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Cocks, John (Jack) Stanley

To many Guy’s men the death of J.S. Cocks at Beirut following Typhus will be a source of profound regret.  Those who knew him intimately will mourn one of those rare and lovable characters whom it is a privilege and a pleasure to know.  Those who knew him more casually will miss the merry man, quaintly humorous, yet withal serious figure of their hospital days. 

My first recollection of Cocks is of a small boy (I did not think him so, being of the same age myself) in brown knickerbockers and stanley jacket at a small private school in our native town. Our subsequent school careers lay apart, and save for the holidays we saw little of each other. We met again at Guy’s, and for some four and a half years lived together in the same diggings. It was in those years that the light friendship of boyhood’s days ripened into the firm, and I dare to think, unbreakable friendship of manhood. It was then I learnt his true worth. The singleness and simplicity of his character, his earnest and unostentatious piety, his utter unselfishness and unruffled good temper. You couldn’t quarrel with Cocks. Quarrelling and bickering was totally foreign to his nature. He would stick to his point like a leech, but I cannot recollect ever seeing him lose his temper. His mode of defence or retaliation was a quaint jest or whimsical remark, totally disarming.

He was decidedly a shy and sensitive man.  On first acquaintance he often passed as a quiet retiring fellow of no very remarkable parts.  What a tremendous misconception!  He had force and determination the casual observer would never dream he possessed.   If Jack Cocks made up his mind to do a thing nothing would deter him, provided he thought it the right and proper thing to do.   He wouldn’t argue about it, or explain, but simply did it. I remember that when reading for his examinations he would set himself to read some work or other from cover to cover. You might plead any diversion you liked, it made no difference, that book was read right through. That was characteristic of the man.

He, perhaps, never shone pre-eminently either in work or play, but that was simply because he never hankered after notoriety. Both were thoroughly and conscientiously done and were always brought to a successful conclusion. He was quick to recognise and unstinted in his praise of merit in others, but neither looked for nor asked approbation for himself.

His humour was all his own. Trite and witty remarks flowed from him in endless profusion. He would parody any and every imaginable thing. He could pour out a never-ending stream of the most inimitable patter. I have seen him many a time have the whole roomful rocking with laughter by the hour on end, and never as much as a smile on his own face. When he greeted you it was with a funny remark and quaint antic or gesture. Oh, he was the merriest, jolliest companion ever man lived with; welcomed and loved wherever he went, the life and soul of every party, and of a winsome gaiety that infected everyone. And now he lies among the pine trees, under the Syrian sun, the whitest soul that ever graced this earth, the sweetest most loyal friend ever man had.

“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world: This was a man.”

A.B. Guy’s Hospital Gazette 8th March, 1919

Biographical

Surname(s)Cocks
First name(s)John (Jack) Stanley
Date of birth15 January 1889
Family detailsSon of John Walter and Mary Smith Stubbs Cocks of Warburton, Springfield Road, Torquay
Previous educationMill Hill School (1904-1907). School House; 1st XV, Monitor.
CollegeGuy's Hospital
Dates at collegeOctober 1907-1914
Dept / courseMedical and Dental, Dental- Pupilage.
QualificationsL.D.S., R.C.S. Eng. 1912; M.R.C.S. and L.R.C.P. 1914
Military unitR.A.M.C. Attached No.1 Egypt Detention Hospital. 9th York and Lancaster. In Greece: 7th Mounted Field Ambulance
War / conflictWorld War One (1914-1918)
CampaignsEgypt; Salonika and Palestine. After Egypt sent to Greece for 18 months. Torpedoed but no lives lost. Took part in Allenby's drive near Beersheba, but his health gave way and he was sent to Port Said, in charge of hospitals in Gaza, Jaffa and Beirut.
Date of death29 January 1919
Age at death30
Rank at deathMajor
Place of deathBeirut
Cause of deathPneumonia following typhus
Burial placeBeirut War Cemetery
Commemoration(s)Guy's Hospital, Mill Hill School Roll of Honour
SourcesGuy's Hospital Medical School Records, King's College London Archives; Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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