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Francis William Cook (1918–1967)

by Robin Prior

This article was published:

Francis William Cook (1918-1967), by Geoffrey Richard Mainwaring

Francis William Cook (1918-1967), by Geoffrey Richard Mainwaring

Australian War Memorial, ART27510

Francis William Cook (1918-1967), army officer, was born on 12 May 1918 at West-End, Hampshire, England, son of Second Lieutenant Frederick Francis Cook, Royal Garrison Artillery Special Reserve, and his wife Honor Selina, née Copp. Frederick won the Military Cross in World War I and brought his family to Adelaide when Francis was a child. Aged 14, Francis began work as a laboratory cadet at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute.

Having risen to sergeant in the Militia's 27th Battalion, on 3 November 1939 Cook enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 2nd/10th Battalion. He was commissioned lieutenant in March 1940, sailed for Britain in May and arrived in the Middle East in December. His battalion reinforced the garrison at Tobruk, Libya, in April 1941. On the night of 3-4 May the defenders mounted a counter-attack. Cook was given command of two platoons and ordered to mop up enemy positions bypassed in the main thrust. When his men came under heavy machine-gun fire, he led them in a bayonet charge and captured an enemy post without loss; he then assailed another post, taking equipment and two prisoners. For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross.

Relieved at Tobruk in August, the 2nd/10th was sent to Palestine and Syria. Cook was accidentally injured at Aleppo in January 1942 and came home to recuperate. On 13 June that year at St David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart, he married a hairdresser Joan Marlene Alderson; they were to have a son before being divorced in 1947. In July 1942 he rejoined the battalion which sailed to Papua next month. Promoted captain in October, by early 1943 he had command of 'A' Company. At Sanananda on 19 January, although outnumbered, his soldiers followed him in a daring assault on a Japanese position that had been thwarting the advance. The enemy broke and fled. Cook was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Returning to Queensland in March, he became chief instructor at the Junior Leaders' School, South Australia, in October. In April 1944 he returned to the 2nd/10th and was promoted major in May 1945. Following the landing at Balikpapan, Borneo, on 1 July, Cook's 'C' Company dashed inland and took 'Parramatta' ridge. He was mentioned in dispatches. Transferring to the Reserve of Officers on 1 November, he became sales manager of the Adelaide branch of Cooper Engineering Co. Pty Ltd. At the Baptist Church, North Adelaide, on 4 October 1947 he married a stenographer Elizabeth Wyly.

Resuming his military career on 26 February 1951, Cook served with the Australian Ancillary Unit Korea (1951-52) and the Pacific Islands Regiment (1952-54). He then performed command and staff duties in Australia as lieutenant colonel. After attending the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, United States of America, he was assistant Australian army representative, Washington, in 1962-64. He was appointed deputy-director of military training at Army Headquarters, Canberra, in May 1966 and promoted colonel in July.

Six ft 1½ ins (187 cm) tall, with a lined, weather-beaten face and an open expression, Cook was an enthusiastic sportsman who had excelled at lacrosse. He died of coronary thrombosis on 26 June 1967 at his Watson home and was buried with Methodist forms in Canberra cemetery; his wife, and their son and two daughters, survived him. Geoffrey Mainwaring's portrait of Cook is held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Allchin, Purple and Blue (Adel, 1958)
  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 8 Mar 1961, 27 June 1967
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • CSIRO Archives, Canberra
  • private information.

Citation details

Robin Prior, 'Cook, Francis William (1918–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Francis William Cook (1918-1967), by Geoffrey Richard Mainwaring

Francis William Cook (1918-1967), by Geoffrey Richard Mainwaring

Australian War Memorial, ART27510

Life Summary [details]


12 May, 1918
West-End, Hampshire, England


26 June, 1967 (aged 49)
Watson, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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