Thomas Cooke (VC)
Studio portrait of Thomas Cooke
5 July 1881|
Kaikoura, New Zealand
|Died||25 July 1916†
(aged 35) |
|Service/branch||Australian Imperial Force|
|Years of service||1915–16|
Thomas Cooke, VC (5 July 1881 – 25 July 1916) was a New Zealand-born soldier who served in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. He was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Cooke was born in Kaikoura, New Zealand, on 5 July 1881, to an Englishman and his wife. The family later moved to Wellington and after completing his schooling, Cooke became a carpenter like his father. In 1902, he married Maud Elizabeth Elliott and the couple had three children. In 1912, he moved his young family to Australia and settled in Melbourne where he worked as a builder.
First World War
In February 1915, Cooke enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service abroad in the First World War. He was posted to 24th Battalion upon completion of his training. His posting proved relatively short-lived for after he arrived in the Middle East, he was transferred to 8th Battalion. His battalion arrived on the Western Front in April 1916.
Two months later, the battalion, as part of the 1st Division fought in the Battle of Pozières on 24 to 25 July 1916. Seeking to consolidate the Australian positions around Pozières, Cooke, operating a Lewis gun, was sent forward with his assistants to secure an unsafe section of the line. He and his companions secured the area but was exposed to long range machinegun fire which soon accounted for all but Cooke. Even after running out of ammunition, he continued to man his post in the face of a German counterattack during which he was killed. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross (VC) for his actions. The award of the VC to Cooke was gazetted on 9 September 1916. The citation for his VC read as follows:
For most conspicuous bravery. After a Lewis gun had been disabled, he was ordered to take his gun and gun-team to a dangerous part of the line. Here he did fine work, but came under very heavy fire, with the result that finally he was the only man left. He still stuck to his post, and continued to fire his gun. When assistance was sent he was found dead beside his gun. He set a splendid example of determination and devotion to duty.
Cooke's VC was presented to his wife by the Governor-General in 1917. His wife later remarried. Cooke has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the QEII Army Memorial Museum at Waiouru, New Zealand.
- Pedersen, P. A, 'Cooke, Thomas (1881–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, Melbourne University Press, 1981, pp. 102. Retrieved on 29 September 2013.
- "Thomas Cooke – Discovering Anzacs". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Harper & Richardson 2007, pp. 136–137.
- "No. 29740". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 September 1916. p. 8870.
- "Thomas Cooke". Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
- Harper, Glyn; Richardson, Colin (2007). In the Face of the Enemy: The Complete History of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited. ISBN 1869506502.