2nd Lt. J.H. Laycock
FIRST NAMES: Joseph Harold
UNIT: 18th Kings Royal Rifle Corps
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 7th October 1916
CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: The Thiepval Memorial
Joseph was born in York on 24th July 1882 and he was educated at the Commercial College in York. His father was called Charles James Laycock and he was a commercial traveller. At the outbreak of war, Joseph's family were living at 20 Park Street, Selby and he previously worked for the Harrogate branch of the London Joint Stock Bank before moving to the Northallerton branch to work as a bank clerk.
He volunteered for Army Service on 3rd August 1915, when he joined the 28th London Regiment (The Artists Rifles) as Pte. 4280 JH Laycock. He served with the Londons until 5th March 1916, when he was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 18th Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
On 18th July 1916 he married Miss Ethel Doris Maude, the second daughter of Mr. Charles Maude, a prominent Northallerton Auctioneer, who lived on Romanby Road. Joe and Doris lived at No. 4 Thirsk Terrace, Northallerton
Shortly after getting married he was posted to France and had only been at the front for about six weeks before he was listed as missing in action on 7th October 1916. At this time the 18th K.R.R.C.'s were taking part in the Battle of The Somme and had moved up to the front line near the hamlet of Eaucourt l' Abbaye, between Le Sars and Gueudecourt, on 7th October 1916.
One can imagine the distress of his poor wife who had only been married for less than three months before her husband was posted as missing. Her distress cannot have been reduced by notices which appeared in a number of local papers in November 1916 reporting that he was now reported as having been killed in action. The following letter from Doris Laycock was printed in the "North Riding and Northallerton News" of 9th December 1916:
I see that in several papers, and yours of this week, that my husband, 2nd Lt JH Laycock is mentioned as having been killed. I wish to point out that I have no official news of him except that he is "missing" and have given no information to any paper.
A Corporal in another Company wrote to me and said he saw him shot, but he could not say whether he was killed or not as he could not get near enough to see. There is still hope that he may only have been wounded and taken in by the Germans.
West House, Northallerton
Dec. 4th 1916
Sadly, Doris' hopes were in vain. No further news of Joseph was received and while the army agreed to his pay to continue for the standard 12 months after he had been reported missing, this can have been of little comfort to his grieving widow. True to his banking background, Joe had had the foresight to leave a will, dated 30th July, shortly after his wedding, in which he left his new wife the princely sum of £687.
It was the Army's standard practice to presume that anyone who had been missing for more than a year had been killed and this proved to be so in Joseph's case. His body was never recovered and he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Doris subsequently moved to 31 Bell Street, Reigate, where she married a Godfrey Herbert Ince, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery, on 16th July 1918.