People on board
COOKE, Michael Francis
Michael Francis Cooke was born on the 17th of September 1881 to Joseph Cooke and Bridget (Delia) Kelly. Michael was the fourth of their seven children. Joseph Cooke was a sub-Constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary, based in Moycullen, Co Galway when he married Bridget, from Gort, Co Galway in 1875. They had moved to Tobercurry in County Sligo by the time their first child was born in 1877 and that is also where Michael was born.
Joseph Cooke died in 1891 of typhus fever at the age of forty-seven and his widow moved the family back to Gort where she set up as a Publican in Georges Street. There the youngest child died in 1892, at the age of four. In 1901 Delia was Head of Household of the Public House, a 1st Class building of eight rooms, with three of her sons, including Michael aged nineteen.
In June 1902 Michael Cooke joined the R.I.C. and was posted to Kerry from January 1903. His records show that he was then in Reserve from July 1905, posted to Galway from August 1907, was in Reserve again from August 1908 until August 1910, when he was then posted back to Galway. As the R.I.C. personnel were only identified by their initials it is not certain, but likely that it was Michael that was a Constable in the George’s Street Barracks in Gort in the 1911 census.
Many R.I.C. men enlisted with the Irish Guards in the war, and Michael Cooke was ‘selected for service’ on the 30th of December 1914 according to his records. Initially he held the rank of Corporal but when he wrote his ‘Soldiers Will’ on the 5th of August 1915 he was a Lance Sergeant. At that time he was attached to the 2nd Company of the 2nd Battalion which landed in Le Havre later that month, fighting in the Battle of Loos that year. By October 1918 he was serving in the 3rd Reserve Battalion, stationed at Warley Barracks in Essex.
Presumably returning from leave, Michael Cooke was travelling on RMS Leinster on the 10th of October 1918. The only other identified R.I.C. member on board the ship was Head Constable Owen Ward. Neither man survived the sinking and Michael Cooke’s body was not recovered. His name is recorded on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton.