Clarence William Cook’s Great War medals and history returned home

Sergeant Clarence William Cook’s war medals and a treasure trove of other memorabilia were purchased from eBay by Bill Rolston to be donated to the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah.

LITTLE CURRENT – Sergeant Clarence William Cook’s Great War medals, and a treasure trove of the Little Current man’s military history, including photos, telegrams, postcards and more, has arrived back to his place of birth thanks to a generous donation from Bill Rolston, a nephew through marriage of Sergeant Cook’s sister (Mrs. Leland) Anne Trotter.

The Expositor had the pleasure of being witness to some members of the Rolston family and their friends as they opened the parcel containing Sergeant Cook’s war past which includes accounts of the late veteran’s remarkable acts of bravery. The articles were spread atop a table and gently and lovingly looked through with plenty of exclamations of delight at the things they found. While neither Mr. Rolston nor his sister Linda Lee recalled Sergeant Cook, Ms. Lee does remember their beloved Aunt Anne Trotter talking about her brave brothers who went off to defend king and country in the First World War. Anne’s brother Edwin was killed at Passchendaele and his name is etched on the cenotaph in Little Current’s Soldier Park.

The Cook medals were being sold on eBay from a Winnipeg coin dealer for $4,600, more than has had to be raised for any other Manitoulin war medals discovered online by Dave Thomson, war buff and eBay detective, who contacted this newspaper last month about his latest find with connections to Manitoulin.

Mr. Rolston said he read the article in The Expositor, which called for donations to see Sergeant Cook’s military medals returned home and the Sudbury lawyer immediately wanted to step up. He had no idea, until the day the paper came out, that his favourite  Aunt Anne was Sergeant Cook’s sister. He agreed to purchase the war medals and donate them to the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah with Ms. Lee and friend Susie McGragh acting as the go-betweens.

One telegram included in the collection, titled ‘details of action,’ explains why Sergeant Cook was to receive a Bar to Military Medal. “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. During the capture of the village Visen-Artois, when his Platoon Officer had become a casualty, this N.O. took charge of the Platoon and captured two enemy strong points. He kept his Platoon well together and carried them forward to their final objective with light casualty. His example of bravery and coolness greatly encouraged the men. The success of the Platoon was directly due to his courage and leadership.”

The package even contains telegrams sent to Sergeant Cook’s parents, informing them that their son had been injured and was recovering in hospital—on three different occasions.

Clockwise, Bill Rolston, Linda Lee and Susie McGragh open parcels containing Sergeant Clarence William Cook’s war history, catching a glimpse of the items for the first time since they arrived home on Manitoulin. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

“It’s amazing,” Mr. Rolston said of the collection, beaming as he looked through Sergeant Cook’s things alongside his sister. The pair couldn’t believe just how much information there was on the war hero—someone had painstakingly kept it all together for many years—and the family couldn’t help but wonder how it ended up for sale online.

Mr. Rolston was incredibly pleased to have been able to help, he told The Expositor, and was glad to do something that also honoured their aunt’s memory.

The article also caused a flood of donations to come in to the Manitoulin Genealogy Club and president Norma Hughson. They have all since been returned, save one. Ms. Hughson said she received an envelope with a cash donation in it, simply signed from ‘Jim.’

“So if you know who Jim is, ask him to give me a call,” Ms. Hughson chuckled.

“It’s great that they’re home and it’s fantastic that the family paid for it, otherwise we might not have got them back,” she added. “It’s going to be a fantastic donation to the museum.”

“Thank you to the Rolston family for bringing a peice of history home,” said Ms. Hughson.

The Rolston family will make a special presentation to the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah of the Sergeant Cook collection in the weeks to come.