Englefield History

W G Cook

 

William George Cook was born on 5 May 1884 at Benson (then known as Bensington) in Oxfordshire, the eldest child of William James and Hannah Cook. They lived initially with his grandfather who was licensee of the Three Horseshoes in Benson but they later moved to Watlington where his father was a local carrier and horse dealer. He was sent back to Benson to work for his grandfather but on 1 March 1904 after a family argument he ran away and joined the Army at Reading. The pony was quickly harnessed to the trap but his father and grandfather arrived too late to prevent his enlistment in Second Battalion, The Royal Berkshire Regiment. He was subsequently cut out of his grandfather’s will.

 

After home service for 3 years, including time spent at The Curragh in Ireland, he was posted with the battalion to India where they took part in the Delhi Durbar to celebrate the coronation of King George IV. At the outbreak of war the battalion returned to the UK, reaching Liverpool on 23 October 1914. On 4 November 1914 he married Jessie Robinson Smith at Watlington and, his service record shows, arrived at Le Havre with the battalion on 5 November! After only 18 days in France he returned to the UK where he remained until October 1916 when he went back to the Western Front for the remainder of the War, being taken prisoner when the battalion was overrun during the great German advance of spring 1918.

 

When he was repatriated after the War he served with the battalion in the UK and Germany until he retired in 1930, having reached the rank of Colour Sergeant. as well as "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" medals from the First World War he was also awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal. On his retirement from the Army he was also recommended for the Meritorious Service Medal but as this medal came with a pension the number of holders at any one time was limited and he had to wait until 1952 before he finally received it.

 

He needed to find both a job and accommodation and was recommended by his Commanding Officer for two jobs: one as gatekeeper at Blenheim Palace and the other at Englefield. He decided on Englefield and took on the job of caretaker of the Englefield Workmen’s Club and also that of Sub-Postmaster - which in those days included delivering mail in and around the village.

 

In addition to these jobs he was also groundsman of the cricket field. In the winter this was used by the South Berks Ladies Lacrosse Team, of which Miss Winifred Benyon was a member. In the summer he prepared the ground and the kit for the cricket team and provided the teas. He was assisted in this by his wife, son and two daughters. He was also treasurer of the football club. At the outbreak of the War in 1939 all these extra duties ceased and were not taken on again afterwards.

 

During World War 2 he was the senior Air Raid Warden in the village and while there were only two raids in the near vicinity, and none on the village itself, it still meant many nights out of bed patrolling his large area of responsibility because Englefield was en route for the Luftwaffe on its way to and from targets in the Midlands. In consequence of his Air Raid Warden duties he also received the 1939-45 Defence Medal.

 

After the War the normal circumstances were resumed and duties at the Club and Post Office continued - though not the extras with the cricket and football clubs. In this he was assisted by his wife and their younger daughter Emily who, having married in 1942, continued living at the Club with her husband and, after 1948, their son.

 

In 1963 he retired from the Club and Post Office and the family went to live at Tilehurst in a house he had bought new in the 1930s using his Army Gratuity. This had been rented out in the meantime and it was only with some difficulty that he managed to obtain possession from the tenant.

 

On 26 June 1973, having been working in the garden, he sat down on a chair outside the back door of the house and died.

© 2019 Richard J Smith

Englefield History

Englefield History
Englefield History
Englefield History