Southam in WW1

Centenary Archive

Honouring those who died and all who served


Private Jesse Hancocks (16704)

Jesse Hancocks, like his brother William, was killed in the conflict. Jesse was serving with 9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Mesopotamia. Both men were born in Southam and eventually lived in Long Itchington.  Whilst William’s name appears on Southam’s War Memorial, Jesse’s name is missing.

Jesse was born to William James and Eliza Selina Hancocks in 1896 and baptised in Southam Parish Church. His father was a ‘machine minder’ at the cement works.

Private Hancocks was serving with the Mesopotamia when he was killed on 2nd February 1917. He is buried in the Amara Cemetery in what is now Iraq. Unfortunately due to ‘political uncertainty’ to date in that area the CWGC state that they are not able to maintain the graves at the Amara Cemetery and a two-volume Roll of Honour has been created and is housed at the Commission’s headquarters at Maidenhead.

Jesse and his brother William were commemorated in the church at Long Itchington but otherwise Jesse’s death somehow seemed destined not to be commemorated with a formal memorial. Not only was he omitted in Southam but below is an explanation of what happened in the 1930s to the cemetery in Amara.

Amara War Cemetery contains 4,621 burials of the First World War, more than 3,000 of which were brought into the cemetery after the Armistice. 925 of the graves are unidentified. In 1933, all of the headstones were removed from this cemetery when it was discovered that salts in the soil were causing them to deteriorate. Instead a screen wall was erected with the names of those buried in the cemetery engraved upon it.

A year after Private Jesse Hancock’s death when his older brother William was killed his mother feared for the life of her surviving son Fred.  He was serving in the Middle East with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and she succeeded in obtaining his release but he had to make his own way back to England. His story is told eloquently by Alan Griffin in his book ‘Lest We Forget’.