George COCKS
Rank: Company Sergeant Major
Number: 50500
Unit: 10th Battalion ESSEX REGIMENT (Lancashire Fusilier on memorial)
Date of Death: 8 August 1918
Age: 44
Cemetery: Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

George is listed on the war Memorial as serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers, although when he was killed he had been with the Essex Regiment for at least several months.

He was the son of Richard Cocks, Lyndhurst Avenue, Bredbury. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the army and would served for nearly 25 years as a regular soldier. He saw action during the Boer War in South Africa and was invalided home from there, suffering from malaria. His brother, Richard, was a hairdresser in Bredbury and would also serve in the war, although he was invalided home in 1918 suffering from trench fever.

When war was declared, George wanted to go overseas with his Battalion but his experience was needed in the UK to train new recruits. His obituary in the Stockport Advertiser, 30 August 1918, said "He was anxious to be amongst the fighting and repeatedly volunteered for the front. He got into several drafts going out on active service but was fetched back. He offered to forfeit his rank if he could get out. At last he was allowed to go. He was gassed but, afterwards, returned to France."

In its edition of 31 May 1918, the London Gazette announced that George had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. By then he was acting Regimental Sergeant Major of his Battalion. The DCM is more usually awarded for a single act of bravery and, for soldiers who are not officers, it is second only to the Victoria Cross. It was, however, also awarded to soldiers for very good all-round service. Later in the year, in its edition of 8 October after his death, the Gazette published the citation "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, as Company Sergeant Major, his work has always been all that could be desired and while acting as RSM he rendered valuable service prior to and during an attack in the guiding and supervision of ration and ammunition parties." It is probable that the citation is referring to the massive German attack which started on 21 March 1918.

It is possible that the earlier reference to him being gassed took place around this time and, when he had recovered, he was transferred to the Essex Regiment.

8 August would see the start the Second Battle of Amiens which would finally spell the end of the War. The Battalion History records "Never had the Division participated in a battle which was kept so secret. The general plan was communicated to Brigade and Battalion commanders on 3rd August and it was emphasised that only certain officers should be informed......As artillery positions were in view of the enemy, there was no preliminary digging of gun pits... the guns themselves were not brought up until the night of the 7th. Also thousands of rounds of ammunition had to be taken up under cover of darkness and sorted and stacked and hidden beneath hedges, under banks and among uncut cornfields."

The secret did not leak out and it is entirely co-incidental that the Germans launched a surprise attack themselves on 6 August along a two mile front. It had some limited success and, of course, it meant the British had to commit battalions which were being held in readiness for the 8th. The next day, British troops retook sufficient ground to enable the attack to go ahead as planned.

On the 8th, George's Battalion was designated to be one of those in support of the leading units. They would move when the initial objectives were secured. These were German held trenches near to the village of Morlancourt. At zero hour, the attacking brigades moved forward. One Brigade had some success, but 36th Brigade could not reach their objective of a road between Morlancourt and Malard Wood. The 10th Essex was now moved forward and they secured the road at a cost of 200 casualties, dead and wounded. They then pushed on for a mile, capturing two artillery batteries. The men now found themselves unsupported on the left as the West Kents had not been able to make as quick progress. The enemy fire increased and the position of the Battalion became critical. Twenty tanks had been expected to support the attack, but six were put out of action before they even reached the original front line (captured by the Germans on the 6th) and none reached the Essex's positions. By 9am, there was no alternative but to retire back to the captured positions on the Morlancourt Road.

George had been killed in the attack and his body, no doubt, lay in No Man's Land. It was never recovered and identified.

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