Cecil Walter Jackson.

Cecil Walter Jackson was number 393 in the 1st Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, who died on the 28th August 1915.  He came from Stilton in Huntingdonshire and died at home on Saturday, 28th August 1915. Age 18. Born and residing in Stilton he enlisted in Yaxley. He was the son of Thomas and Jane Jackson, of High St., Stilton and is buried in south-west part of Stilton Cemetery, Stilton, Huntingdonshire.

From an unknown local newspaper entry - Drowning Inquest = Pte. Cecil Walter Jackson, of the 1/1st HCB.

Private Jackson who was 19 years of age, was drowned in an bathing accident at 11:30 am on Specton beach, Saturday 28th August 1915, his body, however, was not washed ashore until the next Friday, 3/9/1915 when it was discovered below high cliffs at Buckton.  He was a member of H company, the 1/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, who before the war lived with his parents in a cottage at North Street Stilton in the north of the county. He was a brick maker's clerk before he joined the Battalion.

The story is well documented in the local press and the details below are an outline of events compiled from several of those sources.  The company of 15 men had on the morning of the tragedy cycled from Filey, under the charge of Lieutenant John Bidwell Laurance.  (J.P. of London Road Peterborough).

On arrival at Specton beach the men were paraded down to the water in fatigue dress ready for bathing parade and after changing entered the water within a five minute period.  Private Jackson was the first to enter the water, at the time the tide was on the ebb and there was a nasty swell running.

Lieutenant John Bidwell Laurance (he was the son of J. Laurance Justice of the Peace) soon noticed that Pte. Jackson and Pte. Ernest R. Hodson were about 60 yards from the shore line and becoming worried he called for them to return, they both turned and were swimming back to the beach, when it was noticed that Pte. Jackson was struggling to make the distance to the shore. They shouted to him to keep going, and Pte. Hodson who heard the cries tried to get too him, but as he did so the current was taking them both out to sea.

It is reported then, that lieut. Laurance who had by this time managed to swim out to the scene, reached Pte. Jackson and attempted to swim with him to the shore, he was then joined by Pte. Hodson who had by this time reached both men.

Hodson swam on his back pulling Jackson with him, he was holding him under the right arm, his left arm was around Lieutenant Lawrence's shoulder. They tried to make shore, but the current seemed to increase and they were carried further out to sea.

Jackson, although a good swimmer, soon became exhausted and probably light-headed and he grabbed the Lieutenant by the
throat causing him to sink under waves. This happened twice, and when Laurance surfaced the second time he saw that Hodson
had got Jackson around his waist, and was still swimming strongly.  The Lieutenant who, by this time was exhausted and thinking
that Jackson was already dead swam for the shore, being twice swamped by the tide before finally reaching the sand and the arms of his men who had formed a human chain out into the sea. The rest of the company tried to launch a boat that they found under the cliffs, but could not do so because of the swell, so they tied the spars together to help to reach the swimmers.

He was almost unconscious when he reached the shore, asked "where is Hodson ? ", before he collapsed and had to be given
artificial respiration to restore him to life. Hodson was still holding onto Jackson, who was hanging onto his waist, slowly Jackson's grip relaxed and he sank under the waves. Hodson then caught hold of his hair and pulled for all his worth, but did not get a good grip. With the current pulling them both under he could not continue to hold onto Jackson and had to let go of him.

The report indicates that he was by this time probably dead, and Pte Hodson not being able to find Jackson again started to swim to the shore, and despite the fierceness of the current made slow progress to a point where he was pulled ashore by the same human chain, lead by Sergeant Joseph William German, that had reached Lieutenant John Bidwell Laurance, and Sergt. Samuel Gilby who swam out to help him return. Once on the beach he soon recovered from his ordeal.   Lieutenant Laurance was by this time being conveyed to his billet in Specton where he was attended by the Battalion Medical Officer Lieutenant Garrood, who confined him to his billet for 3 days due to total exhaustion.

As a result of the tragedy an inquest was held at the "Dotterel Inn", Specton near Flamborough Head, which was well known by the men as the venue of many football matches, on the day the body was discovered and was held under the instruction of Sir Luke White MP. who was the coroner for East Yorkshire, on the Friday night, 3rd September 10th 1915. The body was identified by two officers of the HCB.

The coroners court was attended by Dr Garrood and Captain Warwick, of H company (who was stationed at the coast guard
station at Specton), attended on behalf of H company, H.C.B. and the court was informed that the body was discovered by a Mr. Jess Smith who lived at Filey, a short distance away under high cliffs at Buckton Beach. Mr Smith discovered the body during his duties as a watchman on a steam boat that had been stranded in the bay for some months. The body was discovered on some rocks half a mile from the ship and some mile away from the spot where he entered the sea almost a week later. He gave evidence that the body was very bruised and was in a poor state after being in the sea for such a length of time.

The coroners verdict was "accidentally drowned", and he also praised the gallant conduct of the men that made such an attempt to save him.

A church memorial service was held for Pte. Jackson at the church at Specton on Sunday morning when all of H company attended. They played the death march in Saul, and also played in Filey church at the normal evening service, where the chaplain read a text from Isaiah 43,2, " When though passed through the waters I will be with thee".

Pte. Jackson was buried at Stilton cemetery, Huntingdonshire, his home town.

It was a Sergeant Joseph William German that started the human chain that rescued Lieutenant Laurence, they also tied spars together, these they obtained from the boat that they found on the beach.

A Sergeant Samuel Gilby also dashed into the sea at the end of some hastily tied sail spars, and then swam out to Hodson to help him back to the shore, he did not need his help, but swam with him to give him moral support and encouragement.

Both the two Sergeants mentioned above were praised for their skill and cool thinking, which stopped them having further casualties.

The other men, at the first sign of dander tried to launch a boat that they found on the beach, but they found that they could not launch it against such a fast and dangerous tide.

The Royal Humane Society later presented Lieut. Laurance, of Peterborough and Private Ernest Hodson, who was son of P.C.
Hodson of Brampton, with a vellum citation for bravery in attempting to save the life of Private Jackson of Stilton from drowning at Specton. At the time of the incident both men were serving with the 1st Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion.

Lieut. Laurance received from the H.C.B a silver cigarette case, and Private Hodson received a silver wrist watch and silver watch chain, each item was inscribed to commemorate the event.

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If you can help with any data on this Huntingdonshire Cyclist please contact me at huntscycles@btinternet.com

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. . Martyn Smith