COOKE, Thomas

Service Number: 3055
Enlisted: 16 February 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 8th Infantry Battalion
Born: Wellington, Kaikoura, New Zealand, 5 July 1881
Home Town: Richmond (V), Yarra, Victoria
Schooling: Kaikoura District High School
Occupation: Builder
Died: Killed in Action, Pozieres, France, Pozieres, Picardie, France, 25 July 1916, aged 35 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France), Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

16 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Melbourne, Victoria
26 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3055, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
26 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3055, 24th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Commonwealth, Melbourne
25 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3055, 8th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

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Biography contributed by Ned Young

Australian Dictionary of Biography by P. A. Pedersen

"Thomas Cooke (1881-1916), soldier and builder, was born on 5 July 1881 at Kaikoura, Marlborough, New Zealand, son of Tom Cooke, an English-born carpenter, and his wife Caroline Ann, née Cooper. Educated at Kaikoura District High School, he later moved to Wellington with his family and became a carpenter. There, on 4 June 1902, he married Maud Elizabeth Elliott. Cooke's main hobby was band music: he was an excellent cornetist and belonged to the city's garrison band.

In 1912, with his wife and three children, he migrated to Victoria, settling in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Cooke worked as a builder until World War I. On 16 February 1915 he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force and after training at Broadmeadows and other camps was allotted to the 24th Battalion as a reinforcement. He embarked for Egypt in November on the troopship Commonwealth and on arrival was transferred to the 8th Battalion at Serapeum in the Suez Canal Zone. His unit sailed for France on 26 March 1916 and from April to July served in the Fleurbaix and Messines sectors of the Western Front.

In mid-July the battalion was moved south to the Somme where it took part in the furious fighting around Pozières. The task of advancing through the village itself had been allotted to the 8th Battalion and on 24-25 July 1916, as the men moved forward under an intense bombardment, Cooke was ordered, with his Lewis-gun team, to a dangerous part of the newly captured line. There was little cover, and heavy enemy fire killed all his companions, but he continued to hold out alone. When assistance finally reached him he was found dead beside his gun. For his gallantry he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His name is commemorated on the roll of honour at the Australian war memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. Cooke was survived by his wife, who later remarried, and by his three children." 

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