Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private Frederick St George Cooke

 

 

Cooke FStG

 

Frederick St George Cooke was born on 27 March 1879 at Gortermone, Carrigallen, County Leitrim, the fourth of seventeen children of farmer Francis Cooke and his wife Anne (formerly Stuart). By 1901 Cooke had moved to Belfast with his brother John, and was working as a grocer's assistant. Two years later he married Jane Croker Hingston at McQuiston Memorial Church, Knockbreda. Between 1904 and 1914 the couple had five children, though two died very young.

Between 1905 and 1907 the family moved to Whitehead, Templecorran, County Antrim, where Cooke ran a grocery business. He was a member of the County Antrim Yacht Club and Masonic Lodge 313. They moved again, to Lisburn, County Antrim, between 1914 and 1916, living at 18 Bachelor's Walk.

Cooke joined the army at Belfast on 20 May 1916, stating his age as 30 (not 37, his real age). He initially joined the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, but was sent instead to Antrim, where seven days later he was enlisted in the North Irish Horse (No.2182 – later Corps of Hussars No.71709).

He embarked for France on 27 January 1917, joining the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment in the field at Boeschepe (after being hospitalised wih measles) on 3 April.

In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted and most of its men transferred to the infantry. After a brief period of training at the 36th (Ulster) Division's Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, they were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Cooke's arrival was delayed, however, as he was hospitalised with haemorrhoids from 10 October to 7 December. He joined the 9th Battalion on 1 January 1918 and was issued regimental number 41694. It is likely that Cooke saw action with the battalion in the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive.

On 9 April 1918 the 9th Battalion was on the Ypres front when the Germans began their offensive in that sector. The battalion saw severe fighting between Wulverghem and Kemmel for more than a week and suffered many casualties. Cooke was initially listed as missing between 9 and 19 April, but his death was later accepted. He was possibly killed in the early morning of 18 April when a composite battalion of 400 men from the 9th and 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, and 12th Royal Irish Rifles, were caught in an enemy bombardment while moving to positions on the western slopes of Mount Kemmel. According to the battalion diary for that day:

2 am. Moved to Kemmel, as composite Bn with 1st R. Ir. Fus. cmd. by Lt. Col. Kelly. Heavy casualties, while moving into position, from enemy shelling. Capt. Despard wounded and died soon after.

... and the 108 Brigade diary:

Battalion moved to Kemmel Hill, but whilst halted near foot of N. slope was heavily shelled, losing Captain Despard killed ... and about 70 other casualties.

Having no known grave, Private Cooke is commemorated on Panel 140 of the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

 

At the end of 1918 Cooke's widow wrote to the authorities seeking a pension. In one letter she wrote:

18 Bachelors Walk
Lisburn
Co Antrim

Dear Sir
I have filled in the names and ages of my late husband's brothers and sisters. The ages may not be quite correct, but are as near as I know. Most of his sisters are married but their married names I am not quite sure of and their addresses I do not know as most of them are in New York and Canada. Should you require a completely correct statement I can get it but it would require time.
Yours truly

J.C. Cooke

She was awarded a pension of 30/10 a week for herself and three children from 9 December.

 

McFarland 2

 

 

Memorial images Copyright © Phillip Tardif with all rights reserved as set out in this Use of Material policy. Image of Private Cooke provided by Nick Metcalfe. County Antrim Yacht Club memorial plaque image sourced from the club's website.