Ducat, James Kenneth

Although he died long after the end of the war, Ducat deserves to be added to War Cloister, as his active service had been the direct cause of his death: the same was done for Captain Philip Reginald Croft (B1897-1902), who died of wounds in February 1923.

Ducat was the only son of Major-General Cyril Hugh Pennycuick Ducat, of Hazleby, Newbury, who had served for twenty-seven years in the Leinster Regiment. His mother was Winifrede Ducat, daughter of the Honourable James Kenneth Howard. He served in the OTC whilst at Winchester. At the outbreak of war, according to his application for a commission, his profession was ‘gentleman’.

On August 11th 1914 he volunteered for service, but did not report for duty with 3rd Battalion, Leinster Regiment, at Cork until October 17th, where he worked without pay. His commission took even longer to come through: in fact, it seems that in the confusion of the start of the war, when the War Office was flooded with applications for commissions, Ducat’s paperwork had been lost. It was not until he took his papers to the War Office in person on November 3rd that there was any movement.

Ducat was described in a covering letter as being “particularly keen, and takes a great interest in his work and is now sufficiently advanced to instruct others.” After this, progress was rapid: he was gazetted a Second Lieutenant on November 6th 1914, and passed medically fit the following day and posted to 2nd Leinsters.

The Battalion’s war is described in “Stand To” by Captain F C Hitchcock MC, a friend of Ducat’s who is mentioned several times in the book.  On the 4th July the 2nd Leinsters moved into trenches at Potijze on the Ypres Salient and where one of the outpost positions was called “Stink Post” for reasons which Hitchcock explains “It was quite a job getting out to the end of the sap (a secondary trench, often at an angle to the main trench and used for a variety of purposes), as the communication trench was frightfully low, and we had to crawl along as the enemy snipers were particularly hostile. This communication trench ran through some old ruined houses, under which were the graves of the late owners, killed in the second battle [April-May 1915]. Horses’ hoofs, too, stuck out at odd intervals from the parapets. The sickly smell of decaying flesh hung all about the place. No wonder it had been called ‘Stink Post’ – but it was marked down on the maps as Odour Houses.” He goes on to say that he had dinner with Ducat, “who is doing Transport Officer nowadays. He’s one of the people I’m glad we’ve still got”.

The Battalion had a grandstand view of the action at Hooge on 30th July, when the Germans used flame throwers for the first time, an action in which several Wykehamists were killed; and a couple of days later were subjected to “hell all morning” from trench mortars, aerial torpedoes and shrapnel. In October 1915 Ducat suffered an attack of paratyphoid. A medical report dated May 22nd 1918 states that he served only one year overseas, and suggests that he returned to England due to health problems attributed to wounds and the after-effects of a severe gassing.

In November 1916 he suffered an attack of bronchitis, laryngitis and severe insomnia, culminating in an inability to speak, and from this he never recovered. He died in the summer of 1924, a week after his 34th birthday.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Ducat
  • Forenames or initials: James Kenneth
  • House: D
  • Years in School: 1902-1907
  • Rank: Captain
  • Regiment: Leinster Regiment
  • Date of Birth: 18th July 1890
  • Date of Death: 25th July 1924
  • How Died: Died of injuries sustained in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Not listed
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: UK