About Jack

Jack Widdicombe was born in 1896 in Dartmouth in Devon, the son of Ernest and Edith Widdicombe. He had a younger sister Ethel (bn 1898) who is frequently mentioned in his letters. By the time Jack was five the family had moved to 14 Oxford Road, Wallington in Surrey. By 1911 they were living at 45 Park Lane, Carshalton, Surrey.

In 1914 Jack was working as a clerk for the Asiatic Petroleum Company in London. War was declared on the 4 August 1914 and on the 7 August Jack enlisted in the 1st (City of London) Battalion, of the 5th London Rifle Brigade. He was 18 years old and embarked from Southampton for France on the 4 November, less than three months after enlisting.

Jack was lucky – he came back. He was badly injured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme – a gunshot wound to his right thigh, his left forearm and another through his lower jaw fracturing it. The 56th London Division to which the 1/5 London Rifles had been transferred was meant to be providing diversionary support at Gommecourt Wood. They found themselves instead in the thick of it.

Jack spent the next 190 days in hospital back in the England – first in Newton Abbot, Devon and then Birmingham finally returning to Dawlish in Devon before being released from hospital in January 1917.

On being released from hospital Jack spent time in the  Labour Corps at Farnborough in Hampshire. It was while he was there that in December 1917 he was declared unfit for labour work in France.  In May 1918 he applied and was allowed to transfer back to the 5th London Rifles as a bombing instructor in Farnborough.

On the 2 June 1918 Jack wrote: “My four years is up early next month, I never thought when I joined up that I should live to see these times, but there it is – the Devil looks after his own.”

He was finally dispersed from the army on the 12 January 1919.

8 thoughts on “About Jack

  1. Wow quite the story from a long gone distant relative. I carry the Widdicombe name given to me from my mother Sheila Finn.
    Best regards

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  2. hi i am lyn ,i am married to a John Widdicombe Taylor ,the grandson of robert Widdicome ,who came to australia ,from Dartmouth devon ,the adress we have is 3 park view couibe , dartmouth Devon, we are trying to do the family tree i wonder if Jack widdicombe is part of the family , we have some imforation which we would share on the widdicombe and their family plus photo thanks for the story of Jack widdicombe, regards llyn

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  3. My younger brother, Justin, was not able to attend the presentation of Jack’s letters at the Sutton library this past November but I’m pleased to see him following his story..

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  4. Lynette..I have been in contact by someone in Australia and we had established that her great great grandmother was the niece of my great great great grandfather who did go to Australia for the Goldrush…he left in 1854..and spent 7 years there digging for gold. His name was Samuel Cockram Widdicombe. He was born between 1833-1834 in Cornworthy, Devonshire, England. His occupation in 1851 was a cabinet makers apprentice. He was married in 1854 to Eliza Ann Lake…they were married in Totnes, Devonshire, England..and had 9 children.
    Bessie,Frederick William, Ida, Maude,Edith,John C. Widdicombe (he was called Jack)..he was born about 1869 in Dartmouth Devonshire, Mary Ethel, Ernest David…he was my great grandfather, and Charles. I have all sorts of information here that was forwarded to me from the Australian contact..I do show a Robert Clarke Widdicombe born about 1827 in Cornworthy, Devonshire England…He married Mary Jane Punchard. His occupation in 1851 was a farmer and he died before 1871. She has sent me info on the Widdicombes that go back to the 1700 hundreds and late 16 hundreds..If any of this relates let me know and I can try and do some more digging or send you copies of what I have as an attachment. Regards, Laurelie.

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  5. Lynette…I have lots of info for you…maybe you could pass on your email details to the address above and we can communicate directly…I am Jack’s grand niece Laurelie Campeau

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