Monday, 6 May 2019

Leonard Nield Cook, MC, GVR, ( - 1917) – British poet

Leonard Nield Cook was born on 9th July 1896. He was the third and youngest son of Dr. Jonathan Nield Cook, Medical Officer of Health for Calcutta, and his wife, Lavinia.

In 1903, Leonard started at Bedford Grammar School and then went on to Rugby in 1910, having been awarded a Scholarship. He was Secretary of the School Debating Society for two years. He went up to Queen’s College, Oxford with a Classical Scholarship in October 1915.

Abandoning his studies, Leonard was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Royal Lancaster Regiment in December 1915 and was posted to the Western Front in July 1916.

Awarded a Military Cross for bravery during a trench raid in 1916, Leonard was also awarded the King of Italy’s Silver Medal for Military Valour in May 1917, about the time of the capture of Beauchamp.

Leonard was killed instantly along with two fellow officers when a shell hit their dug-out in the village of Villers Pluich, near Gouzeaucourt and Beaucamp, on the night following his return from his first leave home. He had volunteered for a raid, and was probably discussing it with the other two officers when they were killed on 7th July 1917, two days before Leonard’s 21st birthday.  He was serving with the 3rd Bn., attached to the 11th Bn. The King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment).

Leonard was buried in the Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Plouich, France, Grave Reference: I. C. 48.

Leonard Neild Cook’s poem, “Plymouth Sound”, was published in the Soldier Poet series, “More Songs by the Fighting Men”, Edited by Galloway Kyle (Erskine MacDonald Ltd., London, 1917) and in “The Valiant Muse: An Anthology of Poems by Poets killed in the World War”, Edited by Frederic W. Ziv (Putnam, New York, 1936).

“Plymouth Sound”

‘Obedient to the echoed harbour gun
The homing traffic on the water’s breast
Fold up their tawny wings and take their rest.
The pale-eyed stars already one by one
Steal softly forth to look upon the sun,
So proudly parting. While from island-nest,
Deep-shadowed cove, torn slope, or purple crest,
All things give praise to God in unison.

Then, brothers - for the time is very near
When I, the youngest floweret of the heath,
Will open in the gloomy courts of Fear,
Perchance to crown the pallid brow of Death -
Oh let me, clinging to greensward here,
Drink in God’s quietness with every breath.’

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “Englitsh Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)

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