William Henry Cockey was born to Edmund Percival, a surgeon, and Mary Ann Taylor on October 22, 1867 in Frome, Somerset. He grew up in Frome and later went to King’s College boarding school in Taunton, Somerset. By 1901, he had moved to Doncaster, where he was employed as a railway locomotive draughtsman at Doncaster Railway Works. He later was promoted to assistant manager.
Cockey first entered the military in July 1895 as Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Prince Albert’s (Somersetshire Light Infantry). In August 1914, he was promoted to Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion, King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry). In early 1915, the Mayor of Doncaster enquired whether Cockey could take part in the raising the 224th Company Royal Engineers. The exact intended role of Cockey is not clear, but he regretfully declined due to other commitments, not wanting to delay the proceedings.
In January 1916 Cockey was promoted to temporary Captain and on May 7 of the same year, he entered the war as a draft conducting officer in France. A draft conducting officer was responsible for accompanying a draft of soldiers from its point of landing to its destination near the front. This role was often performed by officers who were too old for active service or had little military experience or a civilian background. This profile corresponds well with Cockey who was 48 at that time and only ranked as Second Lieutenant before the outbreak of the war. It may also well be the case that Cockey was only in France for a short period of time. Nevertheless, he was later awarded the British War Medal for his involvement.
In February 1917 he returned to the rank of Lieutenant and in September 1921 he relinquished his commission.
After the war, Cockey returned to his work with the railway in Doncaster, where he lived at various addresses during the years. At some point, he also got involved with the British Legion and in 1935 he served as chairman to its Doncaster Club & Institute.
In 1956, Cockey died unmarried at the age of 89 in Bath, Somerset.