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Joe Pickard

Joe PickardPrivate Joe Pickard, 36641, Essex Regiment, 5th Battalion

Joe Pickard was born in Ossett on the 31st July 1890 and baptised at South Ossett Christ Church on the 1st February 1891. He was the second surviving son of George Pickard and his wife, Christina (nee Hinchcliffe), who married in early 1878. The couple had eight children in total, but two died before April 1911. All of the Pickard family were born in Ossett.

In 1891 and 1901, the Pickards were living at Queen Street, Ossett and George worked as a woollen cloth dyer. In 1901, Joe Pickard and his brother Irvine were living next door with their maternal, widowed grandmother, Elizabeth Hinchcliffe. In 1911 George and Christina Pickard were living at 6, David Street, Queen Street, Ossett with four of their children, all boys, aged between 16 and 23 years. Joe Pickard was working as a mill hand like his father.

Joe Pickard’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Dewsbury and joined the Essex Regiment with the service number 36641. He was killed in action in Palestine on the 2nd November 1917 and was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914/15 Star, indicating that he did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915.

George and Christina Pickard lived at 6, David Street, Ossett in 1911 and also when their son was killed in action in November 1917. This was only two doors away from the 12, David Street address of widow Elizabeth Pickard, who was living there by August 1916. Her sons were George Arthur Pickard, who lost his life in September 1916, and Joe Pickard who was gassed in March 1918. Presumably, there was some family connection between these two Pickard families, but the relationship is not yet known.

The 1st/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment was formed in August 1914 at Chelmsford as part of Essex Brigade in East Anglian Division. They moved to Norwich in late 1914 and on to Colchester in April 1915. In May 1915, the formation became 161st Brigade in 54th (East Anglian) Division and they moved late in the month to St Albans. On the 21st July 1915, the Battalion sailed from Devonport for Gallipoli, going via Lemnos and landed at Suvla Bay on the 12th August 1915. On the 4th December 1915 they were evacuated from Gallipoli and moved to Mudros, going on to Alexandria, Egypt on the 17th December 1915. The Battalion remained in the Egypt/Palestine theatre for the rest of WW1.

Private Joe Pickard was killed in action during the Third Battle of Gaza, which was fought during the night of the 1st/2nd of November 1917. The 54th (East Anglian) Division (veterans of the defeats at the First and Second Battles of Gaza) were among the attacking forces on the Gaza stronghold.

161 Brigade were tasked with capturing the coastal defences around Gaza. However, the attacks by the 161st Brigade were weakened by loss of direction when the 1/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment attacked Rafa Redoubt instead of Zowaiid trench. However, the 1/6th Battalion, Essex Regiment attacked and captured Beach and Sea Posts before attacking the Rafa Redoubt and trench systems, suffering light casualties.

The "Ossett Observer" had this obituary for Joe Pickard:

"Private Joe Pickard (26), of the Essex Regiment, whose home is in David-street, off The Green, Ossett, is reported to have been killed in action in Egypt on the 2nd inst. The soldier, who used to work for Messrs. J.M. Briggs' Sons at Northfield Mill, Ossett went into the army last December and went out to Egypt in April."

Map of 3rd Battle of Gaza

Above: Map showing positions of the opposing armies at the Third Battle of Gaza, which the British ultimately won. Private Joe Pickard's 5th Essex Regiment was located just south of Gaza city, close to the Turkish coastal defences.

Private Joe Pickard, aged 27 years, son of George and Christina Pickard, of David Street, Queen Street, Ossett, died on the 2nd November 1917. He is remembered on Panels 33 to 39 at the Jerusalem Memorial, 2 Israel and Palestine (including Gaza). The Jerusalem Memorial stands in Jerusalem War Cemetery, 4.5 kilometres north of the walled city and is situated on the neck of land at the north end of the Mount of Olives, to the west of Mount Scopus.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Palestine (now Israel) was part of the Turkish Empire and it was not entered by Allied forces until December 1916. The advance to Jerusalem took a further year, but from 1914 to December 1917, about 250 Commonwealth prisoners of war were buried in the German and Anglo-German cemeteries of the city.

By 21 November 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force had gained a line about five kilometres west of Jerusalem, but the city was deliberately spared bombardment and direct attack. Very severe fighting followed, lasting until the evening of 8 December, when the 53rd (Welsh) Division on the south, and the 60th (London) and 74th (Yeomanry) Divisions on the west, had captured all the city's prepared defences. Turkish forces left Jerusalem throughout that night and in the morning of 9 December, the Mayor came to the Allied lines with the Turkish Governor's letter of surrender. Jerusalem was occupied that day and on 11 December, General Allenby formally entered the city, followed by representatives of France and Italy.

Meanwhile, the 60th Division pushed across the road to Nablus, and the 53rd across the eastern road. From 26 to 30 December, severe fighting took place to the north and east of the city but it remained in Allied hands.

Jerusalem War Cemetery was begun after the occupation of the city, with 270 burials. It was later enlarged to take graves from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries in the neighbourhood. There are now 2,514 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery, 100 of them unidentified.

Within the cemetery stands the Jerusalem Memorial, commemorating 3,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the First World War in operations in Egypt or Palestine and who have no known grave.

References:

1. "Ossett Observer", 24th November 1917

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site