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THORNLEY (Easington)

Cook, P., Pte., 1916
In St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'avoue is the Commonwealth War Grave of 18/1432 Private Percy Cook, serving with the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry who died 27/07/1916.

Percy Cook was born 15th March 1895 at Thornley in East Durham, and was baptised on the 8th April at Thornley Wesleyan Methodist Church. He was the third and youngest son of John George Cook and his wife, Ann (or Annie) Sarah Cook. John kept a greengrocers and fruit shop at Hartlepool Street, Thornley.

Percy attended Henry Smith School in Hartlepool for four years and was a Student Teacher at Wheatley Hill Council School. He left Wheatley Hill in 1913 to begin a teacher training course at Westminster College. The college had been founded in Horseferry Road, London, in 1851 to train teachers for Methodist schools (and moved to Oxford in 1959). On the completion of his training in 1915 he returned to County Durham and to a post as a Certificated Assistant teacher at Thornley Council School (Boys Department), the same school in which his older brother, James had taught until joining-up in September 1914.

He had enlisted on the 3rd April 1915, but permission had to be given by the Education Committee.

Percy was posted to the 18th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, the ‘Durham Pals’.

Percy was killed on 27 July 1916, age 21, only four months after landing in France. As part of the Battle of the Somme, 18 D.L.I were holding the front line at Neuve Chapelle and were subject to intensive artillery and trench mortar fire. In a German raid on the night of 27/28 July they suffered 79 casualties, including Percy.

Family's Second Bereavement

Mr and Mrs J G Cook, of Hartlepool Street, Thornley received news on Sunday that their youngest son, Pte, Percy Cook, of the Durham "Pals" Battalion, had fallen in action on July 27th. This is a second bereavement to Mr and Mrs Cook whose second son Pte. James Ed. Cook, made the supreme sacrifice with so many gallant Durhams in the famous engagement on Whit Monday last year. When the news became known, the sympathy of the whole district went out to the bereaved family in their great sorrow.

Both boys were members of the teaching profession, and were fine examples of the high-minded, intelligent young manhood of the nation. A pathetic note attached to the fact that on Edward's death becoming confirmed the appointment he had held at Thornley Council School, was given to his brother Percy, who had just finished his scholastic training. He had been anxious to enlist, and with this in mind he had intentionally shortened his course at Westminster Training College. Before going to college he was for four years a student at the Henry Smith School at Hartlepool. Death came to him in his 22nd year, when he was on the threshold of a promising career.

The Chaplain to the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry wrote a letter stating :-Dear Mr and Mrs Cook, you will probably have heard the sad news that your son was killed in action on July 27th. He fell in a big attack, doing his duty bravely. I fell deeply sorry for you. It is cruel that we have to lose so many fine men. I buried him in the military cemetery just near the lines, where his grave will be looked after and a cross erected. Later on I hope to tell you the exact spot where he rests. May God support you in your grief.

Source: Their Contribution in The Great War page 68.

De Ruvigny Roll of Honour

Percy Cook is remembered in Teachers who Fell, Teachers who Served in Durham D47.052 and D47.141

He is not recorded in the DLI Remembrance book at Durham Cathedral for the July 27th entry see page 195

Further details on Percy Cook
The CWGC entry for Private Cook

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk