Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private Percy Buck, 1st Battalion, the Hertfordshire Regiment, was killed in action at St. Julien in Belgium.
One of a family of six children, he worked as a compositor in a printing firm, and was also a scout master, Sunday School teacher, and a member of his church’s choir. He enlisted in the Hertfordshire Regiment in January of 1916, and spent some time as a musketry instructor before going to the Western Front in December of that year.
During the Third Battle of Ypres, Private Buck’s battalion was at St. Julien, under heavy machine gun fire. During a fighting withdrawal, he was shot in the side and fell into a shell hole, where he eventually died of his wounds.
A soldier of the German army, Gefreiter (Corporal) Josef Wilczek (a Polish man), came across Private Buck’s body and noticed that he was clutching a photograph – it was of Private Buck’s wife and baby son, and there was a note to return the photograph to Mrs. Buck in the event of his death. Gefreiter Wilczek sent the photograph to the Red Cross along with a letter which read in part: “I, wishing to fulfill the last will of the dead comrade, send it to you. May he rest in peace”. Two months after finding Private Buck, Gefreiter Wilczek was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Scotland. After the war he returned home to Poland, he and his wife had three children, and he lived to the age of eighty-six.
Private Buck has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres. From Peterborough, he was 26 years old