My father served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the 1914/18 war. Unfortunately most of the R.A.M.C. records were destroyed in the last war blitz.
I did discover a copy of a letter he wrote to his mother from Gallipoli, published in the Weston-super-Mare Mercury in November 1915.
I have explored many other avenues but to no avail.
He never talked about his war service, so presumably it remains a mystery apart from service in Gallipoli. Thankfully, my father survived the war without any injury.
The picture left shows Ralph Cooke with his sister Miss Florence M Cooke, who incidentally was/became the headmistress/head teacher of W-s-M Christchurch Infants School 1917-1948.
The Mercury Article:
Private Ralph Cooke Advocates 'Disguise as an Earwig' on Gallipoli.
Private Ralph E Cooke, 1 / 2 S.W. Royal Army Medical Corp, writes to his mother, Mrs F.R.Cooke, Orchard Street, in the following breezy strain:-
We are just about getting used to the shot and shell and everything in general, and all the boys together are having a decent time under the conditions. We sleep in dug-outs, with sand bags up the sides and a waterproof sheet for cover. It serves the purpose in dry weather, but in wet it gives us a good opportunity of learning to swim.
We are stationed on a bare hill overlooking the sea, and the Turks occupy a part of the same. The hill is horseshoe in shape and the Turks are at the other end. Between us is the Salt Lake. We get plenty of shells over us day and night and are getting quite used to them, but are not keen on becoming too friendly.
We have an advanced dressing station just behind the firing line at a place called “Lone Tree Gully”, and very lonely it is too, being between two hills with just one tree on it, hence the name – and there we have a very busy time of it at all hours of the day, and night too, but, as our work is always to help a poor comrade, we don't mind when we work. We do a week at this dressing station and then go back to the base for a week, so we get a change all round.
One poor chap was shot through the head this morning. I rushed up with a stretcher and while the officer was dressing the wound a bullet flew past me and hit him again, this time in the leg. Most of this is done by Turkish snipers who hide in the hills. They make it very lively after dark, and if one wants to move about its best to do so disguised as an earwig or something small.
It was very exciting here last week when a Turkish airship passed right over us. It was fired at from all quarters, and we had to take cover under rocks to be out of the way of falling shrapnel. It got away that time but we will not say anything about the next.
There are some fine battleships in the bay and they let the poor Turks have it hot every day. There is no vegetation in these parts and animal life is scarce, just a few tortoises and lizards, but flies innumerable. They are disappearing now the colder weather is setting in.
It is very pathetic to see the graves scattered about, marked by a few stones, and sometimes a hat is placed on top of it. We have had another “dig in the chest” - inoculated against cholera – so I think after a time we shall be immune to all diseases. Perhaps someone will introduce inoculation for shot and shell! I have been A1 since leaving England, and hope I shall continue so, for with good health, I can go through anything. The only thing that gets on my nerves is the continual roar of the big guns.
The mail has been held up at Alexandria for some days, so have had no letter from you yet, but am looking forward to one as I want to know how everything is going on in the dear old home.