Rank:


Sergeant

Service No(s):


3553; 531254

Regiment:


London Regiment; King's African Rifles

Unit:

15th (Reserve) Battalion (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles)

Returned:

Yes

Place of birth:

Islington

Occupation:

Date of death:

Cause of death:

Grave or panel reference:

Name of father:

Henry George Cock

Name of siblings:

William; Arthur George; Walter James; Stanley Wellman; Leonard; Henry George; Frank; Gerald

Name(s) of children:

Died:

No

Date of birth:

25/10/1896

Place of enlistment:

Somerset House, London

Event:

France; East Africa; Home

Age at death:

Cemetery or memorial:

Other memorial:

Name of mother:

Louisa

Name of spouse:

Address:

65 Woodstock Road, Finsbury Park

Biography:

Ernest Cock was one of eight sons of a Stroud Green family, three of whom – Stanley, Henry and Ernest – are named on the plaque to returning soldiers. Their father was Henry George Cock, a Foreman Platelayer with the railway, and their mother Louisa. Ernest was  born in 1896, and the family lived just across the road from New Court Chapel at 3 Everleigh Street in 1901, before moving a few streets away to 65 Woodstock Road.

On 21 April 1915 at Somerset House in central London Ernest enlisted as a private in the 15th (Reserve) London Battalion of the London Regiment. This battalion was known as the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles. This probably means that Ernest was a civil servant, or possibly an employee of the Bank of England, before the war. He was obviously fit and healthy as he was medically classed A1.

In the London Regiment Ernest served at home and in France. He was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant. The 15th Battalion saw action at the Battle of Loos and the Battle of the Somme as well as the Battle of Ypres in 1917. In October 1916 Ernest spent a week in Bethnal Green Military Hospital, where his brother Stanley had been treated that spring.

Ernest’s medical record for October 1917 shows that he had recently been vaccinated and declared ‘Fit for service in Africa’. On 21 May 1918 he applied to join the King’s African Rifles and thus to serve in East Africa. He had to sign a document to say that he was willing to remain in Africa for one year, if required, after the conclusion of peace. Ernest arrived in East Africa for duty on 27 June 1918.

The King’s African Rifles were leading the war against the Germans in German East Africa, later Tanganyika, now Tanzania. It was a four-year bush war in an area three and a half times the size of France forced by the German threat to British, Belgian and Portuguese colonies. By 1918 the German commander, Major General Paul Erich von Lettow-Vorbeck, was withdrawing into Portuguese East Africa to re-arm and re-equip his troops. Throughout the year, columns of Allied Forces chased the enemy across a huge area. In September 1918 Ernest sustained a gunshot wound in the buttock, presumably engaging with German troops.

The German commander heard of the Armistice two days after it happened and finally surrendered two weeks later on 25 November. On 21 January 1919 Ernest sailed for England for reversion to his Home Unit; he had not been required to stay on long after the Armistice.

Before the war, the King’s African Rifles’ uniforms consisted of a dark blue jersey and puttees (a cloth strip would round the leg from ankle to knee as a legging), khaki shorts and a fez with a cover with a foldable cloth peak and neck flap. During the war, all the dark blue items were replaced with khaki equivalents, and a short pillbox hat with khaki cover was worn on campaign. Battalions wore their numbers on geometric-shaped patches of cloth.

Before Ernest left East Africa, the Army created a ‘Transfer statement of clothing and necessaries’ that Ernest had in his possession. It shows that he had one khaki drill tunic, two pairs of khaki drill shorts and one pair of puttees instead of the two issued, and no khaki drill breeches. He did have a warm British coat. He had no identity discs and no badges of rank. As well as his clothing, footwear, towels, blankets and eating utensils, he had a very necessary mosquito net (though no longer any mosquito boots) and a ‘housewife.’ This was a small sewing kit for repairing clothes, which soldiers who were not officers had to do for themselves.

In April 1919 Ernest was discharged to return to civilian life at 65 Woodstock Road with an advance of £2. After the war his brother Henry, who had served in four different regiments at home and in France, worked in Tanzania as a railway inspector; perhaps he was inspired by Ernest’s experience of the country.