202817, Private, James Vickers WILLIS
Aged 42

7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
(enlisted as No.22844, Suffolk Regiment)
Killed in Action on Saturday 28th April 1917

Born in Newmarket on 14th December 1875, youngest of 2 sons of James Vickers and Mary Ann WILLIS (née MORLEY) of 2 Shaves Cottages, Exning Road, Newmarket.

1881 census...James [5] was at 2 Shaves Cottages, Exning, with his father James V.[38] a tailor, born Gazeley, his mother Mary A [36] born Barton Mills, his sisters Frances E [8], Blanche [3] both born in Exning and brother John E.F. [10] Born in Fordham.

1891 census...James [15] was a newsagents assistant staying with sister Frances at Brookside, Moulton with their uncle and aunt John and Frances Blinker. His parents had moved to 8 Shaves Cottages with brother John ( now a tailor) and sisters Blanches and Florence VA [7] and Berthe A [5] both born in Exning.

1901 census...James [25] was a tailor, living at 8 Shaves Cottages with his parents and sisters Blanche, Florence and Bertha.

In Q4-1902 he married Kate DRAKE in Newmarket.
and they moved into Oxborough Terrace, King Edward Road, Newmarket by the time of the 1911 census.

1911 census...James [35] was a tailor living at 3 Oxborough Terrace, King Edward Road, Newmarket with his wife Kate and their children Florence Beatrice [7] Maud Lilian [4] and Ivy Mary [1], all bornin Newmarket.

This is another case of Exning Road being recorded in the census as Exning rather than Newmarket.

His entry in "Our Exning Heroes" reads:
"Born on Exning Road, and educated at All Saints School, he was working as a tailor at Messrs. Golding and Sons' when war broke out. He took a great interest in the local Church Parades, and was an energetic worker of the Shepherd's Club. He was in the Volunteers for many years, and also joined the National Reserves, through which he succeeded in joining up. He went to France in December, 1916, and was a regimental tailor to the 24th Suffolks; but when there was a great shortage of men, after the German offensive in the spring of 1917, he was, with all cooks and stores men, rushed into the line, and met his death, by a rifle bullet through the head, on April 28th, 1917." [ there was no 24th Battalion, this should read 2nd/4th. ]

On April 28th 1917 an attack on a front of about eight miles was launched by the British and Canadian troops, the 12th Division making their thrust between the Scarpe and Monchy. The 7th Suffolks went over the top at 4:45am to attack the new Blue Line, passed through the 5th Royal Berkshire Regiment, who had captured Bayonet trench and also some 150 yards of Rifle trench. They immediately came under the most devastating machine gun fire from Roeux, which the troops operating on the north side of the Scarpe had not yet taken, and suffered very heavy losses. Parts of the various companies managed to reach the first objective but were unable to gain further ground. All the officers except the Colonel and the Adjutant having been killed or wounded, these small parties returned to the Black Line as soon as it grew dark, and at 1 am the battalion (now reduced to 190 effectives) withdrew to the support line.
James' battalion, the 7th, had 95 killed on a bad day for the Suffolk Regiment, as the 11th Battalion also lost 107 men killed in the Roeux Chemical Works attack. Of these 202 men, 169 have no identified grave, being commemorated on the Arras Memorial at Faubourg d'Amiens.

No known grave - James is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France- Ref:Bay 4
and is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour in St Philip & St Etheldreda's Church, Exning Road.

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details