Cockfield W

Private 23502 William Cockfield, Machine Gun Corps (formerly Pte 1928, 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment)


Killed in action 15th September, 1916

William Cockfield was born at Hutton Lowcross, Guisborough in 1892. He was the elder son of William Cockfield senior, gardener, born in Richmond and Elizabeth Bridges from Eston. The couple had married in Guisborough the previous year.

In 1901, the family were living at the Lodge, Stainton, and had grown by the addition of another boy, William’s younger brother George, born at Stainton three years before. William senior had moved again by 1911, and was at Rectory Cottage, Stokesley. William junior had left home, to seek work as a gardener, but there was another addition to the family in the form of his young sister Frances Evelyn, born in Stokesley in 1907. William, now rising 20, was sharing lodgings with another gardener at Kimberley Street in West Hartlepool.

With the outbreak of war, William, who was then living and working at Nunthorpe, enlisted at Stokesley as Private 1928 in the Yorkshire Regiment . He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and arrived in France on 17th April, 1915. He was home on leave in the spring of 1916, and married at Stokesley. His wife was Jennie Grainge, 21 years old and born in Stokesley, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Grainge of West End. Jenny’s father was a general labourer, and she worked for a while in the kitchens at the Golden Lion Hotel.

Private Cockfield went back to France all too quickly. All leave was cancelled ahead of July 1916, the beginning of the disastrous Somme Offensive, when tens of thousands of Allied troops died. Nevertheless, the Somme campaign dragged on with mounting casualties into the autumn.

General Haig had hoped for a quick breakthrough in July, but by September he had settled for limited actions aiming at small gains. In the area to the north-east of Albert, advances had been made, though at great cost. Haig decided to press on in this sector, and across ground torn by shellfire. Even as the men were moved forward to assembly points on 14th September in preparation for the assault on the following morning, the German artillery opened up and took a heavy toll. Cockfield's unit was to be part of the attack on High Wood and Martinpuich, an attack in which the 4th Yorkshires formed the British centre. The attack began before 6.30am, and by 1pm the objectives of the attack had been gained. The attack had been a success but Private Cockfield was one of many who died in this action, 15th September, 1916.

William Cockfield was 21 years old when he fell, leaving his new wife a widow. He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star. He has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Pier and Face 5C and 12C of the Thiepval Memorial which stands on the main road between Albert and Bapaume on the Somme.

William Cockfield is also commemorated on the Nunthorpe War Memorial, near St Mary's Parish Church.

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