Len Cook from the 1914 Pakenham Football Team photograph. Courtesy of Graham Treloar / BPHS
Leonard Charles Cook
Born: 1896 - Drouin West, Victoria
Enlisted for Home Service: 12/4/1916 & 21/8/1916, aged 20
Unit: Permanent Guard (SERN: 50896)
Died: 9 November 1978 - Pakenham, Victoria
Known as “Len”, Leonard was one of an unknown number of Pakenham men who sought to enlist for WWI, but were not accepted for overseas service. Len’s parents were Charles and Sarah Jane Cook. Charles was a saw miller who moved to Pakenham when Len was three years old (1). He later acquired a farm on “Connor’s Estate” (2). As a boy, Len attended Pakenham State School and St James’ Sunday School, where he was school mates with a number of Pakenham’s future Diggers (3). After obtaining his merit certificate (4), Len worked for a time as a saw miller (5) and later farmed, presumably on his father’s property. He was a very talented sportsman, regarded as “one of Pakenham’s sporting ‘greats’ of yesteryear” (6). Len was a keen cricketer; and one of the youngest players in the Pakenham Football team (7) and played in the 1914 premiership winning side. Along with several of his team mates, Len sought to enlist in early 1916 (8). He was rejected though, because of his heart, having had rheumatic fever as a boy. Len had also been previously rejected because of his throat (9). He was subsequently enlisted for home service in April 1916 and served at Seymour Army Camp before being medically discharged. Len was accepted again for home service in August 1916, this time with the permanent guard at the Domain Army Camp in Melbourne. He served there for 314 days before requesting to be discharged in June 1917 (10).
Len returned initially to farming and his cricket and footy. Indeed, he continued to play the latter until he was nearly 40 years old! (11). Len married Alice Higton in 1918 and the couple raised three children. Len worked for a period on the Toomuc Valley Orchard (TVO) and later packed apples for J. J. Kitchen in Melbourne (12). After returning to Pakenham, he opened a butcher’s shop in Station St, which his sons Keith and Vern later joined. Len was “associated with most of Pakenham’s public bodies”, including the Public Hall and Recreation Reserve committees and the Pakenham Fire Brigade (13). During WWII, Len served as a private (V379828) with 11th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (14). He also organised weekly “sing alongs” at the Mechanics’ Institute, which raised a large amount of money for the Australian Comforts Fund (15). Len died at Pakenham in November 1978 aged 82.
The assistance of Len’s granddaughter Bronwyn Broadbent and Russell Broadbent is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) (6) (7) (11) (13) & (15) PG 15/11/1978 p. 36
(8) BSN 3/5/1916 p. 3
(2) BSRB -1906 - Pakenham Riding - p. 44
(9) & (10) NAA MT1486/1 COOK/LEONARD CHARLES
(3) SBMJ 10/7/1907 p. 2 & 5/2/1908 p. 2
(12) Waterhouse (2003) p. 82 & Waterhouse (2014) p. 69
(4) PG 19/12/1919 p. 3
(5) Hawthorn Citizen 15/5/1914 p. 3