Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Lieutenant-Commander Edward Christopher Cookson V.C., D.S.O., the Royal Navy, was killed in action in Mesopotamia.
His parents’ youngest son, he followed his father into the Royal Navy. At the age of fourteen he became a naval cadet on H.M.S. Britannia and went on to see active service during the Boxer rebellion, receiving the China Medal in the year 1900. He gained his first command in 1907, and the following year was appointed to H.M.S. Venerable, being considered “zealous, energetic, of sound judgement, a very capable and promising officer”.
Promotion to Lieutenant-Commander came in 1913 when he became second-in-command of H.M.S. Clio, which after the outbreak of the Great War was sent to the Middle East for defensive duties along the Suez Canal, and then on to Basra to reinforce the Naval Flotilla. In May of 1915 he was wounded after being ambushed by Arab riflemen as he commanded a river steam-boat on the Euphrates. His superior officer commented: “Although severely wounded early in the action [he] resumed command and succeeded in most ably extracting his vessel from a particularly perilous position under heavy fire.” For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
On the day of his death, during the advance on Kut-el-Amara in Mesopotamia, Lieutenant-Commander Cookson earned the posthumous Victoria Cross, the citation for which reads: “The river gunboat "Comet" had been ordered with other gunboats to examine and, if possible, destroy an obstruction placed across the river by the Turks. When the gunboats were approaching the obstruction a very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was opened on them from both banks. An attempt to sink the centre dhow of the obstruction by gunfire having failed, Lieutenant-Commander Cookson ordered the "Comet" to be placed alongside, and himself jumped onto the dhow with an axe and tried to cut the wire hawsers connecting it with the two other craft forming the obstruction. He was immediately shot in several places and died within a very few minutes.”
Lieutenant-Commander Cookson was the only fatality. In a special despatch, Major-General Townshend said: “He found that he could not send a man over the ship's side to cut away the obstruction because it meant certain death, so he took an axe and went himself.” He was buried by his crew, and after the Armistice his body was recovered and re-interred in the Amara War Cemetery.
Edward, from Tranmere in Cheshire, was 31 years old.