Sergeant George Cook

Regiment: 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and 13th Hussars
Service Number: 8297
Date and place of birth: 3rd quarter, 1884 in Chithurst
Date and place of death: 27 July 1916, (aged21/22) Basra, Iraq.

George Cook was born in the third quarter of 1884 in Chithurst near Iping. He enlisted in 1900 in the Royal Sussex Regiment and saw service abroad including in South Africa. During the Great War he served with the 13th Hussars and died in Basra in July 1916 where he was buried.

Family background

George Cook was born between July and September 1884 in Chithurst, Sussex, the son of George Cook (1854–1907) a labourer and his wife Elizabeth née Luff (1859–1892). The family lived in Chithurst for some years probably because the Luff family came from there and three of their four children were born there. However by 1891 they had moved to Lutener Road, Easebourne.

In 1892 George’s mother, Elizabeth died when he was only eight years old leaving four young children ranging in age from 3 to 11. Some two years later George’s father married Eleanor Phoebe Hurst in August 1894 and four more children were born to the new couple by 1901 by which time they were living in Knockhundred Row, Midhurst. Tragedy was again to strike the family when George’s father also died in 1907 and after this the remaining children were separated.

On 29 May 1900 it appears that George Cook enlisted at Chichester into the Royal Sussex Regiment at the age of 16 although the age he gives on the enlistment documents is 18 years and 3 months. This is inferred from the fact that the address of his father is correctly given as George Cook of 4, Knockhundred Row, Midhurst.

 Military service

The service record of George Cook shows that he served in South Africa in 1901 (where he was awarded a South African medal and clasps), was noted as being at St. Helena on 15 June 1902 and returned to the UK on 11 September 1902. It is not known when he left the Sussex Regiment and whether indeed he left the army before the Great War and re-enlisted.

There is no readily apparent trace of him until the1914-18 Medal Roll Index Card shows him now as a Serjeant in the 13th Hussars and it states that he landed in France on 15 December 1914.

The 13th Hussars were part of the Meerut Cavalry Brigade and moved from India to France at the end of 1914. They formed part of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division and saw service in France and Flanders but in mid-1916 they left the Division and moved to Mesopotamia forming part of the 7th Indian Cavalry Brigade.

On 9 February 1916, George Cook married Ethel Jane Harber of West Lavington in the Congregational Church in Midhurst where his brother, Alfred was one of the witnesses. Ethel Harber’s brother Richard also died in the Great War and is commemorated on the West Lavington war memorial. Ethel married again in 1927.

Death and commemoration

In July 1916 George Cook was in Basra which was the base for the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force, where the army was involved in the protection of the strategic oilfields and oil pipeline. In the days before air-conditioning the heat of summer must have been intense and on 27 July 1916 he is recorded as having died of heat-stroke. He was buried in the Basra War Cemetery. His name is listed on the War memorial in Iping Church which served as the mother church of the combined parishes of Iping and Chithurst. He is presumably recorded here because of the close connection of his mother’s family to Chithurst.

The Basra War Cemetery is currently in disrepair after the Iraq war but the CWGC hopes one day to reconstruct it if the political situation ever permits.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project