Military History

The Highest Honour #11 | Thomas Cooke | William Curry

By The Cove March 29, 2021


PRIVATE THOMAS COOKE VC (1881 - 1916, 35yo)

Thomas Cooke was born on 5 July 1881 in Marlborough, New Zealand.  He migrated to Victoria in 1913 where he worked as a builder until the start of the war.  Cooke enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 16 February 1915 and was allocated to the 24th Battalion as a reinforcement.

On arrival to Egypt in November 1915 he was transferred to the 8th Battalion and sailed for France on 26 March 1916, where from April to July served in the Fleurbaix and Messines sectors of the Western Front.

In mid-July his battalion was moved south to the Somme where it took part in furious fighting around Pozières. 

The task of advancing through the village itself had been allocated to the 8th Battalion and on 24-25 July 1916, as the men moved forward under intense bombardment, Cooke was ordered, with his Lewis-gun team, to a dangerous part of the newly captured line.  There was little cover, and heavy enemy fire killed all of his team, but he continued to hold out alone.  When assistance finally reached him he was found dead beside his gun. Due to further fighting in the same area, his body was never recovered.

For his gallantry he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.  Cooke was survived by his wife and three children.

 

PRIVATE WILLIAM CURRY VC (1895 - 1948, 50yo)

William Curry was born on 19 September 1895 at Wallsend, New South Wales.  After numerous attempts to enlist while under-age, he was finally accepted in 1916 initially in a light trench mortar battery; however, in 1917 he transferred to the 53rd Battalion where he fought in the battle of Polygon Wood.

On 1 September 1918 during an attack on Péronne, Curry's company was taking casualties from a field gun at close range.  He ran forward under fire, captured the gun and killed the crew.  Later, when the advance was checked by an enemy strong point, Curry moved around the flank with a Lewis gun, inflicting casualties and dispersing the enemy.  Early the next morning he volunteered to relay orders to an isolated unit:  proceeding into no man's land, he called out, drawing enemy fire.  Despite being gassed, he returned safely.

After the war he was involved in politics and in 1941 became the first VC recipient in the New South Wales parliament and retained his seat until his sudden death on 30 April 1948.

 


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Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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