Dick Cooke came from Irish catholic roots and was a son of Pyalong. One of twelve living children he was born at home on the family farm on February 24 1896. His father was Nicholas Cooke and his mother was Margaret, nee Ryan.
He was educated at Pyalong State School, then Assumption College Kilmore.
In February 1913, aged 17 he began work as a bank clerk in the Kilmore branch of the Bank of Victoria while undertaking his compulsory military training with the Essendon Rifles Senior Cadets.
In January 1915, he moved to Watchem with the Bank. By April he had been sent to Ouyen. It was here, in June with his parents’ consent he enlisted.
As part of the 23rd Battalion, he was among the last of the reinforcements at Gallipoli and also part of it successful evacuation. By the end of the year he was in France. In July 1916 he was wounded in the Battle of Pozieres. In late August, Richard rejoined the Battalion. He had survived one of the worst battles of the War only to return to the Somme offensive. On Thursday, 9th of November 1916, Richard was killed on the line at Flers. He was 20 years old. Later a friend would write: “I can’t say how sorry I am to hear of young Dick Cooke going under. He was such a happy good natured young fellow, always smiling, the sort of lad everybody liked”. The Kilmore Advertiser described him as “a game, joyous boy and a general favourite”.
He is remembered at the A.I.F. Burial Ground in Flers, France.
In Pyalong, he is commemorated on the Pyalong State School Honour Roll, a Roll of Honour from the Shire of Pyalong, now located in the Community Hall. His name is on a plaque beneath a picture of Saint Joseph in the Pyalong Catholic Church.
In Kilmore, he is commemorated on the doors of the small chapel at Assumption College, on the Honour Board in the Kilmore Memorial Hall and on the Kilmore War Memorial.
By Elizabeth Pidgeon
Photo source: Cooke Family
Reproduced in the North Central Review, 9 December 2014, p6