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Thomas Wray Cockerill was born on 3rd September 1891, in Malton, the third son of Frederick and Jane Elizabeth (nee Wray) Cockerill who married in the first quarter of 1882 in the Malton area. There were four other children in the Cockerill household, William (b1885), Florence Jane (b 1887), Frederick Ruston (b1889 and James William (b 1894) and they were all educated at the Wesleyan School in Malton. When Thomas was born the family lived at 35 Old Maltongate, but by 1901 they had moved to 2, Water Works Cottage, Malton , presumably for work reasons.
1901 census – resident at 2, Water Works Cottage, Malton
COCKERILL, Frederick, Head, Married, M, 1860, Sanitary Engineer, Norton Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, Jane Elizabeth, Wife, Married, F, 1860, , Terrington Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, Walter William, Son, Single, M, 1886, Implement Dealers Assistant, Malton Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, Florence Jane, Daughter, Single, F, 1888, , Malton Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, Frederick Ruston, Son, Single, M, 1890, , Malton Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, Thomas Wray, Son, Single, M, 1892, , Malton Yorkshire,
COCKERILL, James Wilfred, Son, Single, M, 1895, , Malton Yorkshire,
GUTHERLESS, Emily, Visitor, Single, F, 1859, Cook Domestic, York Yorkshire,
Frederick was a plumber and glazier for 24 years and later worked for Malton Urban District Council. He died in 1906 after a long illness sustained after an accident on Derby Day 1901, leaving Jane to provide for the growing family. When the children were older the family opened a retail Phonograph and Gramophone shop at 33 Castlegate where they were resident in 1911.
1911 census – resident at 33 Castlegate
COCKERILL, Jane Elizabeth, Head, Widow, F, 1860, , Terrington York,
COCKERILL, Walter William, Son, Single, M, 1886, Agricultural Engineers Cashier, Malton York,
COCKERILL, Florence Jane, Daughter, Single, F, 1888, Assisting At Home, Malton York,
COCKERILL, Thomas Wray, Son, Single, M, 1892, Watch Repairers Apprentice, Malton York,
COCKERILL, James Wilfred, Son, Single, M, 1895, Agricultural Engineers Clerk, Malton York,
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.
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 Squadron were under the command of Major George L. P. Henderson and equipped with Sopwith Pups.
Thomas 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. In July 1917 66 Squadron again moved, this time to Estree-
During October 1917 66 Squadron exchanged their Pups for Sopwith Camels. Along with 28 and 45 Squadrons, 66 Squadron 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 Squadron 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.
He returned to home establishment on March 4 1919 with 66 squadron cadre at Yatesbury and when shortly after, 66 Squadron moved to Leighterton Thomas was posted to 36 Training Depot Squadron which was part of 28 Wing.
He retained his contacts with 66 squadron and on 21 April 1919 he was flying with the flying ace Lt. (A/Capt) Harry K Goode DSO, DFC in Avro 504 D7789 which crashed on Leighterton aerodrome after Goode was reported to be diving and zooming over the aerodrome. Goode was was taken to Chisledon Military Hospital with a broken wrist but Cockerill was killed. 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 himself was lucky to survive this accident.
Thomas is buried in New Malton Cemetery and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Malton and in St Leonard's.