Thomas George Willcocks was born on 18th April 1882, in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton. The oldest of five children, his parents were William Willcocks and his wife Emma. William worked as a clay cutter, and this was a trade Thomas followed when he left school.
By 1899, Thomas had met Sophy Gale, a clay cutter’s daughter from nearby Hennock; the couple married and had a daughter, Violet. Thomas was also working as a cutter, and moved into his in-laws house to start raising his young family.
Life can be cruel: the 1911 census shows that Thomas and Sophy had moved to Chudleigh Knighton – where Sophy was originally from. Violet had, by this point, sadly passed away; Thomas’ brother-in-law, Albert, had moved in with the couple to help pay their way.
War was coming to Europe and, although full details of Thomas’ service no longer remain, it is possible to piece together some of his time in the army.
Private Willcocks enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at some point before January 1917, although he soon transferred across to the Hampshire Regiment. His battalion – the 15th – were moved to France in the summer of 1916, and it seems that Thomas served at least some of his time in the trenches of the Western Front.
While abroad, Private Willcocks fell ill with trench fever and rheumatism, and was medically evacuated back to the UK for treatment. He was admitted to the Red Cross Hospital in Glasgow, but passed away on 23rd July 1917. He was 35 years old.
The body of Thomas George Willcocks was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church in Chudleigh Knighton.
Thomas’ brother in law, Albert, also died as a result of the First World War; he lies in the grave next to Thomas. His story can be found here.
Thomas’ neighbour was Alfred Moist. He also lies in the same churchyard and his story can be found here.