Why the story of a First World War captain has returned to a Leeds street

The story of a First World War captain has returned to the Leeds street where his family lived.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 6:00 am
Clifford Pickles. PIC: Lives of the First World War

Residents in Headingley are this week receiving packages bringing to life the story of Clifford Pickles and encouraging them to remember him.

Clifford Pickles was a captain but sadly died at home in Headingley after serving as a doctor in France during the First World War.

However, his story lives on in the community from which he came - from the street where his family lived in LS6 to Lawnswood Cemetery where his grave continues to be tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

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The gravestone of Clifford Pickles in Lawnswood Cemetery. PIC: Gary Longbottom

It has been organised as part of CWGA's first ever War Graves Week which runs until Friday, May 28.

Clifford came from a family of doctors and surgeons, and he studied at the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Clifford joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served as a doctor in France and Belgium.

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After three months on the front line, Clifford was invalided home suffering from severe shell shock.

Discharged from the armed forces, he took over his brother’s medical practice after he was killed serving at sea. Clifford’s health continued to deteriorate, and he sadly passed away from broncho-pneumonia in December 1916, six months after marrying his sweetheart Dorothy.

War Graves Week aims to helping communities rediscover the CWGC’s World War heritage on their doorstep and joining the charity in remembering the men and women it represents.

A special War Graves Week tribute can be downloaded from the CWGC website and placed in your window to keep their memory alive. By entering a postcode into www.cwgc.org/wargravesweek you can find out about the men and women connected to your local community who gave their all.

Claire Horton CBE, director general of the CWGC, said: “We are delighted to be launching our first ever War Graves Week. For us at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, remembrance and the sharing and caring for World War heritage is a daily duty.

“We wanted to take a chance to help people to see that work in action and make a local discovery. Many people already know about their family’s links to the World Wars, but all of us have

somewhere we call home today, and those places have their own stories too.

“By simply entering your postcode on our website you can take the first step towards making a new connection. We want people to share the stories they find and download a tribute for the men and women from their communities and display it in their window for War Graves Week.

“Behind every name on a war grave or memorial is a human story, just like Captain Clifford’s waiting to be discovered, and War Graves Week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

The CWGC is often best known for its work to maintain cemeteries and memorials on the former battlefields of the Western Front. This is only one part of their global task, that spans more than 153 countries and territories.

There are more than 12,500 locations in the UK you can find a Commonwealth war grave or memorial.

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