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66 Squadron, RFC & RAF, 1916 to 1919


Cockerill, Thomas Wray MiD

Introduction

Sergeant Thomas Cockerill is one of the few non-commissioned men I have been able to trace, he served with distinction with 66 squadron. His technical skills were exactly those that the R.F.C. was looking for, and this is no doubt one of the reasons he was promoted through the ranks. His death in 1919 was one of many unnecessary deaths that occurred after the war, joy riding was to kill a number of service men; Goode was lucky to survive this accident.

Family Days in Malton

TW CockerellThomas Wray Cockerill was brought up in the small Yorkshire market town of Malton. His parents were Frederick and Jane; there were four other children in the Cockerill household, William (b1885), Florence Jane (b 1887), Frederick Ruston (b1889 and James William (b 1894). Thomas the last was born on September 3 1891, and was educated at the Wesleyan School in Malton along with his brothers and sister. During his school days the family lived at 35 Old Maltongate, later when the children were older the family opened a retail Phonograph and Gramophone shop at 33 Castlegate in the town. Frederick was a plumber and glazier for 24 years and later worked for Malton Urban District Council, Frederick died in 1906 after a long illness sustained after an accident on Derby day 1901, leaving Jane to provide for the growing family. Thomas was apprenticed to Leefe & Sons of 44 Market Place Malton as a Watchmaker. Later in 1914 he moved to London and joined the firm of Crowe Brothers Jewellers and watchmakers. He was undertaking further education on the outbreak of hostilities and was given exemption from enlistment in the forces, but he did join the Metropolitan Police as a Special Constable serving in K division.

RFC in France & Italy

On April 12 1916 Thomas enlisted in the RFC as 2/AM number 25416. His early career with the Flying Corps is obscure; he is known to have been at Reading in 1916, possibly at the School of Technical Training. Christmas 1916 found Thomas at Patchway near Bristol and promotion to 1/AM. He was posted to France, and embarked on March 4 1917; by June 1917 he had been posted to 66 Squadron, which at that time was based at Calais, after recently moving from Liettres. 66 were under the command of Major George L. P. Henderson and equipped with Sopwith Pups.

TW Cockerell & CamelIn July 1917 66 again moved, this time to Estree- Blanche and Thomas was promoted to Corporal in July and Acting Sergeant in September. During October 1917 66 exchanged their Pups for Sopwith Camels. Along with 28 and 45 Squadrons 66 with Sopwith Camels and 34 Squadron with RE 8`s were withdrawn from France and attached to the Italian Expeditionary Force. 66 Squadron regrouped at Candas and entrained for Italy, the first destination in Italy was Milan where the Camels were erected during November, and Thomas was confirmed in the rank of Sergeant. They moved to Verona on 29 November 1917 and on 4 December they again moved to Grossa. In February 1918, 66 moved to Treviso and Major John T. Whittaker M.C. assumed command from Major Robert Gregory. The next move was to San Pietro in Gu on 10 March 1918. On April 1st Thomas Cockerill became a member of the Royal Air Force and was given the new rank of Sgt. Mech. He continued to work as a fitter in C flight, which at this time was commanded by Captain William G. Barker. By this time the squadron was involved with the battle of the Piave and other work for the army and 14 wing was undertaken. Thomas was mentioned in dispatches on 26 October 1918 and after hostilities ceased on 4 November he was attached to 14 Wing HQ.

After the War


He returned to home establishment on March 4 1919 with 66 squadron cadre at Yatesbury, shortly after 66 moved to Leighterton. Thomas was posted to 36 Training Depot Squadron which was part of 28 Wing, but he retained his contacts with 66 squadron and on 21 April 1919 he was flying with Lt. (A/Capt) Harry K Goode DSO, DFC in Avro 504 D7789 which crashed at Leighterton, Goode was injured but Cockerill was killed (see C & C Vol 24 No 1 page 28), He is buried in Malton Cemetery, during March 1936 Jane died and was buried along side her son. Thomas is remembered on the War Memorial in Malton.

Thanks is due to the Cockerill and Snowden families for the use of thier photographs

 

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