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Remembered Today:

2nd Norfolks - Bertie Edwards, 7994 & Herbert Docking, 18586


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I am trying to find out details of the movements of the 2nd Battalion Norfolk Regiment at around the time two local lads were declared killed, and wonder if anyone could point me toward the War Diary, or share any info please?

Particularly surrounding events leading up to -

(September 15th 1916) - Private Bertie Edwards, 7994.

Bertie is included in the 1911 Census return as living at Malplaquet Barracks, Churchill House, Staff House, Marlborough Lines, Aldershot. in Malplaquet Barracks, Churchill House, Staff House, Marlborough Lines, Aldershot. In December 1917 a Sgt Watts wrote a postcard to his parents explaining that Bertie had died in hospital over a year before, whilst a POW of the Turks.

(October 14th 1918) - Private Herbert Docking, 18586.

Herbert’s wife received a telegram from the War Office on October 18th 1918 stating that he was suffering from pneumonia and a second telegram on the 21st informed her that his condition had deteriorated and he was now in a critical condition. On the 24th she received a third and final telegram that stated he had died in Basra. Herbert was 24 and he and his wife had a young daughter.

Any help, as always, greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Darren Norton

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2 Norfolks landed in India in November 1914 and became part of 18 Brigade of 6 Indian Division.Bertie landed with them as his date into the war theatre of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on his Medal Card shows 15.11.1914. The unit War Diary for this time is at Kew under WO95/5124 and runs from 1 Nov to 31 Oct 1915. There are other War Diaries for later periods,but not one found during my search for the period 1 Nov 1915 to the commencement of the third one from 1 July 1916 to 31 Jan 1917,WO95/5022,which is when they were charged wirth River Tigris Defences and Communications.I guess there is a fair chance that the missing Diary went missing when they were captured.The next War Diary runs from 1 Feb 1917 to 28 Feb 1919 when the unit was part of 37 Brigade of 14 Indian Division.You can read about the Norfolks deployments in these pages from the Long Long Trail:

http://www.1914-1918.net/norfolks.htm and http://www.1914-1918.net/mespot.htm

As far as Bertie is concerned he fought up to the point in Apr 1916 when his unit was captured by the Turks at Kut-el-Amara and as a result died in captivity.

Herbert would not have arrived on the scene until 1916 some time as his Medal Card has no date shown,this normally indicative of entitlement to 1914/1914-1915 Star. If you see the Norfolk page you will see that some reinforcements were on the way whilst their comrades were POWs,and on arrival they joined a group of Dorsetshire soldiers and became the Norsets for a period before making up a 2 Norfolks once more.He would have fought through to the Armistice with the Turks around Mar 1918 and later succumbed to the rigours of the war theatre,if not the flu pandemic which was sweeping around the world at that time.

None of the War Diaires are digital so if you are keen to read them they are at Kew. There is also a campaign book on Mesopotamia,there is a copy in the NA Library and you may be able to find a copy elsewhere.I can't find the title for the moment but will track it down later.

Later: "The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914-1918". by F J Moberly.

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  • 3 months later...

I finally managed to track down Herbert's service record. Here is his story and it makes for grim reading ... anyone know why he would have been given leave to India from Basra instead of being sent back home to the UK?

Herbert was born in the summer of 1893. He was named after his father, who was a labourer in a wood yard, and was the second oldest son in the family. His mother was named Ellen Docking, and Herbert’s brothers were named Percy, Bertie and Arthur. In July 1900, when Herbert was seven years old, he had to deal with the death of his mother. In the 1901 census his widowed father brought up the four boys, assisted by young Herbert’s grandparents, John and Hannah, who were also living with them in Town Street. By the 1911 census Herbert’s father had re-married and Herbert had a step-mother named Ethel. Herbert also now had five half-brothers and sisters, children from his father and step-mother. At this time Herbert was aged seventeen and was a labourer for a local dog trainer.

On August 3rd 1913 he married Polly Elizabeth Dyer at the St Peter’s Church in Brandon and the couple lived their married life at 7 Bury Road. A daughter was born on 4th January 1914 and she was named Ellen after Herbert’s late mother. A son was then born in January 1915 and he was also named Herbert. At that time he was employed as a sawyer in a Brandon timber yard.

It seems Herbert waited until his son had been born until he enlisted into the army because on 25th January 1915 he went to Norwich and signed up to serve King and country. Sadly on 13th June, while Herbert was away with his unit training in Colchester, his son aged only five months died. This would signal the start of Herbert’s miserable time in the army which would only be ended by his death a month before the Armistice.

Two weeks before Christmas 1915 he embarked on a ship at Devonport and ended up in Basra, Iraq, on 7th January 1916. He was one of the reinforcements to assist the Allies who were under siege in the city of Kut. A month later, on 2nd February, he was admitted into a field hospital near the front, not with a war wound but instead with a bad case of diarrhoea which kept him hospitalised for four days before returning to his unit. No sooner had he returned back to the front line when a day later he succumbed to diarrhoea again and this time spent a couple of days in a field hospital. On the 22nd April, as Kut began to fall into the hands of the enemy he was wounded in the fighting but was lucky in the sense he was not captured but instead made it back to safety. However he did not get off lightly and received severe wounds to his face, from gunshot or shrapnel, that he spent two weeks in hospital. Toward the end of June, as the Middle East summer season got hotter, he spent a week in hospital after suffering the effects of the heat. He was back in hospital two weeks later, again with severe heat exhaustion. In 1917 he was given one month’s leave to India and so on 3rd May he left Basra on the troopship ship H.T. ‘Edavana’ and returned to Basra on 25th June on HT ‘Elepehanta’, eventually returning to his unit on 31st July. In October he was removed from his unit for two weeks and instead employed as a batman to Lieutenant Barsham in the local hospital.

On the 5th April 1918 Herbert was again admitted back into the hospital in Kurdarrah, in Iraq, but this time his symptoms were bad. He was diagnosed with a fever but the cause was not yet diagnosed. Ten days later the doctors in the hospital diagnosed Myalgia and on the 16th April he was sent back to his unit. On 22nd July he was admitted to Mirjana suffering the effects of Malaria but within a few days he was discharged and sent once again to his unit. A field hospital next saw him when he was admitted there on 13th October, and they reported that he was suffering from bronchopneumonia and his condition was listed as serious. Herbert died the next day in the field hospital. Captain Flood, of the Royal army Medical Corps, later wrote that Herbert had died at about 5.45pm on 14th October 1917 from pneumonia following contracting influenza. His service record stated that he was buried in Table Mountain, about 60 miles north-east of Baghdad.

Herbert’s wife received a telegram from the War Office on October 18th 1918 stating that Herbert was suffering from pneumonia. By this time she had moved along Bury Road from number 7 to number 48. A second telegram on the 21st informed her that his condition had deteriorated and he was now in a critical condition. On the 24th she received a third telegram stating he had died in Basra. Herbert was aged 24 when he died and he left a widow and a very young daughter. Herbert’s parents had already lost one son, Bertie, in the war and they had two other sons still serving on active service.

Harry is buried at grave ref. IV.H.4, Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq.


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