CWG: Ordinary Seaman Knight Cooke

Ordinary Seaman Knight Cooke

Knight Cooke was born in Vancouver, Canada, on 10th December 1892. He was one of nine children to John and Mary Cooke. John was a tallyman, selling goods by instalments. Knight, however, preferred working with his hands, and when he left school, found a job in a wood mill, as a planer.

When war came to Europe, those in the Commonwealth were asked to play their part. Knight enlisted, joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 22nd April 1916. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 135lbs (61kg): he had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion.

When he arrived in England, Knight was initially transferred to the 72nd Regiment of the Seaforth Highlanders, although he was quickly moved again to the 13th Field Ambulance. Within a matter of weeks, Knight was discharged under the King’s Regulations that suggested he would not become an efficient soldier.

At this point, Knight’s trail goes cold. It seems that he remained in England, and it seems that he was still keen to play his part. What is clear is that he enlisted in the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve at some point in the months after being discharged from the army.

Knight was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman, and was, by the summer of 1917, based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham in Kent. This was a busy, overcrowded place at that time, and Knight found himself billeted in temporary accommodation at Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night-time air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Ordinary Seaman Cooke was among those who were killed. He was just 24 years of age.

Knight Cooke was laid to rest alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, not far from the Dockyard in which he finally managed to serve.

Knight’s headstone gives his surname as Cook, although his service records – and signature – give the spelling as Cooke.

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