Cook, Derek Alfred (No. 68173)

Cook, Derek Alfred (Dick)

Pilot Officer (Pilot)

No. 68173, 49 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in an aircraft accident on Tuesday 17 March 1942 (aged 21)

Buried:

Bangor Cemetery, Newtownards Road, Bangor, Co. Down (Section 3. L. Grave 1. B)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bangor and District War Memorial (as Cooke D.A.)

Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s)

Bangor Golf Club

Bangor Grammar School

BIOGRAPHY

Derek Alfred (Dick) Cook was born on 5 April 1920 in Guernsey and he was a son of Herbert John and Elsie May Cook (nee Williams).  Herbert John Cook was from Chippenham in Wiltshire and Elsie May Williams was from Salisbury in Wiltshire.  They were married in 1909 in Salisbury Cathedral.

Herbert John Cook worked for the Great Western Railway and he and Elsie May lived in Slough when he was based at Paddington Station.  He was transferred to Guernsey in the Channel Islands and there he had responsibility for the transportation of cargo.  Herbert John and Elsie May Cook had two children:

Joan Margaret (born around 1913; married Edward Magowan Lawson 30 December 1940 in Bangor Parish Church)

Derek Alfred (Dick, born 5 April 1920 in Guernsey)

The Cook family moved to Belfast in 1923 when Herbert John was appointed Railway Cargo Transportation Officer for Ireland.  Initially accommodated in a hotel, the Cook family moved to 12 Prospect Road, Bangor and later 47 Gransha Road, Bangor.  Dick Cook was a choirboy in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s) and he was also confirmed there in 1936.

Dick Cook was educated at Bangor Central Public Elementary School and then at Bangor Grammar School from 1933 until 1936.  He played rugby for the school and was described by the headmaster as, ‘a quiet, manly type of boy, well-built and athletic, of natural and unassuming manners, his face strong and full of character.’  He was the fourth member of the 1936 Junior Certificate class in Bangor Grammar School to die on active service, the others being Frank Gault, Julius Holland and William MacDonald. A keen golfer, Dick Cook was a member of Bangor Golf Club.  On leaving school he worked on the clerical staff of the Great Western Railway in England before joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and getting his commission in May 1941.

Pilot Officer Dick Cook (No. 68173) took part in many operational flights and it was reported that, on one occasion, he was injured when piloting a bomber plane over Cologne.  He was wounded with shrapnel in the shoulder and, although suffering great pain and weakness, he landed his plane safely at the home aerodrome.

Pilot Officer Dick Cook (No. 68173) died at 11.30 am on 17 March 1942 when his Handley Page Hampden Mark I aircraft (P1226) crashed at Derry Farm, Branscombe, Devon and official intimation of his death reached his parents on 18 March 1942.  At that time his brother-in-law, Edward Magowan Lawson, a master mariner, was serving with the Merchant Navy.

There were two men aboard the aircraft which took off from Exeter in poor visibility on a training exercise.  They headed out towards the sea and when they came back over the coast they crashed into a fog-shrouded hillside.  The other crew member who died that morning was:

  • Pilot Officer Robert Emmett Manders (Royal Canadian Air Force)

Pilot Officer Dick Cook’s remains were brought home to his parent’s residence at 47 Gransha Road and then taken for interment in Bangor Cemetery.  The officiating clergy included the Revd Walter Horatio Good and the Revd James Hamilton.

Dick Cook was 21 when he died, and he is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial (as Cooke D.A.); in Bangor Parish Church (St. Comgall’s); in Bangor Golf Club and in Bangor Grammar School.

Dick’s father died on 21 November 1963 and his mother died on 11 September 1989, three months after her 100th birthday.