This blog posting has been prepared by Lisa Gibbons, and is the story of her great-grandfather, James Maddocks (29 June 1893 – 7 October 1950).
James Maddocks was born in Ettingshall, Bilston on 29th July 1896, the ninth child born to William Henry and Elizabeth Maddocks, who would, in all, produce fourteen children.
Aged 6 he is shown living with his parents and siblings in the Maddox Buildings, Wolverhampton Road, Ettingshall. His father was a Coal Merchant/Horse Driver. Two of his older sisters worked as ‘bolt screwers’ at the Hurdle Factory.
By 1911 he was a seventeen year old working as a Brass Caster, still living with his parents and youngest brother in Ettingshall at 4 Wards Buildings, Priestfield. The census tells us the awful truth that William and Elizabeth had suffered the losses of ten of their fourteen children by that time.
We have evidence that James (or Jim as he was known) was a keen sportsman, a photograph from 1912 shows him with several chums proudly holding a Football trophy, with a hefty leather football chalked with the legend “Priestfield Rovers FC 1912”.
James continued in his occupation in the Brass Industry. He married Mary Jane Wedge 13th May 1914. On his Army Enlistment Information Form (listed under James Maddox in the National Archives) it is written that they married at “Ketchem Church” Nr Ettingshall, Wolverhampton. Whoever was recording this information was not local to Bilston or Ettingshall and has inadvertently shown us the phonetic spelling (in Bilston brogue) of Catchem Church – which would have most likely been Holy Trinity Church. (Catchem Corner is around the area of the corner of Ettingshall Road and Spring Road). At the time he enlisted they, and their son James Richard, lived at 12 Back of 14 Fleece Street, Ettingshall Village.
He must have, like so many other young men, entered willingly into the Great War, signing his Attestation papers in Willenhall on 11th December 1915. It is confusing that he signed his name “Maddox” not Maddocks. The name had, over the years, been spelt Maddocks, Maddox, Mattocks and Maddeckes but had settled generally in the family as Maddocks – this is how it was recorded on the 1911 census. It appears to have caused some confusion later on and requests were made to have the matter resolved.
He was mobilized on the 11th April 1916, leaving his wife Mary in Ettingshall two months away from having their second child Fanny. When Mary gave birth to her second child, Fanny in June 1916 she wrote to the South Staffordshire Regiment, the letter is preserved in the National Archives.
This may have been the reason for forfeiting 3 days pay in July of 1916 when Jim returned two days and thirty minutes late to barracks after leave. Later that year, in the October of 1916 James’ mother-in-law, Zillah Wedge, died suddenly, Mary Jane and her two small children moved back to her parent’s home at 10 Wesley Street, Monmore Green to look after her father and youngest sister. Mary Jane’s sister Fanny was fourteen years old and working “in munitions”.
Jim went to France and operated there as a Lewis Gunner having been transferred to the 1/6th South Staffordshire Regiment (B Coy) on 11th November 1916. He joined the unit in the field on 1st December 1916 and it would seem all went well for Jim until May 1918. On the 22th he was injured by gas shells, his wife was notified that he had been slightly injured and he rejoined his unit on 7th June 1918. During the summer of 1918 Mary Jane’s brother, Daniel Wedge, had been captured and was sent to Langensalza then Zerbst POW Camp.
Jim’s Payment book was still intact in the collection of his keepsakes, giving details of his Regimental Pay. Some of the pages show payments in French Francs when he was on the Western Front
James was trained as a Lewis Gunner, however it shows on his casualty form that he was also qualified as a sniper. This is apparently unusual (being a Lewis Gunner and a Sniper) and no previous mention of this had been made by his family. It may be an administrative error. The Lewis Gun was made by BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) Company Ltd., and Savage Arms.
Notification that Jim had been injured on 22nd May 1918 was sent to his home address dated 13th June. Mary Jane had moved back to her old family home to look after her father Richard Charles Wedge. No details of the injury were given. He had been gassed.
James rejoined the Battalion on 4th June 1918. In the days where the only communication was by post James had been gassed, sent away from the front and returned to fight before his wife and family had even received notification of his being a casualty, how different from today’s immediate communications!
Apart from the Casualty form there is little to show where James fought and what he did. There is a short record showing that he was late back to barracks and once late for parade by 20 minutes – this was ‘Neglect of Duty’ and Jim was reprimanded.
The confusion over Jim’s surname continued, several communications were made in order to satisfy the South Staffords Administrative Officers quest. Apparently Jim denied all knowledge of having signed his name incorrectly on his attestation papers!
Further details of James Maddocks will be contained in a future blog post.