Private 71 Fredrick Charles Vockins
Royal Canadian Dragoons
Private Vockins was the son of Ephraim and Mary Vockins, of High Street, Hungerford, Berkshire. He was born on the 2nd March 1880 and at some point prior to the war spent three years with the Berkshire Yeomanry.
He was in America when war was declared and crossed to British Columbia, Canada, and came to England at his own expense. He did this to join his friends from Canada who were training on Salisbury Plain prior to deployment to France. He there joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons and after training he went to France embarking on the 4th May 1915.
He enlisted at Pond Farm, Salisbury Plain on the 3rd November 1914 and his trade was shown as an outfitter, he was 26 years old, and 5 ft 6 inches tall, weighed 158 pounds, and was graded as 'Good' in terms of physical development. After arriving in France he took part in some of the early fighting.
He came out of the trenches on the 19th July and had an attack of pain on the 20th. He was sent to the Rawal Pindi British General Hospital at Wimereux and later was invalided back to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, Hampshire. He died on the 3rd August 1915 while undergoing an operation for appendicitis. He is buried in Netley Military Cemetery, Hampshire.
- Private Fredrick Charles Vockins
- The cap badge of the Royal Canadian Dragoons
It is clear his previous service with the Berkshire Yeomanry stood him in good stead as he was processed quite quickly and joined the front line unit. The Canadian Dragoons came to England in October 1914 where intensive training was carried out at Maresfield. The Regiment became part of the Canadian Calvary Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Seely. After the first battle of Ypres the Canadians lost 6000 men. The Brigadier was asked to provide support but as infantry. He called a full parade, presented the proposal and every man volunteered.
Private Vockins medical report stated: 'Sent over from France to have appendix removed, had an attack of appendicitis which began in the trenches at Neuve Eglise. He was admitted to hospital on July 20th and treated by rest in bed and Fomentations.' It went on to say that on admission he was free from pain, but on examination there was slight tenderness.
The report continues: 'Patient was taken to the theatre this morning, and chloroform administered, but before the operation was commenced he ceased to breath. Artificial respiration was performed for 40 minutes, and other methods employed, but without result'. (It does rather suggest that poor Pte Vockins may have been recovering naturally from his appendicitis, but died from the anaesthetic administered in preparation for his operation - HLP).
Pte FC Vockins war diary, 4 May 1915 - 27 Jul 1915:
David Burns kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (February 2015) saying: "Last year we produced a WW1 Exhibition in our village and asked for items. A gentleman from a neighbouring village offered us a few artifacts, and with it came a transcript of the diary. It is clearly one of a series, but is the last one. ..It was found.. in a desk drawer of one of the pieces he bought. The transcript is typed. We have no idea how long ago or by whom. The original transcribed copy can be seen here. An abbreviated transcript follows:
Copy of diary of Pte FC Vockins of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.
Died at Netley Aug 3rd 1915.
May 4th: Left Folkestone for France.
May 6th: Arrived at Strazeele Station. Billeted Merris near hospital. First sound of guns, within 15 miles of trench.
May 8th: Route marching.
May 14th: Left Merris, marched 12 miles with packs to St. Floris.
May 15th: Left St. Floris for La Ecline.
May 16th: Good news. British took 3 lines of German trenches. Left La Ecline. Received issues of tobacco and cigarettes. Billeted in barn.
May 17th: Slept in an orchard. Got wet through.
May 18th: Still raining.
May 19th: Change billet - 1 mile away in a garden.
May 20th: Heavy bombardment.
May 21st: Ordered to "stand to". Hear an attack on La Bassee.
May 24th: Arrive at Festubert. Occupy reserve trench at 2am.
May 25th: Saw Coldstream Guards splendid charge up a hill. Great sight. We move up to the front line of trenches. RCD A squad. Charge and take port trench. Germans holding out on flank for a few minutes. Then I swept off the "boys" - cleared them all out. Built parapet of dead German bodies. An awful sight.
May 26th: Very hot. 28 snipers taken. 1 fort and machine gun taken. "Stand to". Leave trench 12 o'clock midnight. Arrive Locon 4am.
May 27th: Colonel's congratulations. Trench we left blown up by mines an hour after we left.
May 28th: Much cooler. Special inspections by General Alderton. Congratulations on good behaviour of Canadians in the trenches.
May 30th: Mr Stillhorn gone home - nervous breakdown .
May 31st: Received news of Eddie's death in the Dardenelles.
June 1st: Moved to La Perelle. Aeroplane brought down by gun fire 3pm.
June 2nd: German aeroplane brought down 10am by anti-aircraft gun. Shells bursting all round. "Standing to" ready for trenches. Extra ammunition served out. Found shrapnel in trench. Head quarters smashed.
June 3rd: Duel of aeroplanes 4am. One fell. Moved to trench at Givenchy. Road heavily shelled all way up. Many narrow escapes.
June 4th: Returned at 9am. Shelled all day. No damage.
June 5th: Trying machine gun in morning. Moved to Beuvry. Shells dropping all around billet. Carroboo Bill, 2 women and 2 children killed. Houses on fire. A butcher seen burning a pig said to be a signal for shells came straight for fire. He grinned and went away. French peasants would sell their soul for a few Francs. Armour train in station at Beuvry. 2 guns called "Little Willies" doing good work. Guns layed by expert in connection with wireless and aeroplanes etc.
June 6th: Marched back to Givenchy. Buried Carroboo Bill. Two men, one woman in charge as spies. Entertainment likely place for spies, also farms - mostly Flemish.
June 7th: Bombs fell in canal amongst the bathers. No one hurt. Trying my gun, and took up position near Bethune.
June 8th: Firing guns went well. No mishap with our gun. No. 2 gun exploded bullet by heat of barrell fambing. Returned at noon. Shells had been falling in village. One house lost its roof. No one hurt. Base of shell picked up. Proved to be high explosives. Outside casing 1½" thick. Base 4" thick. Very heavy thunderstorm broke over the place from north to south. Hailstones as large as walnuts.
June 9th: Two shells dropped near. No damage. Salaane the noted airman working in connection withe "Little Willie" guns gone to Dardenelles. I hear the Kaiser has offered 10,000 Marks for his (Salaane's) head, which shows the damage he has been doing. Last night heavy bombardment of La Bassee. Little Willie dropped a shell into a swimming pool where 30 German officers were dipping. Killed or injured the lot. Church of La Bassee used as headquarters for Germans. One shell
from Little Willie - no more church. Casualties not known. Guns laid by experts from HMS Pembroke.
June 10th: Flooded out of billet in garden 5am. Everything soaked. Shell dropped on same house as on the 8th. Killed two birds in a cage. Made gun pits for defending our brigade in case of enemy breaking through. News of a Zeppelin brought down and fired.
June 11th: Made gun pits. Lecture on respiration. Quiet.
June 12th: Gun drill. Artillery on all night.
June 13th: Church parade. Heavy guns still going strong. Shakes the whole neighbourhood. Noon "stand to".
June 14th: Reinforcements from Canterbury. Men left behind with our guns. Horses sent out over to Givenchy. Heavy Bombardment still going on. All Ross rifles exchanged. Ross condemned.
June 15th: Village where billeted shelled. Four horses killed. Six men hurt, one very badly. Now at La Prielle. At cross roads artillery out exercising horses. Shell dropped amongst them, killing and wounding many men and horses. Heavy bombardment all night. Now at Givenchy, close to sugar refinery and distillery. Change at 5 o'clock.
June 16th: Machine gun close to railway bridge. One continual stream of wounded, some wounded in the head. Carrying those wounded in the legs, etc. Artillery going all night. Moved up to second trench later. No action. Returned through Givenchy village under heavy fire and snipers.
June 17th: Special reserve trench along railway track. Narrow escape of two men passing a house. Return to Beuvey along canal. Came in field, close to armour train. Woman in house is the daughter of the old woman in "Sketch" page 11, Oct 7th 1914. Returned to keeping ginger-bread in Boulogne.
June 18th: Centenary of Waterloo. Shrapnel bombs bursting close. "Stand to" moved back to trenches for attack by the 2nd Brigade. Shells falling short on our trenches, killing and injuring many.
June 19th: Heavy bombardment started 10 o'clock. Shells still falling short. Moved back to billets (open fields) ready to move up at a moment's notice. No sleep
for four nights. Boots not removed for four nights, the same being worn out. Feet very sore. Applied for new pair. Got turned down by Sgt Major saying
"They will last until you are dead". Shells falling close by. Weather fine.
June 20th: Weather fine, and quiet.
June 21st: Squadron digging trenches between the two line. Snipers very busy. Jim wounded. Spy caught dressed in French officer's uniform at Bethune.
June 22nd: Still in reserve trench. French artillery very active in Arras.
June 23rd: Moved to first line of trenches. Sniping on our right, very active. I'm laying wait for him on Cuinchy Front.
June 24th: Coal horses all around. Early morning mined enemy's trench. Went up 10 o'clock. Lots of damage. Left trench 8pm. Relieved by Grenadier Guards. Horses and lumber in canal with all our kit. Pole broke. Very cold. Arrive Bethune
3.30am. Dead tired.
June 25th: Very wet. Still resting. Good Bass 3d a time!
June 26th: Enemy firing on observation balloon. No damage done after shelling for 4 hours. Still at Bethune. Expect to move off tonight. (Later) Move off 9.30pm.
June 27th: Arrived at Neuve Berquine 3 o'clock. 15 mile walk. Boots worn through. Slept till 9 o'clock am. Moved off again 8pm. Arrived Merris 10 o'clock pm.
June 28th: Merris people pleased to see us back again. Setting stores. Entertainment
likely, but they will get "sold a pup" as we expect to move off again tonight. Raining hard. Left Merris 2 o'clock. Having poor boots, rode up in a motor bus. Arrived
3 o'clock. Squadron arrived 7 o'clock Neuve Eglise.
June 29th: Lumber run over my foot. Had to come back from trenches in wagon. Corp. James sniped.
June 30th: Nothing alarming hereon. Sitting down. Nothing to read.
July 1st: Bombardment of Ypres. Neuve Eglise gets it every day. Our billet just outside.
June 2nd: No. 1 and No. 2 guns gone out. No. 3 and No.4 stay with King E. Horse.
July 3rd: Very hot. Foot getting on famous. Shells coming over.
July 4th: Still very hot and sultry. Foot practically well. Hope to go up to the boys in the morning.
July 5th: In reserve at Ration Farm. Awful stench of dead bodies.
July 6th: Still in reserve. "Stand to" orsered. Heavy attack on right.
July 7th: Back in huts at Neuve Eglise. Enemy bombarding church.
July 8th: Resting. "Stand to" ordered noon.
July 9th: Aeroplane brought down. No damage done. Very daring Frenchman pilot flying over enemies trenches for 2 hours. Move up into trenches. Front line splendid position. Trench said to be mined.
July 11th: Attack on left flank by our men. Enemy exploded mine but failed. Exploding taking place about 200 yards away from trench. Two listeners hurt.
July 12th: Moving to left flank. Still in first line of trench.
July 13th. Shelled in morning, after working all night building gun pits. After hours of shelling, no material damage done. No-one hurt.
July 14th: Sgt hit by splinter from periscope. Gone to hospital.
July 15th: German working party, cut up on right. Raining hard. Trenches filthy.
July 16th: Quiet, but attack expected.
July 17th: Gun pits shelled. Place sniped all day. One slightly injured.
July 18th: Digging dug out from heavy fire. Good shooting through look hole. Relieved at 7.30pm. Arrived Neuve Eglise 11pm. Find church burnt to ground.
July 19th: Pay day. Weather fine. Enemy shelling town again. Several wounded.
July 20th: Feeling rough, but helped to clean gun. Pain in side.
July 21st: Vomiting after breakfast. Dr says swollen appendix. Have to go to hospital.
July 22nd: Arrive at Boulogne Base General Hospital. Very painful right side.
July 23rd: Airship pass over. Pain very bad. Bad night.
July 24th: Pain little better. Vomiting very little.
July 25th: Pulse normal. Pain not so acute. Better night.
July 26th: Much better. Dr. advises operation in England. Vomit once. Arrive on board ship "Oxfordshire" for Southampton. 500 on board.
July 27th: Arrive at Southampton 7 o'clock. Remained on ship till afternoon. A boat full - 1,600 wounded in from Dardenelles. Pain better, less violent. Arrive at Netley Hospital 8 o'clock.
Point of Interest:
His medals were later sent to his father in 1923 and a Canadian memorial Cross to his mother. He was eligible for the 1914-15 Star Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
For further family information see Private Albert Edward Vockins.