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25836 DRIVER STEPHEN STOCKS
Royal Engineers
by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1999

The following information regarding the life of Driver Stocks has been taken primarily from his service papers, WO97/6004, on file in the Public Record Office, London. Where other sources are used they are cited in the endnotes.

Personal Data

Stephen Stocks was born in the Parish of St. Giles, near the town of Reading, in the County of Berkshire in November of 1873. His parents were Jeremiah and Rebecca Stocks. At the time of Stephen’s enlistment in the Army, his parents were residing at Bridge Place in Worksop, in the County of Nottinghamshire. Stephen had two brothers and three sisters. When Stephen enlisted, his eldest brother, Edward, was residing in Ducknall, Nottinghamshire and his brother William was stationed with the 7th Hussars in Madras, India. Stephen’s three sisters, Alice Fanny, Jane Georgina, and Elizabeth Sarah were all living with their parents in Worksop at the time. The Stock family were members of the Church of England.

As a young boy Stephen worked as a groom. When he turned 18 years of age, Stephen joined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment which had its headquarters at Reading. He was still serving with that militia battalion when he decided to enlist in the Regular Army. Prior to joining the Royal Engineers, Stephen was not married, he had no criminal record, and he had no prior service in the Regular Forces. He was residing with his parents at the time of his enlistment.

Physical Description

Stephen Stocks was 18 years and 3 months old when he was recruited by Sergeant Dunn of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment for service in the Royal Engineers. He was given a physical examination at Reading on the 24th of February 1892 and was declared fit for military service. During this examination, Stocks was described as being 5 feet 4-1/4 inches tall and weighing 129 pounds. His minimum and maximum chest measurements were 34-1/2 inches and 37 inches, respectively. Stocks had a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. His distinctive marks included a scar over his left eye.

Enlistment and Training

Stephen Stocks enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Reading on the 26th of February 1892. His was a Short Service enlistment as a Driver for a period of 3 years with the Colours and 9 years in the Army Reserve. His Oath of Attestation was certified at Reading by Colonel H. Barrett, Commanding, 49th Regimental District. Stocks’ Certificate of Primary Military Examination was also completed on this date by the Recruiting Officer of the 49th Regimental District and he was considered fit for service in the Royal Engineers. Colonel Barrett then completed the Certificate of Approving Field Officer and Stocks’ enlistment was given final approval.

Although his service papers are not specific on this detail, Stephen Stocks was probably sent to Aldershot where he became 25836 Driver Stephen Stocks, Royal Engineers. He passed through a course of training at Aldershot prior to his first assignment to a Royal Engineer unit in the field.

Medical Information

Driver Stocks’ service papers do not contain a Medical History sheet; therefore, the nature and duration any diseases or ailments he may have had while in military service are unknown.

Marriage and Family Information

Stephen Stocks was not married during his time in the Army. His parents are listed as his next of kin in his service papers.

Promotions, Conduct and Education

Stocks was never promoted during his time in the Army and he did not qualify for any Certificates of Education. He was awarded two Good Conduct Badges while serving with the Colours and was paid an extra penny (1.d.) per day for each award. The first Good Conduct Badge was awarded on the 23rd of July 1895, after 3 years and 5 months of service. The second badge was awarded on the 26th of February 1898, after he had served a total of 6 years. It should be noted that Stocks did not receive his first Good Conduct Badge after two years. He was one year and five months late in receiving it. Although his service papers show no record of a disciplinary problem, one must assume that there was one that caused the delay of the award. He did receive the second badge at exactly 6 years of service; hence, it may also be assumed that his conduct was without problems after the award of the first badge.

Assignments and Campaign Service

Upon completion of his training in 1893, Driver Stocks was assigned to "A" Pontoon Troop, Royal Engineer at Aldershot under Captain J.L. Irvine, R.E. As he neared the completion of his three years of active service, Driver Stocks decided to extend his service to complete 7 years with the Colours. This he did on the 17th of January 1895 while serving under the command of Major A.H. Kenney, R.E.

In 1897 Driver Stocks was posted to the 37th Field Company, Royal Engineers under the command of Captain G.M. Harper, R.E. He continued his service with this company until the 25th of February 1899 when his period of enlistment expired. Driver Stocks received deferred pay in the amount of 18 Pounds and 10 Shillings on this day and was transferred to the First Class Army Reserve. On the following day he was picked up on the Army Reserve rolls.

Stephen Stocks’ would remain a civilian for less than 8 months. With the likelihood of war with the Boers in South Africa increasing, Driver Stocks was recalled to Army Service under Special Army Order of the 7th of October 1899. He reported to the 12th Field Company, Royal Engineers with the 3rd Infantry Division at Aldershot on the 9th of October 1899.

Stocks company, under the command of Major Graham Thomson, embarked for South Africa on the 7th of November 1899 and landed at East London on the 3rd of December. The company proceeded at once to Sir W. Gatacre’s headquarters at Putterskraal between Queenstown and Sterkstrom, where the general was making preparations to drive the Boers out of Stormberg. The greater part of the 12th Field Company was detailed to take part in the operation and went by train to Molteno on the afternoon of the 6th of December, as it was planned that the British force was to make a night march from that place and surprise the Boers at Stormberg. Owing to various causes, the attack failed, and General Gatacre’s force retired to Sterkstrom where the 12th Field Company did good work in constructing defences around the town and at advanced positions in front of it.

On the 10th of February 1900 a detachment of the 12th Field Company was organized under Company Sergeant Major Field for service as a mounted troop. This troop did excellent work for the division, acting on the right flank of the British force at Sterkstrom. Unfortunately, there are no indications in Stocks’ military papers to indicate that he was part of this mounted troop.

By May of 1900, the 12th Field Company was assigned to the 11th Infantry Division and was operating in the Orange Free State. The 11th Infantry Division was to take part in Lord Robert’s invasion of the Transvaal as part of the main column advancing along the railway line from Bloemfontein to the Vaal River at Vereenigen. The advance from Bloemfontein commenced on the 3rd of May 1900. During the advance, the 12th Field Company marched with its division and did much work improving roads and assisting in the repair of the railway line. Lord Roberts marched into Kroonstadt with the 11th Division on the 12th of May 1900. The Boers, in their retreat from Bloemfontein, had done an enormous amount of damage to the railway and had destroyed four large and many smaller bridges. The 12th Field Company, along with the 26th Field Company, "C" Pontoon Troop, and the Railway Pioneer Regiment, all assisted in making the railway fit again for use. This was accomplished by constructing deviation lines across the different rivers when it would have taken too long to repair the original bridges (see Figures 1 and 2). Following the completion of this work the company took part in the capture of Johannesburg on the 29th of May 1900 and then moved into Pretoria, which the British Army had taken possession of on the 5th of June 1900.

The Boers retreated from Pretoria along the railway leading east from the capital and took up positions on some hills near Pienaarpoort Station, about 14 miles distant. Lord Roberts sent a force of about 14,000 men to attack them. Driver Stocks and the men of the 12th Field Company were with this force. The British attacked the Boers at Diamond Hill, the key feature of the position, and captured it. The Boers retired, leaving Pretoria safe from further threat.

The 12th Field Company next took part in the advance from Pretoria into the eastern Transvaal. Belfast was occupied on the 12th of August 1900 and the company was employed in constructing defences around the town. As the advance continued, the 11th Division, with the 12th Field Company attached to it, reached Komati Poort on the 24th of September. The company was immediately put to work putting the railway in order and getting the rolling stock into working condition. The first troop train was able to run on the 28th of September and the last of the main British force left Komati Poort on the 10th of October. Driver Stocks and the 12th Field Company remained at Komati Poort to prepare cantonments for the garrison.

This brought to a close active operations in South Africa. Driver Stocks departed South Africa for England on the 9th of December 1900 and was assigned to the Royal Engineer Field Park at Aldershot. His old unit, the 12th Field Company, did not return until after 1903. On the 17th of July 1901, while stationed at Barberton, South Africa with his company, Major Thomson prepared the Queen’s South Africa medal roll for the company. Driver Stocks is listed on the roll as eligible for the medal with the clasps [JOHANNESBURG][DIAMOND HILL][BELFAST][CAPE COLONY][ORANGE FREE STATE].

On the 30th of April 1902, Driver Stocks was again transferred to the Army Reserve by authority of Orders 109-Engrs-2968. A.G.6., dated the 27th of March 1902. He was paid a gratuity of 3 Pounds upon his transfer. On the following day he was picked up on the rolls of the First Class Army Reserve by Major F.V. Jeffreys, R.E., Officer Commanding the Royal Engineer Field Depot at Aldershot. In July of 1902, Driver Stocks was paid his 5 Pound South African War Gratuity.

Discharge

Driver Stocks was discharged on the 25th of February 1904. At the termination of his first period of limited engagement, his service was reckoned as follows:

Country

From

To

Years

Days

Home

26 Feb 1892

7 Nov 1899

7

255

South Africa

8 Nov 1899

8 Dec 1900

1

31

Home

9 Dec 1900

25 Feb 1904

3

79

Total Service

26 Feb 1892

25 Feb 1904

12

0

REFERENCES

Books

1. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.
2. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.
3. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.
4. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.
5. WATSON, C.M. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume III. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1954.

Documents

1. WO97/6004. Soldier’s Service Papers. Public Record Office, London, consisting of Army Form B. 265, Short Service Attestation. These documents include the following:

a. Questions to be put to the Recruit before Enlistment.
b. Oath to be Taken by the Recruit on Attestation.
c. Certificate of Magistrate or Attesting Officer.
d. Description on Enlistment.
e. Certificate of Medical Examination.
f. Certificate of Primary Military Examination.
g. Certificate of Approving Field Officer.
h. Statement of Services.
i. Military History Sheet.

2. WO100/156. Queen’s South Africa Medal Roll, 12th Company, Royal Engineers. Public Record Office, London.

Maps

1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. AA Motorists Atlas of Great Britain. Basingstoke, 1984.
2. BAEDEKER, K. Great Britain Handbook for Travellers. Karl Baedeker, Publisher, Leipzig, 1910.

Computer Software

Map ‘N Facts.

Internet

MICROSOFT EXPEDIA MAPS. http:\www.expediamaps.