Courtesy of Nancy Cook & Beverley Assender
Private Edward Cook
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Born: 1885 - Richmond, Victoria.
Enlisted: 25 August 1914 aged 29
Unit: 1st Divisional Ammunition Column Headquarters (SERN: 2423)
Served: Egypt, Gallipoli & Western Front
Died: 18 September 1941 - Pakenham, Victoria
Thomas Edward Henry Cook (known as “Edward” or “Ted”) was born in 1885. He was the son of John Cook and Frances Mary Bourne. He came to the district as a child and eventually planted a small orchard off Army Road, having purchased 13 acres when “Closeburn” was subdivided around 1912 (1). Prior to the War, he was active with the local football club and Australian Natives Association (ANA) lodge. The ANA was a mutual or friendly society which sought to promote the well-being and education of its members, who had to be Australian born. The ANA also promoted causes and issues (such as Federation) which were intended to advance the interests of Australia as a nation. Ted was serving as president of the Pakenham lodge when he answered the call to enlist on 25 August 1914, just three weeks after Britain declared war on Germany. He was 29 years of age. Noting that Harry Cook (another local volunteer who does not seem to have been related to Ted) had also enlisted, the South Bourke & Mornington Journal said: “Both these promising braves have gone to do or die ... and one or the other of these real live Cooks expects to be on hand at the capture of the Kaiser and his crew, and looks forward to putting in the winter in Berlin” (1a). Ted was assigned as a driver to the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC) Headquarters. The DAC was a support unit for the division’s artillery.
Ted embarked for overseas on 20 October 1914. However, the convoy carrying the first Anzacs to England was diverted to Egypt due to the entry of Turkey into the War. Ted wrote from there saying he was “glad to be amongst the stirring scenes” and was “quite prepared for whatever may be in the future” (2). For him, this involved being despatched to Gallipoli in April 1915, but he was returned to Egypt shortly thereafter, as his unit was unable to land their horses. Ted felt “a bit blue” from “being debarred from going on to the fighting line after standing off and watching and waiting for three weeks”. He was in good company though, serving with Harry Worship from Pakenham South. In a letter to Frank Wisewould of Pakenham Upper, Ted said he and Harry would be “pleased to welcome any more Pakenham lads out here” because Pakenham boys would “acquit themselves equal to their brothers in arms”. Ted’s comments were published in the local press in the hope of encouraging others to enlist (3). Another letter of Ted’s, written from “somewhere abroad” was read out at the farewell to some Pakenham Upper volunteers in November 1916. In it, Ted “took a very serious view of the war”, but also reported that he had so far escaped being injured, and hoped “to soon shake hands with some of his old friends at the front” (3a). Ted was later transferred to the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade as a gunner in France and Belgium. In October 1917, Ted fell sick while on leave in England and was hospitalised. In January 1918, he was sent from England back to Australia suffering from pleurisy and broncho-pneumonia. He was discharged from the Army as medically unfit in April 1918 (4). He had served a total of 1319 days (4a).
After being discharged, Ted returned to Pakenham and his orchard. On 30 May 1918, he was one of the diggers entertained at the first official “soldiers’ welcome home” held in Pakenham. During the proceedings, the Shire Secretary, James Ahern spoke about Ted’s example, noting that: “he had come to the district as a boy, and by his industry and thrift he had been enabled to secure a small block of land and plant an orchard. When he decided to go to the war a few of his boy friends undertook to look after the orchard while he was away and their work in this respect was a credit to them. However, since his return Mr Cook had endeavoured to secure certain assistance from the War council but was unable to do so”. Ted and the other returned Diggers were each presented with a special gold medallion from the residents of Pakenham. Ted gave the return thanks on behalf of all the returned soldiers present, thanking the community for their “hearty welcome” and “kind words”. Ted was also presented with a gold medal from the ANA lodge as a “token of the esteem in which he was held by lodge members” (5).
In 1920, Ted married Mary Kennedy, and the couple eventually had five children (6). Ted became active again in local community activities including the ANA, RSL, Fruit Growers‘ Associations and the Pakenham Bush Hospital. He did not enjoy good health in the last few years of his life though and was hospitalised for a period at the Caulfield Military Hospital in the late 1930s. The local community though, rallied around Ted and Mary, again organising working bees on their property (7). Ted died suddenly at home on 18 September 1941. In reporting his death, the Pakenham Gazette noted “a gloom was cast over the district” when it was known that he had died. The Pakenham Gazette described Ted as a man who was “always cheerful and bright and ready to give a helping hand wherever it was most needed, he numbered amongst his friends everyone in the district, and he will be greatly missed” (8).
In 2014 the Pakenham RSL was able to return Ted Cook’s war medals to his son Donald. The medals had been lost when another of Ted’s sons died in Queensland, but had subsequently been found and sent to the RSL in the hope that they cold be reunited with Ted’s family (9).
The assistance of Ted Cook’s daughter-in-law Nancy Cook; grand-daughter Linda Cook; Beverley Assender; Penny Harris - Jennings and the Narre Warren Family History Group is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Berwick Shire Rate Books - Pakenham Riding 1913 and 1914
(1a) SBMJ 17/9/1914, p. 2
(2) DA 25/3/1915, p. 2
(3) DA 8/7/1915, p. 2
(3a) DA 30/11/1916, p. 2
(8) PG 19/9/1941, p. 3
(4) NAA B2455 COOK E
(4a) & (9) NWFHG (2016) pp. 28-30
(5) PG 7/6/1918, p. 3
(6) Argus 19/9/1941, p. 4
(7) PG 11/6/1937, p. 3.