Fenny Stratford In The Great War

Subtitle

 

Although he was not born in Fenny Stratford, and, to the best of my knowledge never lived there, John Auguste Pouchot has a link that goes back to at least 1818 when his Great Grandfather, Robert Holdom was born there. Both of his Maternal Grandparents, Thomas Holdom and Mary Lee were born there is 1846, as was their daughter, (John's Mother) Emily, who was born in 1875. Thomas and Mary were in the licensing trade, in the 1881 census, Thomas' occupation was given as licensed victualler of the Park Hotel, Bletchley Road, Fenny Stratford. 

In 1897 Emily married Auguste Francois Pouchot, the marriage being registered in the September quarter in the Newport Pagnell District, which at the time included Fenny Stratford. Two years later she gave birth to their son John Auguste, his birth being registered at St. Georges, Hanover Square, London in the June quarter of 1899.  The 1901 census shows that the family was living at 29 Claverton St, in the City of Westminster, and that Auguste was employed as an Auctioneers Manager. 

In 1904 Auguste bought the tenancy of the Bell Hotel in Leighton Buzzard and in 1906 took a lease in his own name from the owners. However, it would seem that the marriage failed and that Emily and John remained in Leighton where she ran the hotel while John received his education at the Beaudesert School. On 2 September 1911, Emily was badly burnt in a fire caused by an oil geyser exploding as she lit it and a few days later she passed away from her injuries. 

Sometime after this John must have moved back to the London area where he joined the Queens Westminster Cadets and worked as a cashier in the Army and Navy stores. Then in September 1914 he joined the Queens Westminster Rifles, (16th County of London Battalion, The London Regiment) as Private 2159 and proceeded to France with his unit on 1st November.

John next surfaced in the North Bucks Times (NBT) in early 1915 when a letter he had sent to his Grandmother was printed, in this he told her about the journey to France the previous November, how soon he had got used to the sounds of the shells passing overhead and how good the locals were. 

Then the 25 May 1915 edition reported that he had received a special note of recommendation from Major General Keir, who was commander of the 6th Division of the British Army in the Field. This was in recognition of his bravery on 8 January when he crawled through mud amid constant sniping to rescue a wounded comrade. The paper also noted that he was the youngest member of his regiment. 

Two weeks later the 8 June edition reported that he had been invalided back to London with jaundice and again stated that he was ‘regarded as the youngest man in the regiment’. 

Then the on 6 July edition announced that he had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the story of his actions was reported thus: 

‘Corporal Roche went out at night behind the trench – which was separated by a narrow 50 yards from the first enemy trench – to get water. But he misjudged the time, and as he returned over the broken ground at the back, dawn broke, and his figure was silhouetted clear for every German sniper. Then came a sudden patter of bullets and he fell about 50 yards from the trench. Immediately Rifleman Pouchot jumped out of the trench and crept to Roche’s help, finding him gasping for breath with a terrible wound in his face. He tore at the Corporal’s pocket field dressing and as he worked another creeping figure (Rifleman Tibbs) joined him. Tibbs began to bandage the wounded man when he was shot under the shoulder and died. Young Pouchot, alone, went on with his work, but finding a minute later that Corporal Roche was dead, and in response to an order from his officer he returned to the trench’  

The item finished with the remark that ‘Rifleman Pouchot is said to be the youngest man in the army to receive the D.C.M.’ 

The following week, 13 July, the NBT reported that he had received his medal in Richmond Park. 

John’s award was actually first announced in the London Gazette of 23 June with the citation appearing the following week, 30 June, this read: 

‘For conspicuous gallantry on 8th January, 1915, in going, in the face of a heavy fire, to the assistance of Corporal Roche and Private Tibbs, who had both been mortally wounded’. 

The last entry in the NBT was in the edition of 22 October 1918, when he was reported as missing, it went on to state that he had ‘enlisted in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles at the very early age of 15 years and had been awarded the D.C.M. for gallantry in the field. He transferred to the Air Force about a year ago and soon received his commission. He only went to France a very short time ago and a letter received from a fellow Lieutenant states that Lieut. Pouchot was seen going down on the Hun side of the line, his machine being quite under control and it is believed that something must have hit his engine and forced him to land’.  


John was killed on 5 October 1918, He is buried in Marcoing British Cemetery, which is about a mile to the south east of Marcoing village on the road to Masnieres; Marcoing itself is about four miles south west of Cambrai.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

Corporal Roche & Rifleman Tibbs are buried side by side in the Houplines Communal Cemetery Extension, Plot 3, Row B, Graves 19 & 18 respectively. 

The CWGC Debt of Honour has no information on his parents but instead states that he was the Foster son of Mrs. Edith Hawksford, of "Tanjore," Canbury Gardens, Kingston-on-Thames. 

The CWGC Debt of Honour gives his age as 20. 

Sources:

North Bucks Times
London Gazette
Tracy Stanton (Photo’s of Beaudesert School Memorial)
Jeremy Banning (Photo of John's Grave)