Private, 15090, 8th Somerset Light Infantry
Killed in Action, Albert, France, 14 May 1916, aged 23
Commemorated at Norfolk Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt near Fricourt
Plot 1, Row B, Grave 58
Norfolk Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt

Norfolk Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt
(Click to enlarge)

Sidney Herbert Cook was killed in action on 14 May 1916 aged 23, which suggests he was born in 1892 or 3. The Memorial Book at Forest Row holds no details of his parentage or birth, and no-one signed on his behalf. However, the graves index for Norfolk Cemetery records him as the son of Jane Burley, formerly Cook, of 69, Shepherd's Bush Road, Hammersmith, London. Jane was cook by profession as well as name, and was probably in service in Croydon - where his birth was registered - when Sidney was born, presumably 'out of wedlock', in 1893. Two years earlier she had been enumerated with her parents in East Grinstead as a jobbing cook, aged 25. In 1901 she was head of her household at 56, Queens Road in East Grinstead, looking after a brother Charles and 'granddaughter' Rosina, but there is no sign of Sidney. In 1911 she was cook for a family in Kensington and two years later married John Burley in the Fulham registration district.

The first glimpse of Sidney is in the 1901 census, when he is enumerated in the household of Thomas and Minnie Whyte, a few doors away from his mother at 38A, Queens Road, East Grinstead, where both he and his aunt Mary Cook (aged 22) are listed as nephew and niece respectively. Sidney is 8, and born in Croydon. Ten years later, he was possibly living in Forest Row with the family of William Peter Luxford (father of William Luxford, who also died in the war, on 23 November 1917) where he was enumerated as Herbert Cook, aged 18, born East Grinstead, working as a gardener.

When he enlisted in Fulham (date unknown), he was living in Hammersmith, though he gave his place of birth as East Grinstead. Given his mother's address, I suspect he was in the same household. Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919 lists him as formerly 13595, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. Effects amounting to £1 18s. 7d. were granted to an aunt, Mrs Elizabeth Kimbern (née Cook), sole legatee. She in turn appeared at Ealing in the 1911 census as a widow (having married Charles William Kimber in East Grinstead in 1898) in the household of her sister Mary, also married to a William Kimber (1906, Brentford).

The 8th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry left Southampton for Le Havre on 9 September 1915, arriving the next day. They were deployed first at Vermelles on 25 September, then moved to Armentières where they saw action numerous times. In March they were on the move and by May they were at La Neuville and then marched to Buire where, between 3 and 13 May the whole battalion was engaged in working parties.

On the day that Sidney was killed, the regimental war diary records simply:

On the following night Sgt Fenwick D.C.M. was killed by a bullet, and on the 15th we were relieved in the front line by the 10th York and Lancs.

Pam Griffiths