Herbert Docking

Service number: 18586 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment

Died, October 14, 1918, at Mesopotamia.


Born and enlisted in Brandon.


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 PercyBertie 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. On 4th January 1914 Herbert became father to twins. His son was named after himself, Herbert, and his daughter was named Ellen, after Herbert’s late mother.  At that time Herbert 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.