Captain Clifford Crawshaw Pickles, Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.)
Clifford Crawshaw Pickles was born in late 1886, the third of six sons born to surgeon John Jagger Pickles and Lucy Dobson, who married at Burley St Matthias Church, Leeds on the 24th August 1880. Clifford was baptised at St. Matthew’s Church Leeds on the 7th November 1886.
In 1881, John and Lucy were living at 66, Camp Road, Leeds and appear to have remained on Camp Road at least until 1916. Clifford qualified as a Physician and Surgeon and by 1911 he was living and working, possibly in his first position, at Sowood House, The Green, Ossett. From about 1911 this was the home and the surgery of Ossett G.P. William Louis René Wood, Physician and Surgeon. Clifford, aged 24, was working as Dr. Wood’s assistant.
In spring 1916, near Wetherby, Clifford was married to Dorothy Beatrice Emily Wilkinson. He was to die at his father’s home at Camp Road, Leeds on the 22nd December 1916 of broncho-pneumonia and influenza, aged just 30 years.
This is the story of the life and death of Clifford Crawshaw Pickles (1886-1916) as told by others.
A victim of 'shell shock' - and influenza December 1916
The following is from 'The Story of Dorothy Wilkinson' which is a chapter in the book 'Stories from the War Hospital' by Richard Wilcocks1 (published March 2014). Clifford and Dorothy were married in spring 1916.
“Dorothy moved with her father to "Greengate" in Boston Spa, a town fifteen miles north east of Leeds on the banks of the River Wharfe, at around about this time, and at some point met Dr Clifford Crawshaw Pickles for the first time. He came from a medical family: of his doctor father’s six sons, five were also doctors. Clifford was the third one, educated at Leeds Grammar School and at the School of Medicine of the University of Leeds from 1909. He was a house surgeon to Leeds General Infirmary, then resident medical officer at the Ida Convalescent Home in Horsforth.
As medical inspector of school children for the North Riding Education Committee, he was stationed at Malton, where he had a commission in the 5th Territorial Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, better known as the Green Howards. In 1914 he was medical officer at Garforth Sanatorium, and served with his Regiment at home for a few months, but he was soon transferred to the RAMC, as a captain. He was needed urgently across the Channel.
From late April 1915, Captain Pickles was the Medical Officer in charge of a casualty clearing station on the front, just behind the lines. He took with him a studio portrait of Dorothy with "IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN TO CLIFFORD PICKLES CAPT RAMC 50th NORTHUMBRIAN DIVN 22nd FD AMB" written on its back. The 50th Northumbrian Division was part of the Territorial Force and had a headquarters at Richmond, Yorkshire. On 23 April, it was in the area of Steenvoorde, having arrived just as the Germans had attacked nearby Ypres, using poison gas for the first time. The Northumbrians were rushed into battle. The taps on tens of thousands of cylinders full of chlorine had been turned on, and the prevailing wind was blowing yellow-green clouds of death toward them. No masks were available, and large numbers – French, Canadian, British, Moroccan – died horribly, the gas destroying the respiratory organs, leading to asphyxiation. Practically nothing could be done for the victims.
In the months that followed, both sides developed increasingly sophisticated gas weapons, together with new forms of protection. By the middle of 1915, many casualty clearing stations, which were fed directly from aid posts and dressing stations near the gunfire, in this case by members of the 22nd Field Ambulance unit, had been supplied with purpose- built operating theatres and long, tented wards. Captain Pickles, wherever he was sent, would probably have assisted in some way with dozens of amputations. Decisions to sever limbs were almost always made at a CCS, and they were many, even though such operations were thought of as a thing of the past in civilian life. There are reports that surgical instruments wore out so quickly that cutler’s shops were set up nearby on a permanent basis to sharpen them.
Whatever the situation, it was too much for Captain Pickles. After three months, he joined the many thousands of men who suffered severe psychological trauma as a result of their war experiences, returning to Leeds suffering from what was then known as "shell shock". This term was first used by Dr Charles Myers for a paper he wrote in 1915 for The Lancet, though he did not invent it. The medical authorities had little idea of how to treat this condition, which became widespread, with tens of thousands of men identified by the British Army as suffering from it by the end of 1918. Captain Pickles was a severe case, according to his obituary in The Lancet in early 1917, but he was able to take advantage of a prescribed rest cure at Beckett Park, where he was visited by his fiancée.
In May 1916, having resigned his commission, he took charge of the practice, in the small Lancashire town of Earby, of his brother Dr Philip Pickles, who had just lost his life when HMS Russell had sunk in the Mediterranean after hitting a mine near Malta. Dorothy married him the following month, in the parish of Boston Spa. She was twenty-six.”
The following is from the "Craven Herald" newspaper dated 23rd June 1916:
"EARBY DOCTOR’S WEDDING
The marriage took place on Wednesday, the 14th inst., at St. Mary’s Church, Boston Spa, of Mr. Clifford Crawshaw Pickles, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P of Earby, to Miss Dorothy Beatrice Emily Wilkinson, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wilkinson, of Leeds and Boston Spa. The bridegroom, formerly a captain in the R.A.M.C., is the third son of Dr. and Mrs. J.J. Pickles of Leeds. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Reginald Harvey, rector of Barwick-in-Elmet, assisted by the Rev. Reginald G. Glennie, vicar of St. Mary’s. Dr. T.T. Pickles of Aysgarth, brother of the bridegroom, was the 'best man.' There was no reception owing to the recent death of another brother of the bridegroom, who went down in H.M.S. Russell in the Mediterranean.
His health had been weakened permanently, though, and he died a few days before Christmas, at his father’s house in Camp Road, Bramhope, near Leeds, of an attack of broncho-pneumonia following influenza".
It was normal for the principal mourners at the funerals of prominent figures to be named, and the list in The "Yorkshire Post" includes the following officials from the 2nd Northern General Hospital who acted as bearers: Major Jameson, Captain W M Munby, Captain A Gough, Captain W Gough, Lieut Sedgwick and Lieut Child.
"A firing party from Pontefract Barracks was at Lawnswood Cemetery, and a wreath was laid on the grave from the 22nd West Riding Field Ambulance. He was thirty.”
There was another report of the funeral for Captain Pickles in the "Craven Herald" newspaper dated the 29th December 1916:
"DR. C.C. PICKLES OF EARBY
Dr. Clifford Crawshaw Pickles died suddenly on Friday at the house of his father, Dr. John J. Pickles, in Camp Road, Leeds, at the age of 30. He was educated at the Leeds Grammar School and the Leeds University. From April to July, 1915, he served in France as a captain in the R.A.M.C., bur owing to ill-health he was invalided out of the service in October of that year. He then succeeded in the practice at Earby of his brother, the late Dr. P.G. Pickles, who was lost in the Mediterranean last April. He was married to Miss Dorothy Wilkinson, of Boston Spa, last June, and three of his brothers are now serving, two as medical men in the Navy and Army.
The funeral was on Tuesday at Lawnswood, Leeds. The service was conducted by the Rev. Canon J. Longbottom, and at its close three volleys were fired over the grave by a firing party from Pontefract, under the command of Capt. Hill, and the ‘Last Post’ was sounded. The bearers were the following R.A.M.C. officers from the 2nd Northern General Hospital:–Major J.K. Jamieson, Capt. W. Cough, Capt. A. Gough, Capt. W.M. Mumby, Lieut. C.H. Sedgwick, and Lieut. Child. Among the wreaths sent was one from the officers of the West Riding Field Ambulance. The mourners included:–
Mrs. Clifford Pickles (widow), Dr. and Mrs. J.J. Pickles (father and mother), Dr. J.J. Pickles, jun., Capt. H.D. Pickles, R.A.M.C. (T), and Gunner C.E. Pickles, R.F.A. (brothers), Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wilkinson (father and mother-in-law), Dr. Joseph Dobson (uncle), Lieut-Col. J.F. Dodson, Capt. D.F. Dobson, and Mr. W. Broadhead (cousins), Mr. E.F. Wilkinson, Mr. R. Wilkinson and Lance-Corpl. G. Wilkinson (brothers-in-law), Miss Sarah Carrack, Mrs. Wells, Lieut.-Col. W. Thompson, Major R. Lawford Knaggs, and Captain A. Richardson (Leeds General Infirmary), Capt. J.R. Wynne-Edwards and Mr. R. Wilson (Leeds Grammar School), Dr. and Mrs. J. Holmes, Dr. J.J. Anning, Mr. Richard Jackson, Mr. H. Wild, Mr. E.D.H. Rowntree, and Mr. Arthur Hanson."
Captain, Physician and Surgeon Clifford Crawshaw Pickles M.R.C.S. Eng., L.R.C.P. Lond., was posthumously awarded the British and Victory War Medals and the 1914-15 Star Medal for his service overseas. Records show that an application was made for a Silver War Badge but the application was refused in January 1917.
Clifford Crawshaw Pickles of 68, Skipton Road, Earby, Yorkshire died on the 22nd December 1916 at 105 Camp-road Leeds. Probate was granted at Wakefield on 10 February 1917 to his father John Jagger Pickles surgeon. Effects £332 18s. 10d.
Clifford is commemorated on the Leeds University War Memorial. He is also remembered at Leeds (Lawnswood) Cemetery at reference T.75.2 During the First World War, the major hospitals in Leeds were the 2nd Northern General with 1,800 beds and the East Leeds War Hospital with 1,900. The Cemetery contains 138 burial of the First World War, 88 of them forming a war graves plot in Section W. As these graves could not be marked individually, the names of the dead are recorded on a screen wall. The rest of the First World War burials are scattered throughout the cemetery.
We are indebted for additional research by Andrea Hartley, Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), who first brought this brave soldier who had lived in Ossett to our attention.
1. "Stories from the War Hospital" by Richard Wilcocks.
3. Photograph and other information from Imperial War Museum "Lives of the First World War"