George Davis Cook was a born and bred Chelmsfordian who worked at Crompton’s. He was a pre-war Territorial who went to Gallipoli in August 1915, was invalided home, recovered, was sent to France and was killed near Arras in April 1917. His home was in Belle Vue. His brother and a cousin also died during the war,
COOK, GEORGE DAVIS,
Corporal, 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment (formerly 1/5th Battalion Essex Regiment)
“Owing to congestion on the road it was three a.m. on 13th before the Brigade was in Monchy. Essex and Newfoundland Battalions, before leaving Arras, had been warned for an attack on the German trenches on the 13th, and the Essex were all ready for it at five a.m., but the operation as postponed, owing to the impossibility of making the necessary preparation, five minutes before zero hour. Another attack, timed at two p.m. on the 13th, was also cancelled a few minutes before the hour fixed, and after the Battalion had been assembled.”
Despite those postponement George was killed in action that day while serving as Corporal 29325. The postponed operation (an attack on Infantry Hill) took place the following day and George’s battalion was to suffer heavily; losing 17 out of 31 officers and 644 out of 892 other ranks either killed, wounded or missing. Among them were two Chelmsford men, Robert Acfield Gibbons and Frederick Albert Reeve.
203 of the missing were later confirmed to be prisoners of war.
News of George’s death was published in the Essex Weekly News on 18th May 1917:
“Corpl. George Cook, Essex Regt., second son of Mr. and Mrs. Cook, of 9 Bellevue. Upper Bridge-rd., Chelmsford, was killed in action on April 15 [sic]. Deceased, who was one of the old Essex Territorials, served in the Dardanelles, and was invalided home suffering from shell shock and typhoid fever. He was afterwards sent to another Front. Corpl. Cook served five years in the Territorials, and was much liked by all who knew him. He was formerly employed at the Arc Works. Mrs. Cook has two other sons also serving.”
The following week’s Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Cpl. Geo. Cook, Essex Regt., second son of Mr. and Mrs. Cook of 9 Bellevue, Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, was killed in action on April 15 [sic]. Deceased, who was one of the old Essex Territorials, served in the Dardanelles, and was invalided home with shell-shock and typhoid fever. He was afterwards sent to another Front. He served five years in the Territorials, and was much liked. He was formerly employed at the Arc Works. Mrs. Cook has two other sons serving.”
George was born in Chelmsford in the autumn of 1896, the second son of Charles Frederick Cook and Emma Maria Cook (nee Burlong). His father had been born in Great Baddow in 1872; his mother in Kelvedon in 1873.
George’s parents had married at St. Mary’s Church, Chelmsford on 1st July 1893. At the time George’s father was aged 21, a labourer of Chelmsford, and the son of George Cook, a gardener. His mother was aged 20, of Chelmsford, and the daughter of Alfred Burlong, a labourer.
George was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Chelmsford on 25th October 1896. At that time his father was described as an armature winder of 12 Glebe Road, Chelmsford.
George had six siblings all born in Chelmsford, including: Frederick Charles Cook (1893-1967), William Henry Cook (born 1889 and baptised at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 1st April 1899), Alfred John Cook (born 8th January 1901 and bapitsed at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 2nd March 1901, died 1971);, Alice Maria Cook (1902-1923), and Arthur Cook (born 21st October 1904, died 1977).
The 1901 census found four year-old George living with his parents and three siblings at 9 Belle Vue Cottages, [Upper] Bridge Road, Chelmsford. George’s father
was employed as an armature winder at an electrical engineers, probably Crompton’s in Chelmsford. A decade later 14 year-old George was recorded by the 1911 census still at the same address, living with his parents and five siblings. His father was an armature winder at an electrical engineer’s; his brother Frederick was a groom, while George was an apprentice fitter, also at an electrical engineer’s. Arthur William Hitchen was a close neighbour at number 13 Belle Vue
George enlisted at Chelmsford and served as a Territorial in the 5th Battalion Essex Regiment with an original service number of 1431. He landed in Gallipoli on 9th August 1915, but following shell shock and typhoid was invalided back to England.
He later joined the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment which formed part of the 88th Brigade in the 29th Division. The battalion took its place on the Western Front in April 1916, and from July 1916 until November 1916 it fought in the Battle of the Somme.
By April 1917 George’s battalion had left the Somme area and moved northwards to participate in the Battle of Arras. The battle commenced on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 when Allied troops launched an offensive along a wide front which despite early progress failed to achieve the breakthrough they coveted.
On 12th April 1917 the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment completed a 20 mile march to arrive in Arras. From there, along with the rest of the 88th Brigade, it moved overnight four miles eastwards to relieve comrades in the 37th Brigade near the village of Monchy-le-Preux, Pas de Calais, France. A post-war account of the battalion recorded:
George, who has no known grave, is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.
On 12th April 1918 the Essex County Chronicle published an in memoriam notice regarding George:
“Cook. - In loving memory of Cpl. Geo. Cook, Essex Regt., second son of Mr. and Mrs, C. Cook, 9 Belle Vue Cottages, Chelmsford, who was killed in France April 13th, 1917, aged 20 years.
One year has passed since that sad day, When our dear son was called away; No moredawns, no night begins, But what we always think of him - From Mother, Father, Sister and Brothers."
The 1918 register of electors listed George’s parents at 9 Belle Vue (pictured).
On 20th January 1920 George’s brother William, then serving as a private in the Royal Sussex Regiment, died from pneumonia in a Malta hospital enroute home from Egypt. Their cousin John Harold Cook also lost his life during the war.
George’s mother died in 1947. His father died in Chelmsford on 1st April 1949.