World War One Island hero’s medals and papers found for sale on eBay, repatriation efforts begin

All of Sergeant Clarence Cook’s war medals and history were discovered for sale on eBay.

Clarence Cook, Military Medal

LITTLE CURRENT – War history buff and eBay detective, Dave Thomson, contacted The Expositor once again last week with the news that he had stumbled across another of Manitoulin’s sons’ military war medals and hoped to see it returned to its rightful home.

A seller in Winnipeg has placed all of Sergeant Clarence William Cook’s Great War military medals on eBay, including a treasure trove of other historical data including photos, postcards, telegrams, details of action, Christmas cards, medical information and so much more. Sergeant Cook, who was born in Little Current in 1894, was the recipient of a WWI Military Medal, King George V with second award bar and British war and victory medals. He was wounded three times in combat.

Sergeant Cook’s recommendation was listed in a March 1919 article in the London Gazette which stated, “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.C.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.”

Clarence William Cook was born in Little Current on January 4, 1894. A machinist by occupation and a member of the 44th Lincoln and Welland Regiment of Militia, he attested for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Welland in July 1915. He was originally posted to the 76th Battalion, but joined the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion in France in July 1916.

Sergeant Cook survived being wounded on three occasions, namely in January 1917 on the Hindenburg Line where he received a ‘severe shrapnel wound to abdomen;’ in July 1917 in the Ypres Salient with ‘severe shrapnel wound to right thigh;’ and in September 1918, during the 2nd Battle of Arras with ‘gunshot wounds passing through right shoulder.’

Sergeant Cook’s Military Medal was awarded for bravery during actions along the Arras-Cambrai road on September 1, 1918. The Bar to his award was given for his leadership in the attack on the village of Visen-Artois on the 25th of the same month. 

Discharged back in Canada in 1919, he died in Thunder Bay in May 1970.

While none of the Cooks of that family remain on Manitoulin today, the Laidley family are the closest remaining relatives to Sergeant Cook.

According to local historian Bev Morphet, Sergeant Cook’s parents were Harriet Aleda Laidley and William Cook. They had 10 children: Albert George, Jessie, Ella, Clarence, Bruce (who died at age five from typhoid), Edwin (who was killed at Passchendaele and who is memorialized on the Little Current and Manitoulin District Cenotaphs), Ethel, Sarah, Bessie and Annie, who became Mrs. Leland Trotter and would be most familiar to Islanders.

Sergeant Cook had two sons: Fred, who died at age 18 in a tragic bus accident and Bruce, whose whereabouts are unknown.

The price tag for Sergeant Cook’s military history is placed at $4,600 and Manitoulin historians are hoping Islanders will open their hearts, and wallets, and raise enough money to purchase the set and have it rightfully placed in the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah’s war history display.

Norma Hughson of the Manitoulin Genealogy Club is taking the lead on Sergeant Cook’s behalf. Donations can be sent via etransfer to nhughson@bell.net, mailed to Manitoulin Genealogy Club, PO Box 6, Little Current, Ontario P0P 1K0 or dropped off to The Expositor Office in Little Current.

“This guy was a tough nut,” Mr. Thomson described Sergeant Cook to The Expositor. “At the end of the day, it’s our legacy’s responsibility to care for their legacy.”

Mr. Thomson believes that Sergeant Cook’s complete military history can serve as a strong education tool for Island students and hopes that enough donations can be made to see it home.

Mr. Thomson said he recently received an award of $100 from a family whose military medals he helped to repatriate from eBay. He will be donating this to the cause to start the donations process.