First World War

Artifact W1-09: A Soldier’s Life

Provided by John Shea

Cooks Helmet Copy

Harry Burton Cooke was my uncle by marriage to his second wife, my aunt Mildred Shea.  The steel helmet, the “liars’ dice”, the new testament, and the Crown and Anchor game pictured below came to me after his death at 97 in 1994 in the town of Arnprior.

Cooks Helmet Copy Cools Bible Dice Copy Cooks Crown and Anchor Copy

He was born in Frosty Hollow/Sackville, New Brunswick, 3 February 1897 to the Cook family.  He had an unhappy childhood (I suspect child abuse) and left home early, severing all connections and even adding an “e” to his name to further separate himself from the family.

On September 28, 1915, when 18 years old, he joined the 64th Battalion CEF in Sussex, New Brunswick.  He was transferred to the 104th Overseas Battalion CEF before sailing from Halifax on June 6, 1916, arriving in Britain on July 6.  After training with the 104th he was placed in the 13th Reserve Battalion CEF on the 26th of January 1917.  He proceeded to France for service, 9 May, 1917 and was taken on strength by the 26th Battalion CEF 12 May 1917. He served with the 26th throughout his time at the Front.

On the 16th of August 1917, four months after his arrival and during the Canadian Corps battle to seize Hill 70, he received his first wound.  His second severe wound, received October 13, 1918 at Cambrai led to his being invalided to Bramshott, England, just before the war ended. He was then sent to hospital in northern England for treatment and recovery.  Upon his return to Canada, he was awarded the Military Medal for his actions at Cambrai.

He sailed for home in HMT Regina departing England 20 May 1919 and arriving in Halifax on 25 May. On the 30th of May 1919 he was released from service in St. John, New Brunswick due to medical unfitness as a consequence of wounds received.

His life after the war continued to be eventful.  He married four times and survived all four wives.  He lived for a time in Detroit working in the trucking industry.  There he came to know the notorious Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.  He sometimes acted as Hoffa’s driver and wore a wristwatch with Hoffa’s picture on it.

He moved back to Canada to marry his third wife, a woman he had courted 60 years earlier before his first marriage.  He was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion for 62 years and received a community service award from the Arnprior Branch in 1985.

Uncle Harry was an engaging extrovert who knew how to spin a yarn and who made friends easily.  One of his war time buddies once told me that it was great fun to go on leave with Harry – “the ladies liked him”.  So did we all.

Support the Friends

Be a Donor

Help the Friends support the Museum by becoming a donor today.

Why Volunteer?

The Friends is an all-volunteer organization and needs interested people willing to provide time, knowledge and skills to support our mission.

Why be a Member?

If you have an interest in furthering the Friends purposes a membership may be for you.