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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Richard Robson Corker (1892-1916)

Information about Richard Robson Corker, teacher at Waterhouses School, who died of wounds on 1 July 1916 and is commemorated on Durham County Council War Memorial

Biography

Richard Robson Corker was born on 14 July 1892 at Beamish. He was the oldest of three children born to John Robson Corker and his wife, Jane. John and Jane (nee Holt) had married in 1892. John was a butcher - in 1891 he was working as a butcher's assistant at Burnhope, in 1901 he was a 'butcher's manager' in South Shields, and in 1911 he was a butcher working for the Co-operative Society in Quebec. It seems likely that he worked for various co-operative societies. The other children were George Holt Corker, born in 1894, and Edna May Corker, born in December 1902. In 1901 the family were living at 227 Stanhope Road, South Shields, and by 1911 they had moved to 22 Front Street, Quebec.

Photograph of recruits to the 18th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, in civilian dress, being drilled on Durham racecourse, n.d., [September 1914] (D/DLI 2/18/26)
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In 1911 Richard was an 18-year old student teacher at Bede College, Durham, and he was living out of college as a lodger with Miss Frances Wardropper at 58 Gilesgate, Durham.   Also lodging with Miss Wardropper were two other Bede students, both from the 1910 intake, John Kitching (age 19) and Henry Simmons (age 22). The third lodger was a teacher in a city school - Joseph Lowes (age 23), who had also been a Bede student.

Both Henry Simmons and Joseph Lowes served in the Great War - Joseph (who was wounded) as a lieutenant with the 12th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, and Henry who was in the 8th Battalion of the DLI, and was badly wounded and invalided out.

Richard had attended Stanhope Road School (near his home in South Shields) and subsequently the Pupil Teacher Centre at Consett Technical Institute. At the same time as attending the Pupil Teacher Centre he worked as a student teacher at Waterhouses Mixed Council School. He applied to Bede College on 1 March 1910, together with 434 other potential teachers. He received a testimonial from Rev. Richard Fenning, the vicar of Lanchester, and passed as 50th in the entrance examination for the 1910 intake.

Richard completed his training in July 1912 and was appointed as a certificated teacher at Waterhouses Mixed School, where he had trained as a student teacher. Unfortunately the log book for Waterhouses School has not survived; consequently we have no knowledge of Richard's career at the school.

He was given permission by the County Education Committee to enlist on 30 September 1914, and he joined the 18th Battalion (the 'Durham Pals') of the Durham Light Infantry. 18 DLI was one of the Kitchener's Army battalions, raised from the enthusiastic flood of volunteers in the first months of the war, and it was unique in that the expenses of about £10,000 for raising and equipping it were paid for entirely by the County of Durham (the only unit not paid for by the government). The battalion was formed and trained at Cocken Hall, and at the end of 1914 was sent to form part of the garrison of Hartlepool, where it became the first of the New Armies to come under fire, but from the German navy rather than its army. Richard served with the battalion during its time in Egypt (December 1915 - March 1916); unfortunately his army service records have not survived, but he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

The battalion was withdrawn from Egypt in March and landed at Marseilles on 11 March 1916. It then moved to Northern France by a series of 'long and exhausting' marches. After a period in the front line, the battalion was withdrawn for training, but returned to the front line on 20-24 April and 14-19 May. 18 DLI was one of the units which was involved in the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. Richard Corker was badly wounded by shell fire on that first day. There was a report in the Bede College magazine that it was two days before he could be moved back to the advanced dressing post, where he died. However the official records give his date of death as 1 July. He is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps. He was reported to have been recommended for a decoration 'for steadiness, and reliability under fire, and devotion to duty at all times, both as an able instructor, and as a leader in trenches', but nothing came of this. During the first four days of the battle 18 DLI lost 12 officers and 440 other ranks out of a total of 789 which had moved up to the front line on 30 June.

A memorial service was held for 'Dick' Corker at St. John's Church, Quebec (where he had been a member of the church choir) on 23 July. The newspaper report of the service notes that he had played rugby and tennis, and had coached the Waterhouses School football team. He had also been a member of the Marquis of Granby Freemasons' Lodge.

Sources

Very few records survive for Richard Corker but we have been able to piece together his story from the following:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Soldiers Died  CD
Medal Rolls Index Cards
North East War Memorials Project website
Bede College students' record book, E/HB 235, f.222
Bede College register of applicants, E/HB 257, pp.225-226
Bede College magazine, The Bede, E/HB 2/578
1891 Census return, RG 12/4094, f.86v, p.56
1901 Census return, RG 13/4737, f.63r, p.7
1911 Census return, RG 14/29965, schedule 100
1911 Census return, RG 14/29908, schedule 229
Durham Advertiser, 28 July 1916, p.3(h)