British First World War soldier to be laid to rest at last

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Gareth Milner

By Gareth Milner

Published: 27/10/2021

- 06:49

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 11:44

Lance Corporal Robert Cook will receive full military honours at a ceremony in Belgium after his identity was confirmed by experts.

A British soldier who died in the First World War will finally be laid to rest on Wednesday, more than 100 years after his death.

Lance Corporal Robert Cook will receive full military honours at a ceremony in Belgium after his identity was confirmed by experts.

He died aged 38 on May 2 1915, among tens of thousands of Britons who lost their lives during intensive fighting around the strategic town of Ypres.

Born in Bishop Wilton in the East Riding of Yorkshire, L/Cpl Cook was one of seven children and served with 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment.

He will be buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) New Irish Farm Cemetery near Ypres on Wednesday afternoon.

L/Cpl Cook’s great-nephew and great-niece are set to attend the service on behalf of his surviving family.

Also present to honour the fallen soldier will be members of C “Essex” Company of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment – the modern equivalent of L/Cpl Cook’s regiment.

His body, like that of so many of his fallen comrades, had been missing for a century and his name inscribed on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing.

Between 2014 and 2015, the remains of 24 soldiers were found during construction work on the outskirts of Ypres, near what is believed to have been a Regimental Aid Post during the war.

All but one of the soldiers have since been buried following investigations by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) – known as the War Detectives.

The final set of remains was found with a medal ribbon bar, shoulder titles and a cap badge of The Essex Regiment.

Based on the location where they were found, they were thought likely to be L/Cpl Cook.

Following painstaking investigation, the War Detectives were able to identify his great-nephew, Arthur Cook, who agreed to a DNA test, and the results confirmed the remains belonged to L/Cpl Cook.

Born in 1876, L/Cpl Cook had also served in the Boer War and in South Africa.

The Ypres Salient was formed in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing German forces back.

To this day, tens of thousands of those who fell in Flanders fields, including during the five battles of Ypres, have never been found.

The names of more than 54,000 men are inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres, a monument to those fallen whose graves are not known.

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