Jack Ellicott was born in 1896, the son of John and Elizabeth Ellicott of Earlestown, Lancashire. His younger brother Harry was born in 1904 and Joshua Ellicott is Harry’s Grandson.
Jack was brought up and educated in Earlestown, and his first job upon leaving school was as a bicycle delivery boy for a grocer’s shop in the nearby village of Collins Green. His younger brother could remember him reeling off the rhythmic, memory jogging list of grocery items that he would sing to his customers: “sugar, butter, lard, marg...” As a popular young man he was remembered as a good singer and the local girls would walk along the street with him to hear him sing the latest popular songs. As he entered his late teens he was employed at Earlestown’s Viaduct Carriage and Wagon Works. In late 1914 or early 1915 he walked to St Helens to volunteer along with some of his pals to join the South Lancashire Regiment, Prince of Wales Volunteers and he began his basic training in Blackpool in early 1915. Despite a damaged right eye which made it necessary for him to fire his rifle left-handed, he was a very good shot and won a regimental shooting competition. As Jack went off to war in the summer of 1915 after a period of leave, Harry his brother, then eleven, remembered accompanying Jack to Earlestown station, helping him to carry his kit-bag while the boys of the street tagged along cheering their young hero.
Jack died on the 12th August 1916 - on the same day as his childhood friend Leo Doyle - a matter of weeks after being sent to the front line. He was taking part in a battle to take Trônes Wood as part of the wider Somme offensive. This account by his Captain was the most that his parents could hope for in learning of the circumstances of his death.
A Co 16/9/16
Dear Mr Ellicott
I have received your letter dated [August] & am sorry you have not heard from your son.
As far as I know he was wounded on the night of the 12th August when a shell [exploded] amongst No 2 Platoon killing two and wounding ten.
Your son was reported to me as wounded
I am making further enquiries and will let you know as soon as possible.
However, later his cousin Herbert Saul - who is mentioned in the letters, sent this to Jack’s Parents.
"I have been inquiring and from what I can get to know there is no doubt about his death. I have seen the corporal who was with the party when Jack and a few others got hit. He said there was absolutely no hope at all as Jack was badly wounded in the stomach and was almost dead when he left him. I'm sorry I can't send you better news."
Jack was initially buried close to where he fell and his grieving family were advised of the location of his grave. Unfortunately the area where he was buried was taken by German forces in 1917 and all reference points to the grave’s position were lost in the chaos of trench warfare. It was not until the late 1920s that his body was relocated and moved to the so called ‘concentration cemetery’ where he lies amongst thousands of his comrades to this day.
“In the midst of life we are in death”, a phrase taken from the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer was Jack’s usual response to his worried mother and it is these words that are inscribed on his white gravestone in Serre Road cemetery, near Beaumont Hamel in Picardy, Northern France. For years after his death, his mother remained convinced that there had been a mistake, that her son was not dead and that any unexpected knock on the door might just be her son coming home.