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I have been researching my family tree and discovered that my great uncle William John Cockerell died at the Somme on 15 Sep 1916. He was serving with the 1st Buffs (East Kent) Regiment and was acting Corporal. His service record indicates initially he was a driver and I wonder in what context.
I purchased the book 'Historical Records of the Buffs East Kent Regiment 1914-1919' by Col RSH Moody but have not been able to find any details of my great uncle who is named at the Thiepval memorial.
I happened across this website with a host of very useful information and forum and ask if anyone can shed any further information or place for research.
Thank you in anticipation.
I will answer your query in detail during the next few days as I'm almost certain to have some info on your relative. The attack in which he died is still remembered by the Regimental Association and last year we visited the site to pay our respects to the men who fought on that day
Many many thanks Mick Mills
As I'm sure you're aware William was a regular soldier. He joined The Buffs in mid June 1912 and was sent to the 1st Battalion who were stationed in Ireland.
On the outbreak of war, the Battalion came home and went to the Western Front on 7/9/1914. William's service record has not survived so we cannot say for certain whether he remained in the theatre of war or if he was sent home with wounds or sickness between then and when he died. Assuming he stayed with the Battalion you can read what they got up to in your copy of the Regimental History.
On the day that he died the Battalion were attacking a strongpoint called the Quadrilateral. They were due to advance with three tanks. One of the tanks did not reach the start line and the other two were of little assistance. As a result, the attack was a failure and the casualties were heavy. Many of those that died have no known grave and the bodies that are in marked graves were found during the battlefield clearances after the war. A lot of these bodies could not be identified and lie in graves marked 'Unknown soldier' at cemeteries such as Guillemont and Serre Road Number 2.
It would appear that some of the names of those that died were due to appear on a memorial cross in No2 Guards' Cemetery. William's was one of them. I have tried to find out more about this cross but it appears to have never been erected.
The Regimental Journal of November 1916 has a small obituary for him. It states "Mr and Mrs J Cockerell, of Gillingham, have received news of the death, in France, of their elder son, Corporal William John Cockerell, of The Buffs. The deceased young fellow was only 23 years of age. He was killed in action on September 15th"
Soldiers Died In The Great War states that he was born in Bexleyheath.
There is no evidence of the strongpoint on the ground today although an aerial photograph in the 16th Brigade Diary shows how formidable it must have been. The area is very accessible by car and when you stand there you can see how difficult it must have been to approach it up the slope from their starting point.
As I stated in my earlier post, two coaches from the Regimental Association visited the Quadrilateral last year and I was proud to stand on the spot and tell them how the men bravely attacked.
I hope this helps
Mick I am so grateful for the information and thank you for taking the time to reply.
I am looking forward to visiting the battlefields in the next couple of years. The Quadrilateral and Thiepval Memorial are top of my list to visit.