DOCKING, Robert William [D.C.M.]

No.12410, Private, Robert William DOCKING D.C.M.
Aged 21

7th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Thursday, 12th October 1916

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Robert William Docking was born in Brandon in 1895(Thetford Q2-1895 4B:381) son of Henry James and Eliza DOCKING (née FOX).
His mother married Henry James DOCKING (Thetford Q2-1894 4B:607)

1901 census...Aged 6, he was at Thetford Road, Brandon with his mother Eliza DOCKING [27] a fur puller (married); brother Henry [8]; sisters Mildred [4]and Florence [3]; aunt Beatrice ASHLEY [15] and 2nd cousin Gertrude WILBY [17]. All were born in Brandon. His father has not yet been identified in this census.

1911 census...Aged 16, general labourer, he was at Thetford Road, Brandon with his parents (father Henry Docking [46] labourer); brothers Henry (labourer), Donald [9] Albert [7] and George [3]; sisters Mildred, Florence and Irene [5]. All born in Brandon.

His brother Henry James was killed in Palestine in 1917. see here

He enlisted in Norwich on 27th August 1914. He appears to have given the wrong age, stating his birth date was 25th April 1893 (which seems to be adding two years to his age). His apparent age was entered as 19, height 5 feet 7.5 inches (171.5 cm), weighing 108 lbs (49.1 kg), chest 32.5" to 34" (82.6 to 86.4 cm), blue eyes, brown hair. A builder's labourer, born in Brandon,his family at Thetford Road, Brandon were given as Father-Harry Docking, mother -Eliza, brothers Harry, Donald, Albert and George; sisters Mildred, Florence and Irene.

He went to France to the BEF on 30th May 1915. He suffered gun shot wounds to a forearm on 1st March 1916 and was admitted to No.33 CCS (Bethune), rejoined his unit on 8th March. Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (2nd only to the Victoria Cross for other ranks) for, on a reconnoitring patrol with an officer, although both wounded, they completed their work and brought in valuable information. Gazetted 30th March 1916. The Battalion war diary says he was presented the medal on parade at La Bourse, near Annequin, on 18th March 1916. His father was written to in 1917 and given the option of a public presentation or a private one. His effects sent to the family were just a disc and a DCM ribbon.

He received a gunshot wound to the head on 12th August 1916, admitted to 37 Field Ambulance and then on 13th to 22 General Hospital Camiers. Then released to 17 Infantry Brigade Depot at Etaples on 24th August 1916 before re-joining his unit on 17th September.
Reported missing on 12th October 1916, and presumed dead. He was found and buried on 9th April 1917 by 5th Division Burial Officers. Where is not recorded and since he is named on the Thiepval memorial that grave must have been lost in later fighting.

On the "living relatives" form signed in 1918, his mother, living at 97 Thetford Road, Brandon, declared : father dead, brothers Donald [17], Albert [14] and George [11] living with her and sister Irene [13]. His other sisters, still single, Mildred [22] at 58 Fellows Road, Hampstead and Florence [21] at 109 Newmarket Road, Ipswich.

The war diary for 12th says:-
12/10/16 - 7:0 am Firing ceased. The enemy did not w?? gun positions.
2:05 pm The general advance was resumed, the Company assisted by the 35th Infantry Bde in thier assault vide Coy OO No 45. The part played by the Coy is described in the Operation Report attached.

This Operation report has not yet been found. F Loraine Petre OBE in his "History of the Norfolk Regiment" says the attack on BAYONET Trench was arranged for the 12th October and the assembly positions were reached by 5 a.m.on that day, The assault was made at 2:05 pm by al four companies, with the 7th Suffolks on the right and the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the left. The objectives were Bayonet and Scabbard trenches and later to go on to Luisenhof Farm and establish a line beyond it.
Fifty yards into the attack they met heavy German machine gun fire, they continued but before reaching the trench they came on uncut wire, which , together with the machine gun fire brought them to a standstill and they were forced to shelter in shell holes, firing from there at the Germans standing up in their trenches. The left of the battalion got to about 100 yards from SCABBARD trench, 200 yard away at the junction of SCABBARD and Bayonet trenches and only 20 yards on the right opposite the unwired part of BAYONET. After dark an attempt was made to cut the wire but it was too strong and they had to crawl back to the trenches from where they had started. Then they and the 7th Suffolk were relieved by the 9th Essex. The cost was 39 killed, 129 wounded, 53 missing. Left in the trenches were only 8 officers and 350 men.

CWGC gives the killed figure as 97, of which only 23 have identified graves.

click here to go to the Brandon at War website for more information

Robert Docking is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, pier and face 1C/1D

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details