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John Reynolds Pickersgill-Cunliffe

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Forename(s): John Reynolds

Place of Birth: Chesterford, Essex

Service No: ---

Rank: 2nd Lieutenant

Regiment / Corps / Service: Grenadier Guards

Battalion / Unit: 2nd Battalion

Division: 2nd Division

Age: 19

Date of Death: 1914-09-14

Awards: ---

CWGC Grave / Memorial Reference: B. 4.


CWGC Memorial: ---

Non-CWGC Burial: ---


Additional Information:

John Reynolds Pickersgill-Cunliffe (born 16 May 1895) was the son of Harry and Arlette Isabel Pickersgill-Cunliffe, née Reynolds. Harry was born at St. Pancras, Middlesex and Arlette at London.

1901 Rochester, Kent Census: 6, Minor Canon Row, The Precincts - John R.P. Cunliffe, aged 5 years, born Chesterford, Essex. [John and his sister, Saffron E.P. Cunliffe were living with their aunt, Ethel P. Cunliffe.]

British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards: 2/Lt J.R. Pickersgill-Cunliffe, Grenadier Guards. Disembarkation Returns: 12 August 1914. Correspondence: 27, Beaufort Gardens, Kensington, W.

Army Registers of Officers' Effects: 2 Lieut J.R. Pickersgill-Cunliffe, G. Gds. Date and Place of Death: Killed in action at Soupir 14.9.14. To whom Issued: Father: Harry Pickersgill-Cunliffe Esq. Will, Letters of Administration, or Intestate: £35 0s. 0d.

John is commemorated on the Little Chesterford, Essex, War Memorial. (Captain John Geldard (q.v.) is commemorated on the nearby Great Chesterford War Memorial).

Photograph © IWM (HU116956).

Data Source: Local War Memorial


Entry in West Yorkshire Pioneer Illustrated War Record: ---


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2nd Lieutenant John Reynolds PICKERSGILL-CUNLIFFE

2nd Lieutenant John Reynolds PICKERSGILL-CUNLIFFE

Regiment / Corps / Service Badge: Grenadier Guards

Regiment / Corps / Service Badge: Grenadier Guards

Divisional Sign / Service Insignia: 2nd Division

Divisional Sign / Service Insignia: 2nd Division

Data from Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 - 1919 Records

Soldiers Died Data for Soldier Records


Forename(s): John Reynolds





Rank: 2/Lt

Regiment: Grenadier Guards

Battalion: Battalion not shown


Died Date: 14/09/14

Died How: Killed in action

Theatre of War:


Data from Commonwealth War Graves Commission Records

CWGC Data for Soldier Records


Forename(s): John Reynolds

Country of Service: United Kingdom

Service Number:

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment: Grenadier Guards

Unit: 2nd Bn.

Age: 19


Died Date: 14/09/1914

Additional Information: Son of Harry and Arlette Pickersgill-Cunliffe, of 27, Beaufort Gardens, Chelsea, London.

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‘Surrey Advertiser’ (23 September 1914)



Second Lieut. J. R. Pickersgill-Cunliffe, of the Grenadier Guards, who was reported killed under date September 16th, is the only son of Mr. H. P. Pickersgill-Cunliffe, of Staughton Manor, St Neots, who has been a director of the Friary, Holroyd and Healy Breweries, Ltd., Guildford, since the formation of the company. At the present moment he holds the position of vice-chairman of the directorate. Lieut. Pickersgill-Cunliffe was only 19 years of age, and deep sympathy will be extended the family in their great loss.

DE RUVIGNY'S ROLL OF HONOUR 1914-1918 – Part Two

PICKERSGILL-CUNLIFFE, JOHN REYNOLDS, 2nd Lieut., 2nd Battn. Grenadier Guards, only s. of Harry Pickersgill-Cunliffe, of Haughton Manor, St. Neots, and of 27, Beaufort Gardens, London, S.W.; was gazetted 2nd Lieut. Grenadier Guards 17 Sept. 1913; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, and was killed in action 21 Sept. 1914.

BOND OF SACRIFICE: VOL. 1. A Biographical Record of British Officers who Fell in the Great War

2nd LIEUTENANT JOHN REYNOLDS PICKERSGILL - CUNLIFFE, 2nd BATTN. GRENADIER GUARDS, who was included as killed in action in the War Office casualty list issued on the 9th October, 1914, but whose death had been announced on the 21st September, was the only son of Harry Pickersgill-Cunliffe, of Haughton Manor, St. Neot’s, and 27, Beaufort Gardens, London, S.W.

THE GRENADIER GUARDS IN THE GREAT WAR OF 1914-1918 Vol. 1, by Lieut.-Colonel The Right Hon. Sir Frederick Ponsonby



Sept. 1914.
For a week now the Germans had been steadily retiring, and there was no apparent reason why they should stop doing so. Each time they held a position the question naturally arose whether they were really making a determined stand, or whether this was just a case of a rear-guard doing its best to hold up the advance. The only way to find out was to attack them and make them show their dispositions….

Sept. 13.
Rain was pouring down when the Battalion paraded at 5.30 A.M. on the 13th, but it cleared up later, with sunshine and a strong cold wind, which soon dried the men again. The 4th Brigade marched towards Chavonne, and stopped overlooking the river Aisne. Here there was a halt of several hours in the middle of the day, during which the commanding officers went on ahead with Lieut.-Colonel Fielding, the acting Brigadier, to reconnoitre the opposite heights from the high ground above St. Mard, whence the movements of the Germans could be clearly seen. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion Coldstream went forward under the cover of our guns to make good the passages over the canal and the river, the bridges naturally having all been blown up by the Germans. After about two hours it succeeded in driving off the enemy, who were seen running up the hill and disappearing over the sky-line.

In support of it, the 2nd Battalion Grenadiers advanced towards the river, but was then sent off to try and make the crossing about a mile to the east of Chavonne. The only means of getting over, apparently, was by three or four small boats of doubtful buoyancy, and it was clear that for the whole Battalion to cross in this way would be a lengthy business. Pushing ahead, however, to reconnoitre, Lord Bernard Lennox and Major Hamilton found a bridge which they thought at first the Battalion could use, but the moment they were seen on the bridge they were greeted with shrapnel, so well aimed that it was obvious the enemy had got the exact range. So they retired to report the result of their observations.

As it was now getting dark, and no foothold on the opposite bank could be obtained, Colonel Fielding decided to withdraw the 4th Brigade. The 2nd Battalion Grenadiers and 2nd Battalion Coldstream were therefore recalled, and sent into billets at St. Mard. Rain was again falling heavily, and the men were glad to be under cover, while the inhabitants cooked their rations and supplemented them with omelettes and vegetable soup.

Thus began the battle of the Aisne, and had the men only known that it was to go on, not for months but years, and that the same ground would be occupied by the Allies all that time, they would hardly, I imagine, have shown the same dash as they did during the days that followed.

Sept. 14
The morning of the 14th broke cold and wet. A thick mist hung over the valley of the river–fortunately for us, since this made artillery observation by the enemy impossible, and enabled the men to cross the river without coming under shell-fire. During the night the R.E. had managed to build a pontoon bridge over the river at Pont-Arcy, and at 5.30 A.M. the brigade moved off to this point. As this bridge was the sole means of crossing for all arms, there was naturally some little delay, and during the period of waiting Colonel Fielding sent for all the commanding officers; he explained the dispositions he had made, and instructed them to make Ostel their objective.

The 2nd Battalion Grenadiers was to form the advanced guard to the Brigade, and Major Jeffreys received orders to secure the heights about La Cour de Soupir, and then to push on and make good the cross-roads at Ostel, about a mile farther on. Accordingly the Battalion moved off, crossed the river, and marched to Soupir–without opposition. Had some German officer blundered, or did the enemy not intend to dispute the passage of the river? It seemed inconceivable that, if they intended to hold the position, the enemy should allow a whole battalion to cross unmolested.

At Soupir the road ran uphill through a dense wood, and it was impossible to see far ahead. Progress was necessarily very slow, and the advanced guard had orders to move with the utmost caution. No. 1 Company, under Major Hamilton, formed the vanguard, and half of No. 2 Company, under Captain Symes-Thompson, was sent as a flank guard to the left, where the ground rose steeply above the road, and the trees were very thick. About half-way the vanguard came into touch with the German outposts. At the same time they were joined by some men of our 5th Brigade, who had gone too far to their left, and in consequence had narrowly escaped being captured by the enemy.

Word was sent back by Major Hamilton that he was not at all happy about his left flank, which was on high ground towards Chavonne, and Major Jeffreys despatched the rest of No. 2 Company to support Captain Symes-Thompson and strengthen that flank. Two platoons of No. 1 and one platoon of No. 2 were sent off to the left, and, having got into touch with the cavalry on that flank, took up a position in the woods above Chavonne, where they remained for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the leading men of the advanced guard, under Lieutenant Cunliffe, pushed on, and near La Cour de Soupir ran right into the enemy, who were in superior numbers. All the men were taken prisoners, and Lieutenant Cunliffe was wounded.

But the rest of the advanced guard were also pressing forward, and soon the positions were reversed. Faced with the alternative of capture or retiring before a stronger force, the German officer in command decided on the second course. This meant perforce abandoning the prisoners; but there was one thing at any rate that a German officer still could do. Remembering the teachings of his Fatherland, that the usages of war were a mere formula, and the most dastardly crime excusable if any advantage could be got from it, he deliberately walked up to Lieutenant Cunliffe, who was lying wounded on the ground, pulled out his revolver, and shot him dead.

As to what eventually happened to the German officer there is some conflict of evidence. Some of the men of the Battalion swore that they recognised him among the prisoners who were led away that evening. Another story, which was generally believed at the time, is that Captain Bentinck, with a company of Coldstream, happened to come up just in time to see this cold-blooded murder, and that the men were so infuriated that they bayoneted the German on the spot. But this version can hardly be true, for the Coldstream did not arrive till a good deal later….

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Soupir Communal Cemetery

Soupir Communal Cemetery

CWGC Headstones: Row B

All images are courtesy of Dennis Killeen

Soupir Communal Cemetery

Soupir Communal Cemetery

CWGC Headstones: Row B

Soupir Communal Cemetery

Soupir Communal Cemetery

CWGC Headstones: Row B

Soupir Communal Cemetery

Soupir Communal Cemetery

CWGC Headstone

The remains of Soupir Chateau

The remains of Soupir Chateau

Dressing stations were established at Soupir Chateau and at La Cour de Soupir farm during September 1914

Little Chesterford, Essex, War Memorial

Little Chesterford, Essex, War Memorial

© John French (WMR-56168)


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14 April 1916


The following lines have been written by Corpl. Sylvester Selby, R.E., of the British Expeditionary Force, France.

“To the memory of our dear comrades from Addingham who fought so valiantly, and died so nobly in the sacred cause of freedom, justice, and liberty.”

We shall meet our loved ones gone some sweet day bye and bye.
Be ye not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow, neither death.”


Have they gone for ever, from us,
Shall we never see them more,
Never catch the gleam of sunshine
As they did in days of yore?

Why have they been taken from us
In the fullness of their youth,
When all earth seemed full of gladness
To young hearts all full of life?

Dragged from home, and friends, and loved ones,
In far distant lands to fight
For the glory of old England,
And for honour, and for right!

On the burning plains of Egypt,
On the muddy fields of France,
On the watery bogs of Flanders,
British boys have done their part.

Done it nobly, never murmuring,
In the cause of freedom’s right,
Battles, of most bloody nature.
They have fought with gallant hearts.

Men of England! Men of Empire!
Rise in this our common cause!
Come, and smite this haughty tyrant,
That he may no more defile
Heaven’s good gifts and mankind’s God.

As we march along the country
And the devastation see,
Ruined churches, shattered houses,
Graves, with little crosses fixed.

Make us cry “O God, in Heaven,
Let us of Thy vengeance see;
Give us strength that we may carry
Justice right to victory.

Men of England! Men of Empire!
Come and help us in the strife;
Help to win a glorious victory
For the weak and for the right.

Onward, ever always onward,
Till the common task is done,
Till to those who have so suffered
In the cause of freedom’s right
Have been surely liberated
From the thraldom of his might,
Till for brothers, gone before us,
He has paid a fearful toll.

Shall we ever more behold them
In that told-of spirit land?
Where they say there is no sorrow,
Neither death shall be no more?

Let us each be all the stronger
In the hope of such great gain,
Let us carry on our labour,
Sure we’ll meet our friends again.

Corporal Sylvester Selby, R.E.
France, April 8th, 1916.

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