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Roll of Honour

Hartlepool seafarers lost at sea

Cook, Henry Warner

3rd Engineer
90, Milton Road, West Hartlepool
West Hartlepool

Lost on the steamship Turnbridge. 
Son of Robert Henry and Mahala Cook; husband of Ethel May Cook (nee Liddle), of 90, Milton Road, West Hartlepool [222 York Road].

Henry’s father (Robert Henry), and grandfather were both mariners, and both had been born in Wells-Next-the-Sea on the north coast of Norfolk. Like many mariners from East Anglia, it is very likely that Robert Henry Cook had at some point found himself docked in the Hartlepools and realised how much work there was to be found in those then vibrant docks, which was perhaps the reason he moved to the town.

On June 5th 1876, at the age of 24, Robert Henry Cook married Mahala Warner at St Hilda’s Church in Hartlepool. How they met we can only speculate, but Mahala herself had come from a family of agricultural labourers from Southburgh in Norfolk, some 40 miles away from Wells. She was ‘in service’ in Norfolk in 1871 as a young girl of 18 and possibly found herself in Hartlepool, like many others from her area, in a further position as a maid in one of the affluent homes at the time. Did the couple meet in Hartlepool? Did they know each other before arriving in the town?

By 1881, the Cook family were living in Beechwood Road, Hartlepool, which was on the newish Victorian Belle Vue estate, at the time populated by managers and seamen. The houses, although near to the steelworks, had front gardens which gave them more status than nearby terraced homes. Beechwood Road is under the A689 now, but part of nearby South Parade looks much as it had in the 1880s.

The Cooks had three young daughters by 1881. By 1891, there were now seven children, all but the last being girls, and the family had moved to nearby Studley Road on this same Belle Vue Estate. By 1901, the family had moved to No.222, York Road, and the oldest son, Warner Cook, had left home for Australia. Henry Warner Cook was 8-years old and another brother, Rayner Warner Cook, was aged 2. Census records for this year show that their father was away at sea.

The family were still at this address in 1911 but 18 year old Henry Warner Cook was now a marine engineer apprentice and his father was again away at sea.

In the spring of 1918, Henry Warner Cook married Ethel May Siddle presumably when on leave from his duties at sea, and on 16th January 1919, a son also called Henry Warner Cook was born. Sadly the baby was never to meet his father and he is given as deceased in the baptism register of St Paul’s Church. Their address at the time was 90, Milton Road.

The summer of 1918 saw the newly married Henry at sea as the 3rd Engineer on board the steamship Ben Lomond. The ship had been built by William Gray in 1906 and was an armed British merchant ship owned by Moss Tankers. On July 7th, 1918, on a voyage from Seville to Ardrossan with a cargo of iron ore, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-92, 30 miles off the south coast of Ireland. Twenty-three lives were lost including that of the master and Henry Warner Cook. Henry was later posthumously awarded the Mercantile Marine and British War Medals. His father, Robert Henry Cook (who later became a ship’s Captain), was also awarded the same medals for his service in World War 1. Henry’s older brother Rayner who had gone to Australia and joined the Australian Army, was gassed on the Western Front and invalided back to Australia.

The grave of Captain Robert Henry Cook who died in 1931 aged 80, his wife Mahala who died in 1936 aged 81, can be found in Stranton Cemetery, West Hartlepool, where Henry’s name is also inscribed.

However, this is not the end of the story. Henry Warner Cook’s younger brother Rayner, who had served as a very young man in World War 1 as a 4th Officer, served again in World War 2, but sadly died at sea on board the steamship Matiana in 1940.

Also, the young orphaned Henry Warner Cook junior, presumably inspired by his late father and sea captain grandfather, joined the Royal Navy in World War 2. His ship was HMS Warspite , a Queen Elizabeth class battleship built in 1912, which had also served in World War 1 and had fought many successful battles. However, during the German invasion of Crete, Warspite  suffered severe damage from German air attacks. On 22 May 1941, a 500-lb bomb damaged her starboard 4-inch and 6-inch batteries, ripped open the ship's side and killed 38 men, one of whom was Henry Warner Cook junior.

Sadly, Ethel Cook had lost both her husband and the son that he never met in tragically similar circumstances.