Private Harry Holmes COCK

Regiment:                                      Northumberland Fusilierslogo-cwgc2

Unit:                                                 8th Battalion

Service Number:                          16576

Date of Death:                               19 August 1915 – Killed in action

Age:                                                   21 years

Cemetery / Memorial:               Helles Memorial

Grave / Panel Ref.:                     Panel 33 to 35

Cock H [Mem Name]

Home Life:

The Cock Family, c. 1910

Harry was born in the December quarter 1893, the son of William (Plumber) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) (née Moore) Cock.

He had four older brothers and sisters, Fred, Lizzie, William and Clara, and three younger sisters, Katie, Bertha and Mary Louisa, and in 1901 (Census RG 13/3048) they were living at 10 High Street, Ruskington, Lincolnshire.

High Street, c. 1909

Judging by the apparent ages of the children, the family photo above would date from c. 1910 and Harry would probably be the son at the back, third from the left.

[N.B. On 27 December 1909 Harry’s sister, Clara, married Pt. S/4/072642 Morriss Willson SPINKS, who died in Hospital just 52 days after enlisting in the R.A.S.C.]

Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/19618) another son, Hubert, had been added to the family. 17 year old Harry had left home by then and was lodging with George Talbot and family in Cottam Treswell, Nottinghamshire. He was employed as a “Bricklayer’s Labourer“. [Thomas Thorpe, 21, and Frederick Royle Trimingham, aged 16, both young men of the village, were also boarding at the same address.]

Private M/296073 Frederick Royle TRIMINGHAM enlisted on 12 December 1915 and mobilized on 26 January 1917. He was posted to the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport), and was posted to the Mechanical Transport Depot, in Basrah.]

Harry enlisted in Bradford, Yorkshire, and his Obituary (see below) stated he was employed there as a ‘Bricklayer‘. His parents and other members of the family remained in the village. His mother, Lizzie, died in August 1924, aged 57, and her husband, William, in December 1935, aged 72. They are buried together in North Border, Grave 14, Ruskington Cemetery, Old Plot.

 

Military Service:

Harry enlisted in 8th/Northumberland Fusiliers in Bradford, Yorks. His Service Papers have not survived but his Medal Index Card (MIC) states that he was posted to ‘Theatre of War’ “2B Balkans”, i.e. Gallipoli, on 10 July 1915.

The 8th (Service) Battalion had been formed at Newcastle in August 1914 as part of K1 (Kitchener’s First New Army) and came under orders of 34th Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division. After training at Belton near Grantham, Lincolnshire, it moved to Gallipoli in July 1915, so Harry must have gone with the original posting.

The War Diary shows that Harry’s Battalion left Witley Camp, Godalming, Surrey and moved by train to Liverpool on the 2nd July, embarking HMS Aquitania the following day with a complement of 26 Officers and 839 Other Ranks. They sailed the same day and arrived at Mudros Bay, Lemnos, at 7.00 a.m. on the 10th. On 11 July the Battalion disembarked to camp. A week later, the 18th the embarked again on to the Grasshopper and Basilisk and sailed for Imbros, where they disembarked and made camp at Kephalos. On the 25th an additional draft of 3 officers and 114 Other Ranks arrived from England on board the Lake Michegan.

On 6-7 August 1915 the Division landed near Lala Baba at Suvla Bay. The “34th Brigade Divisional Orders”, issued August 6th 1915, made the process of disembarkation and landing seem very straight forward. It stated quite simply that: “The 11th Division will (1) Secure the landing on ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ beaches. (2) Secure Suvla Bay for the disembarkation of the Xth Division.”

The Division was made up of the 32nd, 33rd and 34th Brigades and the Orders went on to explain that Harry’s 34th Brigade would land in two groups: “1st Group .. conveyed in motor lighters, Lt. Col. Wright, 11th Manchesters, commanding. Troops … 9th Lancs Fusiliers; 11th Manchester Regt. 2nd Group .. conveyed in destroyers … Bde. Hd. Qrs.; 8th North. Fus.; 5th Dorset Regt. After landing the 1st Group the lighters will return to the destroyers and land the 2nd Group.

sulva-map-l

Suvla Bay, c. 1916

Under the heading: “Orders to Troops on Landing” Harry’s Battalion was to “.. form up on the beach, and will then join the main body of the Lancs. Fus. near HILL 10. ….. The Formation at the Position of Assembly will be – Line of Coln. ½ Bns. At 15 paces distance with 5 paces between Bns. 8th N.F. on the right, – 9th Lancs. Fus. in centre – 5th Dorset Regt. on the left. Facing EAST.

The map [right] shows the landing point – “‘A’ Beach” and the initial objective – Hill 10, attacked by Harry’s Battalion on 7 August 1915.

The Battalion War Diary, however, shows that such parade ground precision was not possible. After arriving in the Bay at about 11.30 p.m., under heavy shrapnel and rifle fire, the Battalion didn’t land until 3.30 a.m., on the 7th. It moved forward towards Hill 10, as directed and: “… took part in attack on Turkish trenches which was successful. Fighting continued until 7.00 a.m. Commanding Officer and 3 other ranks wounded. Withdrew to beach in Divisional Reserve. ”

The 8th Battalion was back in the firing line at various times during the following week and the War Diary records its losses. After losing 22 men in the initial landing on the 7th August, a further 58 Officers and men were killed in the days up to the 18th, mostly on 10th / 11th [45].

On the 19th, the day Harry was killed, the Battalion attacked an enemy position 700 yards [640 m.] in front of its own lines and 1000 yards 914 m.] south of W Hills. They moved forward at 4.00 a.m. Companies in front, ‘W’ and ‘Y’ Companies in support. The War Diary records that the objective of the enemy trenches was almost reached but were not entered due to heavy rifle and machine gun fire:

Ordered attack entrenched position about 700 yds. in front of our line and 1000 yds. South of W. Hill. Moved out 4.00 a.m., X and Z Coys. front line, W and Y Coys. in support. Advanced almost up to enemy trenches, unable to capture position owing to heavy fire of M. guns and rifles, occupied a gully and were caught in closed order at dawn by shrapnel. Had to retire. Casualties: 3 Officers killed, 5 wounded, 3 missing; 23 other ranks killed, 141 wounded, 88 missing; 2 wounded and missing.

The War Diary figures were, however, rather optimistic as CWGC Records show that the 8th Battalion had 123 Officers and men killed in action – one of whom being Private Harry Cock.

In the 13 days since landing the Battalion had 203 Officers and men killed in action, all but 7 have no known grave and are commemorated alongside Harry on the Helles Memorial. Harry’s total effects of £3 11s 1d – a relative value of about £254.40 today [2015] plus a gratuity of £3 [£215] were returned to his mother, Elizabeth, in 1919.

A letter from Lt. Col. A.P. Garnier, dated 17 February 1931, begins by telling the General Staff at Headquarters, Eastern Command, that he had found the 8th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers’ orders for the landing at Suvla Bay. Subsequent paragraph 3 of the letter sums up the situation as:I think you will agree that the orders are interesting, as they show a complete misconception of what we were up against.

‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ of 18 September 1915, printed the following Obituary for Harry: ” PTE. H. COCK, FALLS IN ACTION – on Thursday morning information was received from the War Office that Pte. Harry Cook, son of Mr. Wm. Cook, of Jubilee Street, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed in action in the Dardanelles on August 19th. Deceased was only 22 years of age, and had recently gone out with his regiment. Previous to the war he was a bricklayer in Bradford. A muffled peal was rung on the church bells by his friends in the village, in the evening.

 

Sources:

  • “British Regiments at Gallipoli” – Ray Westlake [ISBN 085052511X] p. 17
  • I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of Harry’s name on the Helles Memorial
  • ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ – 18 September 1915, page 2.

 

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