This post continues the story of James Maddocks, the great-grandfather of our volunteer, Lisa Gibbons.
In a small box of photographs and mementoes there were found the beautifully embroidered cards that were sent from France, cards sent to France by Mary Jane and below, a contemporaneous account of the Battle of St Quentin Canal near Bellenglise. British, Australian and American troops were involved. Amongst them the 46th Midland Division fought, crossing the canal,(the bridge over it was fortified by machine gun posts), capturing 4,200 prisoners (out of a total for the army of 5,300). This action started on the 29th October 1918, together with other co-ordinated and continued attacks and by the 2nd October there was a 17km breach in the Hindenberg Line.
This description is graphic, actions and bravery outlined, Generals are described but not named, they are held in obvious high esteem. This would appear to be an edition of a front line ‘magazine’ designed to boost morale and provide information that may not have been forthcoming from other quarters.
There are scores of postcards – sent to and from France; this was the limit of communications. At no time does James refer to any actions that have or are being taken and at no time does he mention anything that will upset his wife and family. The following card was sent at Christmas 1917 when James had been in service for about eighteen months. Though it would seem my Great Grandfather was not a man of many words, the words he did send were heartfelt and his wife was never anyone but his ‘dear’ and ‘sweetheart’. The brevity of this message is thought provoking and heartbreaking.
Jim was ’Transferred to Reserve’ and he kept his demob notice in his box. He returned to his wife and family in Priestfield. He and Mary Jane added seven children to their brood. Two of their daughters died in early infancy in the 1920’s. The family was eventually re-housed after the war on the new Millfields Estate.
He continued to work in the brass industry. In 1922 Jim was working at the factory in Dudley Port where nineteen young girls (employed dismantling World War 1 shells) were killed after a spark from a coke burner caused a massive and catastrophic explosion in the small building in which they were working. Jim witnessed this and Hilda Sleigh, his only surviving daughter was told that he was deeply affected by this tragedy.
With thanks to Mrs Hilda Sleigh and the Grandchildren of James Maddocks for their use of family photographs, documents and cards.