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Thomas Cocking was born in Blackburn in 1870.

Thomas joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 01 January 1894 and spent 8 years with the colours and 4 in the reserve. His service number was 4743. He then joined the Blackburn National Reserve up until 1914.

Thomas was married to Sarah, and they resided together at 8 Astley Street, Darwen, Lancashire. Thomas was 5 ft 11, with blue eyes and sandy coloured hair.

On 07 September 1914, soon after the outbreak of war, Thomas Cocking now aged 38, re-enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in Blackburn, he received a £10 bounty for re-enlisting. His new service number was 3751. On 22 October 1914 he was promoted to LCpl, most likely due to his previous experience.

Thomas entered France on 29 November 1914, thus qualifying him for a 14/15 star trio.

On the 22 December 1914, 23 days after arriving in France, he was posted as ‘Missing’. This was during the Thomas was taken as a Prisoner of War and held at Wittenberg internment camp in Germany until 25 December 1918. (also see Pte Robert Molloy MSM who joined the 1st Battalion in France on the same day with this wave of re-enforcements, was taken prisoner the same day and also held at Wittenberg)

21st – 22nd December 1914 – Givenchy.
On 21st December at 07:00AM the battalion, with 2nd Brigade moved by motorbuses to Zelobes (1/2 mile west of Vieille Chapelle). From Zelobes they marched to Le Touret, arriving about 12:45PM.

Orders were received that the battalion, along with the Northamptons, should make a night attack in order to regain some trenches that had been taken by the Germans on the night of 19th – 20th December near an orchard by LA QUINQUE RUE. It was noted in the War Diary that the information of the enemy’s disposition was somewhat vague.

The battalion left Le Touret at 15:30PM followed by the Northamptons and were led by a guide (an officer of 2nd Gurkhas) to a spot from which it was decided the attack should commence. The men carried 170 rounds of ammunition each.

By 18:45PM the two battalions were deployed ready to advance. A and D Coys in the front line, supported by C and B Coys at 100 yards distance. The Loyal North Lancashires took the right of the line and the Northamptons the left. The whole frontage covered about 300 yards.

At 19:00PM the order to advance was given by Major Powell and the whole line moved forward with fixed bayonets, the companies now being closed up and in two ranks.

After crossing two lines of trenches occupied by the 58th Infantry, with heavy rifle fire they charged and occupied the front line of the enemy’s trenches. After a short halt the attack was continued and another trench about 100 yards further on was captured. The battalion advanced further and was reorganised on a road by the orchard. During the advance 2nd Lieut Ellis was seriously wounded and about 20 men killed and wounded.

A line was occupied, and a reconnaissance conducted about 20 yards to the rear of the orchard. Tools were sent up to the newly held trench an hour or so later. It is written that the night was very wet and cold and the men only had minimum rations.

The line was held throughout the night, but they did suffer some casualties from bombs that were thrown from a German trench running obliquely to their right flank. At 07:00 AM on the 22nd December a Company was withdrawn from the Northamptons line due to the trenches being over-crowded.

Shortly after day break a very strong German attack developed from the direction of LA QUINQUE RUE and by 10:00AM the line became untenable chiefly owing to the enfilade fire (flanking fire) from the right flank which was very exposed.

After suffering very heavy losses and putting up a very stubborn defence, the retirement of the line commenced from the left and about 300 men succeeded in reaching the Rue de Bois.

The Battalion was collected and reformed on Rue de L’Epinette, the Machine Gun detachment cooperating with the Northamptons went up in support and a line was held by them roughly on the line when the attack had started on the night before. At about 15:00PM the battalion was withdrawn and went into billets at La Couture.

The battalion loses from this action were heavy. Captains Smart and Graham killed. Captains (De Cantect), Lieutenant Batty-Smith, 2nd Lieutenant Gilliland were all missing. Captain Hay was slightly wounded. There were 408 other ranks killed, wounded or missing, including Robert Molloy and Thomas Cocking.

On Christmas Day 1918 Thomas was released from Prison, and by 01 April 1919 he was discharged to class Z reserve. At this time he was living in Darwen, Lancashire. Having been discharged, Thomas applied for a pension on account of bronchitis, this was deemed to be non-attributable to his service, and his claim was rejected.

Seven years later, in March 1926, Thomas again attempted to claim a service pension by writing to Fulwood barracks. He was advised that he would need to take up his case with the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Paul McCormick
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One Response to 3751 PTE. T. COCKING

  1. admin says:

    I was pretty surprised when I noticed that the dates and POW details exactly matched what I had previously written for Robert Molloy. Especially considering that they both were older than usual (38/43), both had previous Loyal Service, both entered France the same day as part of the battalion reinforcement, both got taken POW the same day, and both remained in Wittenburg for the duration.. that’s lot’s of coincidences!

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