1914 - 2023

The Marston Lads

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Thomas Cooke

Killed in Action

7th October 1915

Age 20

The 1st & 5th Battalion

The Cheshire Regiment

9 George Lane

(written as Marston within the 1911 census but is 'Ashton by Budworth')

Thomas Cooke was a difficult Marston Lad to research and not helped by being one of the 50% where enlistment war records had been destroyed during the London Blitz, 1940. To ensure I have the correct Thomas Cooke, I will detail how I was able to come to the conclusions I did. If anyone has more information, please get in touch so we can include it.

Thankfully, there were enough records in the archives, for example; the Commonwealth War Graves Commission register which gave his regimental number as 3246. This was also confirmed by the Cheshire Regiment. A further record with the same regiment, regimental number and name was found which records a War Gratuity payment made to his next of kin, which in the case of Thomas, was his mother Margaret.
Thomas was born in 1895 in Great Budworth, and in 1901 aged 6, living at 86 Warrington Road with his father Samuel, mother Margaret and siblings Jessie (aged 8), Alice (aged 4), Susan (aged 2) and Elsie (6months). In 1911, the family had moved to Marston and Thomas was working as a milk boy and in residence as a servant at Clarke's Farm, he was aged 16 years at this point.

Thomas would have been 19 or 20 years of age when he joined the Cheshire Regiment. He did volunteer for the Military, forced conscription was not yet in place.

Thomas was killed 7th October 1915 and was part of the 'Battle for Loos' which took place from 25 September – 8 October 1915 in France on the Western Front. It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units.

The French and British tried to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement. Despite improved methods, more ammunition and better equipment, the Franco-British attacks were largely contained by the Germans, except for local losses of ground.

The British gas attack failed to neutralise the defenders and the artillery bombardment was too short to destroy the barbed wire or machine-gun nests. German tactical defensive proficiency was still dramatically superior to the British offensive planning and doctrine, resulting in a British defeat.

The invoice for Thomas's headstone, dated 1921, states no age should be engraved on the stone and only his initial 'T' was to be used. Loved ones were consulted and able to have a personal inscription placed at the bottom of the gravestone. There may be a story which explains why this ommission occurred which is now forgotten in time.

When Thomas was killed he would be no older than 20 years of age.

Thomas is buried at Suzanne Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

The village of Suzanne was taken over by British troops in the summer of 1915, lost in March 1918, and recaptured by the 3rd Australian Division on the following 26th August. The Extension was begun by French troops, used by the British from August 1915 to January 1917, taken over by the Germans in March 1918, and resumed by British units in August and September 1918. The graves of 387 French and 71 German soldiers have been removed to other cemeteries. There are now over 150, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The Extension covers an area of 981 square metres and is enclosed on three sides by a low rubble wall.
Tony Hayes