10 June 2018

Royal Fusiliers - Public Schools battalions

I've been looking at the fascinating David Knights-Whittome photographic archive on Flickr, a series of named glass photographic plates - the majority of these being portraits of soldiers and nurses who served during the First World War - that were thankfully rescued from a skip before it was too late. I have only just scratched the surface - possibly an inappropriate metaphor - of this archive, and I suspect I have many hours of pleasure in store. 

The beauty of this archive, apart from the clarity of most of the plates, is that the majority were enclosed in envelopes which give basic details about the sitters. And from those basic details it is possible, without a lot of digging, in some cases, to flesh out more information.

Frank Eaden Cook - 19th April 1915

Take the example of F E Cook and J E Cook - two photos of each - whose photos appear next to each other in this online collection. No regimental details are evident from the photos but I had noticed that there are a lot of portraits of men who served with Royal Fusiliers Public Schools battalions and so I ran a free search on my British Army Ancestors website, typing F* E* Cook Royal Fusiliers into the search book. The asterisk here is a wildcard which allows results to be surfaced for F E Cook as well as Frank E Cook, Frederick Ernest Cook etc. 

There was a promising result for a Frank Eaden Cook, a corporal in the 20th Royal Fusiliers, with the regimental number 4669; later a lieutenant with the 10th Manchester Regiment. Seeing that the brothers had been photographed together I suspected that they had probably enlisted together as well. To try and prove this theory I next ran a search for 46* Cook Royal Fusiliers. Lo and behold, PS/4671 John E Cook, 20th Royal Fusiliers was returned in the results. A quick search of the 1911 census then revealed that his middle name was - as I suspected - also Eaden. Frank is recorded as a 20-year-old commercial traveller and John as a 19-year-old designer, both men working in the wool trade, as was their father. The family was living in Huddersfield.

John Eaden Cook - 19th April 1915

The number 4670 was issued to another unrelated 'Cook' and this, I suppose, is the point of this post. There is clear evidence in the 20th (Public Schools) Battalion of men being grouped together alphabetically by surname and then issued with regimental numbers. I am sure that it will be possible, armed with this fact, to identify and fill in more details on some of the other men in the David Knights-Whittome photographic archive, and I look forward to doing so. 

As for the brothers, sadly there is no happy ending to their story. John Eaden Cook was killed in action on the 20th July 1916 whilst serving with the 20th Royal Fusiliers. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Frank Eaden Cook won the MC with the Manchester Regiment but was also killed in action on the 20th October 1918. He is buried in Belle Vue British Cemetery, Briastre. 

Thus the Great War claimed the lives of Frederick and Eleanor Cook's two sons. I have added Frank Eaden Cook and John Eaden Cook to the British Army Ancestors' database.


Justin said...

Hi Paul

A really interesting post. We are lucky that over the years people have often by chance saved records (including photographs and films) that otherwise would have been lost. Also just to say that the link at the beginning of the article wasn't working when I clicked on it.



Paul Nixon said...

Thanks, Justin, broken link now mended.