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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 18345
XV Corps Divisional Cyclist Battalion - Army Cyclists Corps
Who Died of Wounds on Tuesday, 30th October 1917
Age 20

Plot II Row C Grave 8
Zuydcoote Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour

Zuydcoote Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France1

John (known as Jack) Calcraft was born in Warrington, Lancashire in 18972, the elder son, second of three surviving children, of Albert Calcraft (b. c1872, Nottingham) and Caroline ('Carrie') Mary, his wife (née Smith, b. c1872, Nuneaton, Warwickshire). The family had first lived in Warrington, where the first two children were born, before moving to Nottingham just before 1901, when they were living at 32 Queens Road, Nottingham, with Albert working as a chemists shop porter3. By 1911, they had moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire, living at 46 Victoria Road, with Albert working as a lace maker. Mabel, their daughter, then aged 15 was also working in the lace trade while Jack was working as an apprentice gas engine fitter. Albert, aged 1 month was the latest arrival in the family4. Sometime before 1918, the family moved to Beeston, where they lived at 73 High Road5.

As Jack's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted, but it was probably in January 1915 with the Sherwood Foresters, apparently with 1/7th Battalion6. At some point he apparently volunteered for and was transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps, which had been formed in November 1914 to encompass the various units that had been formed as components of each Army Division7. They were equipped with folding bicycles and were armed with standard rifles. Jack was attached to 15th Corps. After training in England. the unit embarked for France, reaching Le Havre on 9 July 19158. Although the units' primary role was reconnaissance and message taking, they were engaged for much of the time in miscellaneous tasks in support of the front line forces - including trench digging and repairing, carrying stores, laying wire, constructing dugouts and escorting prisoners. Their mobility was utilised wherever possible but mud, as ever, was often a problem. In May/June 1916 the units were withdrawn from the divisions to be attached to each corps headquarters. Jack's unit then became XV Corps Divisional Cyclist Battalion9.

Although the details have not been found, the circumstances of his death probable indicate that he was wounded while taking part in 'Operation Hush', a British plan to make amphibious landings on the Belgium coast in 1917. XV Corps, to which Jack's unit was attached, played a key role in the operation from June 1917 onwards, until it was canceled in the second week of October10. It seems likely that Jack was wounded during this time. He died of these wounds on 30th October 1917 either at Zuydcoote Hospital, on the coast, east of Dunkirk in northern France or at one of the Casualty Clearing Stations in the area. He was buried in the nearby Zuydcoote Military Cemetery.

Zuydcoote Military Cemetery lies to the west of the village. In the autumn of 1917, while the XV Corps was holding the Nieuport section, the 34th and 36th Casualty Clearing Stations were posted at Zuydcoote. The cemetery contains, for the most part, the graves of officers and men who died in these hospitals. There are now over 300, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site11.

Private Calcraft was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal12. His financial effects, amounting to 3 12 5d were paid to his father as sole legatee on 23 March 1918 and he was also paid his War Gratuity of 13 on 1 November 191913.

In addition to his entry on the Memorial in Beeston Parish Church, Private Calcraft is remembered on the memorial in Chilwell Road Methodist Church, Beeston.

1The photograph of Zuydcoote Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Warrington Registration District in Q2/1897 (Ref 8c 249).
3Nottingham, 1901 Census, Piece 3170 Folio 155.
4Long Eaton, Derbyshire, 1911 Census, Piece 20833 RD434 SD4 ED12 Sched 262. His siblings were Mabel (b. c1896) and Albert (b. cir March 1911). Another sibling apparently died in infancy.
5This address is recorded on his memorial page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
6Based on the amount of his War Gratuity and his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.
7This description of the Army Cyclists Corps is based on its entry on The Long Long Trail website (www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/army-cyclist-corps ).
8As Jack was then only 18, it probably not likely that he left for France as men under 19 could not then be sent overseas. Absence of any evidence that he was awarded the 1915 Star is another indication that he probably joined the unit in France in 1916.
9This summary of the formation and deployment of XV Divisional Cyclist Company, up to May 1916 its War Diary, available at ancestry.com.
10More details of Operation Hush and the involvement of XV Corps can be found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Hush
11The description of Zuydcoote Military Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Details from Jack's Medal Card and Medal Roll - available on ancestry.com.
13Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.

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