William Cooke, Private 2487, 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 3rd September 1915 in Gallipoli, Turkey, aged 21
William Cooke was born in Macclesfield in 1893, the son of Mary and Thomas Cooke, a bricklayer’s labourer of Nixon’s Yard, Macclesfield.
In 1901, eight year old William was living at 22 Nixon’s Yard with his parents and siblings Mary Elizabeth (17), Ellen (15), Margaret (12), John (10), Catherine (5), Martin (5), Alice (3) and baby Annie (8 months). Another sister, Ivy, was born in 1903.
By 1911 the family had moved to 13 Great King Street and William was employed as a cotton weaver.
William was educated at St Alban’s School, Macclesfield and was an active member of St Alban’s Church. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Lily Jackson of Princess Street.
William enlisted in Macclesfield, joining the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, and following a period of training in various locations in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August.
On the evening of 8th August, the Battalion arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and the following day landed at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay. Having landed, they came under shell fire at about 8.30am and so moved north along the edge of the bay; they then received orders to attack in the direction of a dip in the hills behind Anafarta Saghir.
At 8am on 10th August the Battalion was ordered to attack Hill 70. This was unsuccessful and the Battalion suffered severe losses. A second unsuccesssful attack took place at 5pm.
The following day at 2.30pm the Brigade moved north, but the 7th Cheshires and 4th Welsh Regiments on the left were under attack so had to pull back. The 7th Cheshires remained in this position in trenches for several days. William was killed in action on 3rd September 1915 whilst fetching water from a well with Harold Warren, who also died, and one other comrade who was wounded.
William’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 24th September, 1915:
“SHELL KILLS TWO – LOCAL SOLDIER DIES PEACEFULLY
Private William Cooke, 1/7th Cheshires, son of Mrs Cooke, 13 Great King Street, Macclesfield, has been killed in action. He was 21 years of age and was educated at St Alban’s School. The deceased was engaged to be married to Miss Lily Jackson, of Princess Street.
Writing to his wife from “Somewhere in the Dardanelles” on September 8th, Private Richard Davies, brother-in-law of the deceased, stated “Tell your mother that I saw your brother buried, and that he was put to rest very nicely. A little cross was put on his grave.”
A letter has also been received by Mr Hadfield, Chester Road, from his nephew, a stretcher-bearer in the 1/7th Cheshires, in which reference is made to the death of Private Cooke. He states: “I had a sad experience last night. About six o’clock there was a shout for we chaps, and when I got there I saw that Private Cooke had been hit. He was fetching water from the well with two more, and all three were hit. I could see it was all up with him, so I bandaged him up and stayed with him until he passed away. He died peacefully and we buried him this morning. We have put a little wooden cross on his grave. Of the three, the shell killed two and wounded the other.”
Private William Cooke has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 75 to 77 of the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private William Cooke, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included two with the words “In deepest sympathy to Private W. Cooke, from Mr and Mrs Jackson.” and “In deepest sympathy to Private W. Cooke, from Mr and Mrs Henshaw.”
Brother-in-law of Richard Davies who served in Gallipoli but was wounded and later transferred to the 6th Cheshire Regiment in France, where he was killed in action in July 1917.