John James COOKE
Rank: Acting Sergeant
Number: 301277
Unit: 1/8th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 12 September 1917
Age: 30
Cemetery: Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Jack Cooke is thought to have lived all his life in the Stockport area until he enlisted into the army in May 1915.

His parents were James, a wood turner, and Martha. The 1901 Census records the family living in a "two up, two down" at 44 St Petersgate. Jack had several siblings - Florence (then 19), Gertrude (17), William (13) and May (11). The family worshipped at St Peter's Church and Jack had been a choirboy there. He had also been educated at the Church's school. Afterwards, he went to work as an assistant gas fitter for the Midland Railway Ltd at its Locomotive Department in Heaton Mersey.

Jack joined up at Manchester enlisting into the "Ardwick Territorials" and was given 4059 as his original service number. Six months later, he was promoted to Sergeant and became a musketry training instructor in the 2/8th (reserve) Battalion.  At the beginning of 1917, all soldiers in Territorial battalions were reallocated new six digit numbers as above. At about the same time, Jack went overseas for the first time, joining the 1/8th then in Egypt, but scheduled to return to the Western Front in March.

Early September 1917 saw a welcome lull in the fighting around Ypres (now Ieper). Later designated the Third Battle of Ypres, the attack launched on 31 July is better known as Passchendaele. Jack and his mates spent the 10th and 11th in camp preparing for an attack scheduled for the 12th or 13th. The Battalion's War Diary, for the 12th, notes that "Practice attacks carried out in the morning. News came through that owing to the fact that 61st Division on our left had not taken Hill 35, the attack was to be cancelled."

The plans then reverted to "normal duties" which, at this time was to relieve the 1/6th Battalion and take over a section of the front line. At 7pm , the men boarded busses at Goldfish Chateau to move them forward to the positions near Square Farm. "Lorries only went to Menin Gate owing to shelling. Relief carried out under burst of enemy artillery fire. Relief completed at 12.45am." Jack was caught in the shelling and was one of ten men killed. The Cemetery where is buried is in the town centre of Ieper, perhaps suggesting that he was killed near to the town rather than near to the trench position.

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