Cooke, Arthur Francis (1894-1917)

Arthur Francis Cooke was the youngest son of Susan Ann and Robert Cooke of 25 Sidney Road in Borstal.

Robert Cooke was originally from Portsmouth (1849), whilst Susan Ann Phillips was born in Old Charlton.  They married in 1881 in Farnborough, Hampshire.  Robert was probably based at the nearby Aldershot Garrison, as he was admitted to the Royal Chelsea Pension in 1882, having reached the rank of Sargeant in the newly-formed Essex 2nd Battalion.  Robert had joined the Army in 1871, serving as a Private in 2nd Battalion 4th (The King’s Own) Regiment of Foot.  The family appear to have moved to Chatham, where the oldest son, Albert, was born in 1885, and then to Old Brompton until 1890, where daughter Winifred was born.  Arthur was the youngest child, and he and his next oldest sister Florence, were born in Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire.  At the time of their births, Robert was an Assistant Warder at HMP Aylesbury.

In 1901, Robert was working as a Post Office Cleaner.  At that point, his sons Albert (15), Robert Glynn (12), and Arthur (7), and daughters Alice (14), Winifred (11) and Florence (9), were living at home.  Albert, born in Chatham, was a baker’s apprentice. By 1911, Albert was a bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery, and was at the Shorncliffe Camp near Folkestone on Census Night. Robert Glynn had also joined the RFA, and he was serving in India. Robert Senior was working as a County Court bailiff, and Florence was draper’s clerk.  Arthur, then 17, was a baker’s van mate.

Arthur was well known in Borstal, where the family had resided for twenty-one years. As a boy he attended the Borstal National School. He was also a chorister at St Matthew’s church, where the processional cross is dedicated to his memory.

He enlisted at the age of 18 in the RFA and was sent to the Front almost at the beginning of the war. For his service there he was mentioned in despatches and was promoted in March 1916 from the rank of sergeant to 2nd lieutenant. Albert and Robert Glynn remained in the RFA, with Albert becoming a lieutenant and Robert Glynn a 2nd lieutenant at the Front, like his brother. Arthur was killed on March 4th 1917, while he was directing the fire of his battery against the enemy.  Both of his brothers survived the war.  Arthur is buried in Suzanne Military Cemetery No 3.

Sources: Census 1891, 1901, 1911; Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The War Graves of The British Empire, Hem Farm, Hem-Monacu Suzanne Communal, Suzanne Military, Herbecourt British, Frise Communal, France; England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 . England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973.  All Ancestry.co.uk.

Unit History: Essex Regiment, https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/253/essex-regiment

Research: Reverend Anne Bennett, Dr Alison Robinson.

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