Friday, 30 October 2015

County Hall War Memorial - Richard Corker

This week have another post by David Butler with an update on one of the men who appears on the Durham County Hall war memorial.

Richard Robson Corker at Bede College (E/HB 2/693)
E/HB 2/693 Richard Robson Corker at Bede College 
Richard Robson Corker (1892-1916)

Two years ago I was writing mini-biographies of some of the men commemorated on the County Council war memorial in the Durham Room at County Hall. One of those men was Richard Robson Corker. He had been born on 14 July 1892 at Beamish, and in 1911 was an 18-year old student teacher at Bede College, Durham, living out of college as a lodger on Gilesgate, Durham.

Richard had previously attended the Pupil Teacher Centre at Consett Technical Institute, and at the same time worked as a student teacher at Waterhouses Mixed Council School. He began his formal training at Bede College in September 1910. After completing his training in July 1912, he was appointed as a certificated teacher at Waterhouses Mixed School.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 he joined the 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (the ‘Durham Pals’). 18 DLI was involved in the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, and Richard Corker was badly wounded by shell fire. His is recorded as having died of wounds on 1 July and is buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France.  Richard is 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. 

In 2013, when I was writing the notes on Richard my next step was to look for the school log book to see what it said about him, but I noted that ‘unfortunately the log book for Waterhouses School has not survived; consequently we have no knowledge of Richard’s career at the school’. However there is good news: the Waterhouses School log book has now re-appeared and has been donated to the Record Office (reference D/X 2041/1). 

We now know that Richard Corker began as a student teacher at Waterhouses on 13 September 1909. In mid-April 1910 he was absent for four days taking the second part of his Preliminary Certificate examination. As part of his training he visited Neville’s Cross School on 26 April and Belmont CE School on 3 June. On 24 June George Sutcliffe, the head teacher of Waterhouses, noted that Richard had passed his Preliminary Certificate with a distinction in history. 

Although he ceased employment at Waterhouses on 31 July 1910 to train at Bede College, on 23 September, George Sutcliffe noted that Richard had spent five weeks of his vacation in the school and ‘has been of valuable assistance’. This follows a note that a new unqualified assistant teacher ‘has proved so far almost wholly unable to undertake any effective teaching’, and we are left wondering whether there is a connection between the two comments. 
Waterhouses County Junior Mixed and Infant School, 1970s (D/Ph 125/216 )
D/Ph 125/216 Waterhouses County Junior Mixed and Infant School, 1970s
Following Richard’s period at Bede College he was appointed as a certificated assistant (CA) at Waterhouses school to begin on 19 August 1912, at an annual salary of £95. On 2 September 1912 he was absent having been summoned to attend as a witness at a court martial at Newcastle Barracks. His name does not then appear in the log book until 25 September 1914 when it was noted that he went on War Service.

On 21 July 1916, John Wylam, who had become head teacher in 1913, made the following entry in the log book:
Richard Corker, C.A. who joined the army in Sept. 1914 and was made sergeant, has been killed in action in France on July 1st 1916 in the beginning of the great offensive. A letter has been received by his father from his Captain and a fellow Sergeant, speaking most highly of him for his bravery, his cheerfulness, and the regard for him by the men in his platoon and regiment. His loss is deeply deplored by the teachers and children. He was an excellent teacher and had a promising career in front of him. 
Even though records may appear to have been lost, there is always the possibility that they may be found. It is owing to the goodwill of those who find such records, and present them to the Record Office, that they can be made available for research, and I hope that others who come across similar items are encouraged by this story to contact the Record Office. 

No comments:

Post a Comment