To mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 fifteen war memorials across the country have received new or upgraded listings from Historic England.
The Battle of the Somme in northern France was made up of a series of offensives and counter offensives which lasted 141 days, and the aftermath was an approximate one million dead and wounded.
One of the newly protected memorials is on Commondale Moor – the Commondale Shepherds’ Memorial. It is a simple and short stone pillar which commemorates two men out of a million – Alf Cockerill and Robbie Leggott. They were young shepherds who worked for the local Guisborough Estate and had been friends since childhood. They went together to London and enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at the outbreak of
World War I in 1914. It must have been an exciting adventure.
Alf was shot in the head in the first month of the Battle of the Somme; he did not die immediately but was declared unfit for further duty. He eventually died back in England in August 1920 at the age of 31(?) as a result of his brain injuries having never escaped from the consequences of the Battle. It is wishfully suggested his ashes are scattered close by the site of the memorial.
Robbie was killed in September 1916 aged 19, during another assault on German lines. His body was not identified and so wasn’t returned to the North York Moors.
There is a war memorial in Commondale village and both men are also recorded there. This specific memorial purposefully placed on the moorland above the village was commissioned by the daughter of the first Baron Guisborough in 1920. In the years immediately following the end of World War I recording and remembering the loss endured became a national preoccupation. The Historic England listing cites the historic interest of the memorial as ‘eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifice it made in the First World War’.
GUARDSMEN ROBBIE LEGGOTT KILLED IN ACTION 1916. ALF COCKERILL DIED OF WOUNDS 1920.