Acting Regimental Sergeant Major
2999; 650936; 589076
21st Battalion; 17th Battalion
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
Charles Morton Hocking
Name of siblings:
Elsie Maud; Charles John; Florence Mary; Gladys Mary
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Caroline, nee Edwards
Name of spouse:
Winifred Alicia, nee Clark
1911- 42 Marquis Road
Percy Frank Hocking was one of two brothers commemorated at St Mellitus who returned safely to Stroud Green from war service; he was also a highly decorated soldier.
Percy was born on 23 January 1892 and baptised at New Court Congregational Church on 19 June, the same day as his cousin John Martin Edwards, who is also commemorated on the church plaque. His father was Charles Morton Hocking, a builder from Islington but with Cornish roots, and his mother was Caroline, a member of the extended Edwards family from Stroud Green. Percy had an older brother, Charles John, who served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the war, and three sisters. When Percy was young, the family lived in Victoria Road and by 1911 they had settled at 42 Marquis Road. In the 1911 census Percy, age 19, was listed as a Warehouseman’s Assistant like his brother.
It seems Percy enlisted early in the war in 21st Battalion, London Regiment, which was known as the First Surrey Rifles. He was sent to France, disembarking on 16 March 1915. The battalion first went into the trenches on 2 April near Bethune, with the four companies being distributed among the four battalions of 1st (Guards) Brigade for initiation into trench warfare. The First Surreys fought in many of the well-known actions of the war, including the battles of Loos, Vimy and Messines. They were among the first units to experience the new German mustard gas, which caused significant casualties. Percy served in France for the duration of the war.
There is no service record surviving for Percy, but we know that he was promoted to Sergeant by 1917 and he was undoubtedly a courageous soldier as he was awarded the Military Medal for ‘bravery in the field’. This was announced in the Supplement to the London Gazette on 28 July 1917 and may have been for action in the Battle of Messines, 7-14 June. Percy’s battalion suffered heavy casualties: seven officers and 237 other ranks were killed or wounded.
The First Surreys were part of the Allied force pushing back the German Spring Offensive in 1918, and they suffered heavy bombardment in March and April. Their duties in May and June were light, and they returned to the front line in July. One of their roles was to introduce newly-arrived American troops to the trenches.
In August 1918, by which time he was an Acting Warrant Officer Class I, Percy transferred to 17th Battalion, London Regiment, the Poplar and Stepney Rifles. They saw action at the Battle of Bapaume and Percy served with them until January 1919, when he returned to his old battalion for the final month of his service.
On 3 June 1919, Percy made a second appearance in the London Gazette. In the King’s Birthday Honours that year he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, an award for gallantry in the field for Non Commissioned Officers (like Percy) and soldiers of the British Army, second only to the Victoria Cross for other ranks.
The citation in the Supplement to the London Gazette on 11 March 1920 said it was awarded to Company Sergeant Major P. F. Hocking, M.M. l/17th Battalion, London Regiment of Stroud Green for ‘Consistent gallantry and devotion to duty as Acting Regimental Sergeant-Major. He performed particularly good work in the final operations’.
As well as these two decorations from King George V, Percy received a further decoration from an unexpected source. The Edinburgh Gazette of 24 September 1919 announced honours to British forces from the King of Romania, Carol I. The Gazette lists ‘Company Sergeant-Major Percy Frank Hocking, l/21st Battalion, London Regiment (Stroud Green, N.)’ among those awarded the ‘Medaille Barbatie si Credinta, 2nd class’. The literal translation of the medal’s name is ‘Manhood and Loyalty’, and 81 medals of this class were awarded to British soldiers. It does not seem that Percy actually served on the Romanian Front, though some British soldiers did.
After the war Percy returned to Stroud Green and is listed among the members of New Court Congregational Church in 1920. That year he married Winifred Alicia Clark, and they had two children, Patricia and Ronald. By 1925 the family was living in Seymour Road in Harringay, and in the 1939 Register Percy was listed as a Fancy Goods Buyer. Percy continued to live in Harringay until his death in 1953.
Percy’s brother Charles is also commemorated at St Mellitus, as are George Pike, the husband of his sister Florence, and five of his cousins from the Edwards family.