680360 GNR. F. P. HOCKEY. R.F.A.
Francis (Frank) Peter Hockey was born in Liverpool on 23 May 1897 and baptised at Liverpool St Sylvester on 2 June. His father was Peter Hockey (b. 1866 in Liverpool), a dock labourer. [The family name was originally Haughey. Peter’s father, John Haughey, arrived in Liverpool from Ireland in the 1850s. The Hockey spelling was adopted some time in the 1870s.] Frank’s mother was Mary Ann Martin (b. 1874 in Liverpool). Peter and Mary Ann were married on Christmas Day 1891 and they had 10 children, but six died in infancy. The survivors were: Mary (b. 1892), John (b. 1894), then Frank, and Michael (b. 1913). The living conditions for the family must have been pretty awful. In 1911, Peter and Mary Ann were living at 31 Vescock Street, Liverpool, with just one child (Peter, born the previous year and who would die later in 1911), but Frank, then aged 13, had been placed in a Roman Catholic children’s home in Preston. This was St Thomas’s Home Industrial School, part of which is still standing, on Tulketh Crescent in Preston. Further information about the home can be found at http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk/PrestonIS/
Frank was probably in the Territorials before the War, even though he was only just 18 when he went to France on 30 September 1915. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was initially assigned service number 1477 and posted to “A” Battery of 286 Brigade which formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. His service number was later changed to 680360. Frank’s rank was Gunner, but he was a specialist Shoeing Smith.
55th (West Lancashire) Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
1917: Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
Frank Hockey was killed on the opening day of the battle. He was 20 years old.
Rank: Gunner/Shoeing Smith
Service No: 680360
Date of Death: 31/07/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: V. A. 32.
Cemetery: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY