigade, 66th Division) advanced against Dab Trench. Fire from Hamburg Redoubt, the strong point in the centre of the obstacle, cut the men down and an attempt by the 2/5th East Lancashire to take it failed. King describes it. ‘We went over this morass, straight into a curtain of rain and mist and shells, for we were caught between two barrages. Well, of course we lost direction right away….The machine gun fire from the German positions was frightful…. We could hardly move because the mud was so heavy that you were dragging your legs behind you, and with people being hit and falling and splashing down all round you, all you can do is keep moving and look for some form of cover’.”
It is not therefore surprising that Thomas Pocock has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 120-124 and 162-162A and 163A
William James Mundy
11th Battalion Queen’s Own (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
William James Mundy was the son of Mrs E. E. Mundy, of 28, Henry Street, Reading. His father H. Mundy was already dead at the time of his son’s death. He was commemorated on a his family’s grave. The 1911 census indicates that William was working as a barman at a hotel in Aldershot. William died on the 31st July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.
The Third Battle of Ypres began on 31st July 1917. A bombardment had begun fifteen days earlier and over four million shells had been fired. (One million had been fired prior to the Battle of the Somme). At 3.50a.m. the assaulting troops of the Second and Fifth Armies, with a portion of the French First Army lending support on the left, moved forward, accompanied by 136 tanks. The Tank Corps was only four days old. Previously it had been known as the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, a name adopted for purposes of secrecy at their formation. Preparations for the battle had taken place in dry weather but on the first day the weather broke and three-quarters of an inch (21.7mm) of rain soaked the battlefield. Men and tanks moved forward behind the creeping barrage over ground churned and cratered by years of shelling. The surface was softened by the rain but, for all that only two tanks bogged down at the commencement of battle although many ditched later. A map was prepared by Major Fuller, Staff Intelligence Officer of the Tanks, of the ground over which the tanks were expected to attack. Where he expected the ground to be marshy, he coloured the area blue. What he saw appalled him, it was three-quarters of the battlefield. He sent the maps to Haig’s GHQ so that the Commander in Chief could judge conditions for himself. However, the map was intercepted by Charteris who refused to show it to the Commander in Chief on the grounds that it would depress him. Only 48% of the tanks reached their first objective. Although there was some progress in the early part of the day by late morning the familiar breakdown in communications between infantry and guns occurred. At two in the afternoon the Germans began to counter attack with a heavy shelling and this together with the heavy rain turned the battle field into soupy mud. A halt to the offensive was called until the 4th August. However, Haig insisted that the attack had been “highly satisfactory and the losses slight”. By comparison with the Somme, when 20,000 men had died on the opening day, only about 8,800 men were reported dead or missing. The total wounded, including those of the French Army, numbered 35,000, the Germans suffered a similar number. However, the Germans remained in command of the vital ground and committed none of their counter attack divisions. Prince Rupprecht , in his diary recorded that he was “very satisfied with the results”.
It is not known exactly when and where William Mundy was killed, he has no known grave and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Panels 45 & 47. He was aged 25.
Private 31858 “A” Company
6th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
James Hewett (known as Jim) was aged 19 years when he died of wounds on 18th November 1917. His unit , part of the 19th Division, had fought from early June in the Battle of Messines until 10 November 1917 during the Second Battle of Passchendael. At that point the 19th Division was withdrawn and not involved in any furthr fighting until the following spring. It is not know when James Hewitt received his injuries or their extent. He died in Abbeville where there were three hospitals and he is buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, location III.E.7. The Extension was started during July 1916. Abbeville was for most of the war the headquarters of the British Lines of Communication.
His parents Mr and Mrs J. Hewett lived at 65 Grange Avenue. An In Memoriam November 15th 1919 refers to mother, father, brothers and sisters.