James Mockford


Died : 16 September 1916

James Mockford's grave at Guards Cemetery, Lesboeufs, France

On 22nd February 1887, Piddinghoe, near Newhaven was to be the birthplace of James Mockford who later moved to Telscombe where much of his schooling was undertaken. Just before 19th April 1898 his parents, Frank and Ruth Mockford, moved to Norlington, Ringmer and James was then educated at the village school until 22nd December 1899. He subsequently worked as a carter boy on a farm – probably Norlington Farm, as the family lived in one its cottages.

Farming was evidently not in James’ blood for he joined Brighton Borough Police as a constable on 14th April 1910 and served in that capacity for five years before resigning on 1st April 1915. He then enlisted in the Coldstream Guards at Brighton and joined No. 1 Company of the 2nd Battalion. His serial number was 15938 and he was eventually appointed to be a Lance Corporal. Having arrived in France on 21st December 1915, Guardsman Mockford was just in time to qualify for the 1914-15 Star to accompany his British War & Victory Medals.

From the end of the Battle of Loos in October 1915 until mid February 1916 the Guards Division was either recuperating and training or holding the line in the area of Neuve Chapelle. The Guards were in the forefront of implementing the offensive spirit of the time. This involved continual harassment of the enemy to try and reduce his morale by sporadic shelling and trench raids on his lines. He was kept on a constant state of alert with little or no opportunity to relax and get proper sleep. Our men also tried to kill or capture as many Germans as possible. The Guards were then to spend the next five months in Belgium doing much the same thing.

With the Battle of the Somme in full fight experienced reinforcements were needed. The Guards Division accordingly went into the line opposite Beaumont Hamel on 8th August 1916, prior to moving further south to the Ginchy area in time for action on 15th September.

The Guards emerged from a wooded area around Ginchy at 06.30 to be immediately engaged by very heavy flanking rifle and machine gun fire. The casualties were severe, yet the attack continued and German trenches were taken. The advance pressed on towards the original objective some 1,200 yards into enemy territory and captured their second line. With the only two officers left the men of No. 1 Company fought still deeper into the area behind the original German lines and remained there until dusk. One of those officers was killed during the subsequent withdrawal to the German second line where the night was spent consolidating that position and repulsing a counter attack.

The official date given for L/Cpl Mockford being killed in action is 16th September. He was however reported to the Red Cross as ‘missing’ sometime between 14th and 16th September. As the Battalion was not in action on the 14th and had a relatively quiet day on 16th it is most likely he fell during the battle on 15th September 1916. On that day the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards had 440 ‘other ranks’ killed, wounded or missing. Some sixteen officers were also killed or wounded. He is buried in the nearby Guards Cemetery at Lesboeufs, France.

More information concerning James’ parents, siblings and early life can be found in Ringmer History Newsletter No. 186.

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993