Lieut. John Mott is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, the great memorial to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War, and particularly to the 60,000 who gave their lives in France. It also bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France - many of them in the fight for Vimy Ridge - who have no known grave.
The Canadian Great War Record gives additional information: Regimental No. 106414, wife Mrs Mary Mott of Swan River, Manitoba, a saddler by trade, enlisted in the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles at Brandon, Manitoba on 22nd January 1915. Promoted successively Sergeant, 2nd Lieutenant and Lieutenant, John Mott was Mentioned in Dispatches and later awarded the Military Cross.
The son of Gaius Mott (generally known as Edward), an agricultural labourer, and his wife, Fanny, née Hall, John was born in August 1868 in his father's home village of Cherington, where he was baptised on 27th September of that year; by the time of the 1871 Census, the family had moved to Little Wolford. John had three older siblings: Edward James, born in 1860, William, born in 1864, and Charlotte Hall, born in August 1867; all were baptised at Cherington. A further brother, Walter, was born in 1871, followed by sister, Emily, in 1873; both were baptised at Wolford. William died in 1875 and was buried at Wolford. A further sister, Fanny, was born in 1876 but died two years later; she was both baptised and buried at Wolford. Two further siblings, William and Fanny, were born in 1878 and 1880 respectively; both were baptised at Wolford.
By the time of the 1891 Census, Gaius had become a brickmaker, and the family had moved to The Brickyard in Little Wolford, except for Charlotte, who had married in 1890 and moved to Oxfordshire; Walter, who was by then an apprentice saddler in Shipston (and subsequently moved to London); and John, who had moved to London.
In 1891, John was living at 335, Euston Road, London and working as a harness maker; Edward Edenborough, a younger harness maker from Shipston on Stour (who later moved to Herne Bay, Kent before also emigrating to Canada) lodged with him there.
John married Mary Smith, seven years his senior, at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Charlotte Street, London on 16th December 1893; his occupation is given in the marriage register as a saddler. The couple's first two children, Robert Edward and Mary Zilpha, were born in 1895 and 1896 respectively, and baptised in the church where their parents had married. Their next two children, John Joseph and Finlay James, followed in 1897 and 1898 respectively, but they were born in the suburb of Hendon; John appears on the London Electoral Registers for 1898 and 1899 by virtue of a continued interest in the Euston Road property, although his place of abode is given as 4, Algernon Road, Hendon.
By the beginning of 1901, the family appears to have returned to Wolford, where a fifth child, William Harley, was christened on 10th March. The Census of 31st March 1901 shows John residing at the Brickyard in Little Wolford, with his parents and three unmarried siblings, Edward, Emily and William. Also resident were John's wife and five children, although they are all described as "visitors". This may have been a farewell visit to Little Wolford for, later in 1901, John and his family emigrated to Canada. A sixth child, Henry Ernest, was born on 26th October 1904 in Swan River, Manitoba, and the whole family appears in the Census of Manitoba for 1906 and 1916. In the latter record, however, John is shown to be on military service overseas.
The 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) was formed as a mounted infantry regiment on 7th November, 1914, in Brandon, Manitoba. A saddler by trade, John enlisted voluntarily on 22nd January 1915: his Attestation Paper contains some interesting anomalies, suggesting a strong determination to serve King and Empire. Firstly, his year of birth is given as 1876 rather than 1868: he would otherwise have been beyond the upper limit (45) of the permissable age range! Secondly, he claims previous military experience, in the form of 7 years service with the "3rd London Regts(?)". The 3rd (City of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) - commonly known as the "3rd Londons" - was a Territorial unit based in St Pancras, where John had lived; however, it was not formed until 1908, by which time John was well established in Canada. Prior to this, the unit had been known as the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), with some members serving alongside regulars in South Africa between 1900 and 1902. It seems doubtful, therefore, that John had seen active service, although he may have trained with the Fusiliers.
According to the Nominal Roll of the 1st CMR, 106414 Sgt John Mott embarked for England aboard SS "Megantic" on 12th June 1915, arriving nine days later. This studio photograph was taken in London before the regiment embarked for France.
The regiment arrived in France on 22nd September, 1915, where the conditions of the Western Front made its mounts more of a hindrance than a benefit. On 1st January 1916, all six CMR regiments were dismounted, converted to infantry and reorganised as the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade of four battalions: the 1st Regiment, CMR became the 1st Battalion, CMR.
106414 Pte (?) J Mott was Mentioned in Despatches (gazetted 1st June 1917); on 1st July 1917, 106414 Sgt J Mott was promoted to the temporary rank of 2nd Lieutenant (gazetted 19th July 1917). Lieut. John Mott was subsequently awarded the Military Cross, for which the citation reads:
"For conspicuous gallantry during four days' operations. During an attack, owing to the dense fog, in which it was very difficult to keep direction, he took up a position in front of his platoon, and by his skilful leadership and courage under heavy fire led them to their final objective, capturing three machine guns and inflicting meny casualties on the enemy. On another occasion he showed splendid gallantry in leading his men under heavy fire in an attack on a strong point. He set a fine example to the men under him". (London Gazette, 11th January 1919).
The War Diary of the 1st CMR does not identify the action in the course of which John Mott earned his Military Cross: however, the reference in the citation to "dense fog" suggests that it took place on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens, 8th August 1918, when the 1st CMR took the village of Hangard at considerable cost.
In a letter to Mary Mott following her husband's death (and subsequently published in the Swan River local newspaper), the battalion's Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Burnett Laws, wrote:
"On Aug 8th, Lieut. Mott did such fine work that I had the great pleasure and honor of submitting his name, amongst my recommendations, for a Military Cross, which he certainly earned by his coolness and bravery that day, and it is my great regret that he did not live to wear that Cross, which I know he would have prized".
John Mott's death occurred on 26 August 1918, the first day of the Battle of the Scarpe, an action in which all four battalions of the CMR participated. The final objective of the 1st Batallion that day was to re-capture and subsequently defend the strategically-important village of Monchy-le-Preux. In his letter to Mary Mott, Lt. Col. Burnett Laws describes her husband as:
"... one of the finest men it has been my good fortune to meet. (He) was killed leading his men like the gallant and fearless officer he had always proved himself to be.
"He was loved by every one of his men, who would have followed him through anything, and had the respect of every officer in the battalion.
"We are all very proud of your husband. It is only by such fine brave officers like Lieut. Mott who face death without a falter, that we can hope to win this war".
John was buried with three of his fellow officers close to where he fell, north of Monchy-le-Preux. A number of the batallion's dead were later re-buried in the existing British cemetery at Monchy, but John's body could not be located. A memorial cross was instead erected at Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery.
It is difficult today to imagine the patriotic imperative of a saddler from rural Warwickshire who, having emigrated to Canada with his wife and young family some 14 years previously, was prepared to understate his true age by several years in order to volunteer to serve King and Empire on the battlefields of France, as it transpired with great gallantry, only to lose his life during the "100 days offensive" that ended the First World War.
The writer is indebted to Ruth, Susan & Gordon Mott, great-grandchildren of John Mott, for their kind permission to reproduce the two photographs of him and to quote from the letter written to Mary Mott by Lt. Col. Burnett Laws.