Service number: 13689 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment.
Killed in action, October 9, 1917 in Flanders.
Buried at BEDFORD HOUSE, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Born in Brandon and enlisted at Norwich.
Headstone of Bertie Docking
Entrance to Bedford House Cemetery
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT BERTIE …
Bertie’s mother had died in 1900, when he was six years old, and by 1911 Bertie’s father, Herbert, had re-married and the family were living at 1 The Street, Town Street. Here Bertie lived his father, step-mother Ethel, and six siblings, including Herbert and Percy. When war broke out he was working as a horseman and on 2nd September 1914 he took himself off to an Army Recruitment Office in Norwich and joined up with his pals as part of Kitchener’s Army. According to his service record he was a slight man who measured 5’ 3½” tall and weighed in at 120lbs. After eight months of training in Britain he was then sent overseas to France on 12th May 1915.
Bertie saw action during September 1916 and received a gunshot wound to his left wrist for his troubles, but in time he was fit enough to return to his unit. On 8th October 1917 the 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, were ordered to get ready for an attack on Polderhoek Chateau. It was not an easy time for the battalion as they sat and waited. The weather was awful and the area had been subjected to enemy artillery shelling through the day and into the evening, which caused a few casualties amongst the men. The entry in the battalion’s War Diary did not bode well for the attack the next day,
“Men very worn out and tired and not in any way fit for an attack.”
In the very early hours of the next day the men moved from their support trench and up toward the main front line. At 4am the signal went out for the attack to begin. It was still very dark and the rain was pouring which hampered the men’s movement. This notwithstanding the men got into a position to attack the chateau at 5.20am but soon afterwards the attack unravelled. Men moved forwards and found themselves out of position and isolated from each other. The Germans opened up with their machine guns and even managed to get men close enough to throw grenades at the Norfolks. The Commanding Officer was very despondent when writing up the events of the day. He blamed the attack’s failure on the weather, the tiredness of the men, a lack of appropriate waterproof clothing, trenches constantly filling up with water and the fact the men had not had a hot meal for days. Bertie had lived the final moments of his life in this utterly miserable scenario, and sadly he was one of the 43 men killed in this short lived attack. 149 were wounded and 112 were unaccounted for, and on 23rd October the War Office notified Herbert that his son had been killed in action.