Cooke, Kenneth

Kenneth Cooke was born August 8,1925 in East Kirkby, Nottinghamshire, a coal mining district.  He indicated that he had a rough early life growing up:   there was a general strike, and there was no income.  He attended school at age 5 and completed his education at age 14, and then had to find employment.  Ken was employed at the ROF Armaments Factory in Nottinghamshire.  As an office boy he kept the timecards for employees and delivered messages.  Ken’s father was a coal miner who worked with the St. John Ambulance; due to his experience there, Ken’s father was drafted into the Royal Army Medical Corps in York. Ken’s father observed the evacuation of POW’s at Dunkirk for repatriation; he also traveled to the US, South Africa and the Suez Canal, and he observed action during the invasion of Sicily. For his part, Ken was employed with Rowntrees confectionery factory in York in1943.  Ken did not experience the worst of the Blitz, but York was bombed twice.  Ken received his draft notice in 1943, after his 18th birthday.  His parents were upset that he was going to serve in the military.  Ken and several friends reported to the Richmond Barracks in Yorkshire.  During 1943-1944 Ken was assigned to the Green Howards, the Yorkshire infantry regiment.  Ken indicated that there was no specific training for the D-Day.  He remarked, “we were cannon fodder!”  On D-Day Ken crossed the English Channel, after reveille awoke him at 3:00 AM.  Ken landed in the second wave on Gold Beach in 6″ of water and was bothered that his socks were wet!  Ken’s 50th Division, 6th Battalion cleared villages and marched another 8-9 miles.  He was wounded July 4, 1944 from a shell explosion in Hottot-les-Bagues, France where he received shrapnel in his back.  He was transported to a first-aid station, and then to a field hospital in Bayeux.  Ken boarded a ship for England and was treated at a Scottish hospital, where he was put in a plaster cast from his neck to his waist. He rehabilitated for five months in Scotland.  He was given two weeks leave after which he flew from Leeds to Brussels where he joined the Highland Light Infantry.  They crossed the Rhine to Bremen.  He sustained psychoneurosis during another Bren-Gun-Carrier explosion event and recovered in a Brussels hospital. He was discharged and was transported by the Dakota Air Ambulance.  Ken was informed that he should never have returned to the Army following his injuries he received in Hottot-les-Bagues.  May 8, 1945 at age 19, Ken was demobilized and returned home. He said that there were no visible celebrations in York.  His father came home, and Ken returned to his previous position at Rowntrees.  Ken married in 1949, and his son Steven was born in 1958.  Crestwood students met Ken Cooke via zoom in February 2024.