The six Cook brothers – Jim, Dave, Harry, Charles, George and Albert – played for Gloucester in the early 1900s. They were the sons of James Cook, a blacksmith’s labourer, and the family was living at 66 Sherborne Street, Gloucester in 1891. Extraordinarily they are only the second largest set of brothers to have played for the Club – they overlapped with the seven Hall brothers.
Jim was a centre three-quarter described as “the artful dodger” for the amazing way in which he was able to completely deceive defenders. He was renowned for breaking through on his own, dodging one opponent after another, or giving his specialty, the dummy, before scoring tries in a manner which made it look positively easy. He was a rare humourist, who endeared himself to the Kingsholm faithful.
Frederick James, known as “Jim”, was the eldest brother, born in Gloucester in 1878. He first played rugby for the St Mark’s Club, but was twice drafted into the Gloucester 2nd XV in 1896-97 – his first game was against the Royal AgriculturalCollege, Cirencester, on 5th December 1896, when he scored a try. He married Louisa Drinan at Gloucester during the summer of 1897. During the 1897-98 season he played a further 14 matches for the Gloucester 2nds, scoring 10 tries, but he also broke through into the 1st XV. He played in 11 first team matches, making his first appearance in the 18-0 win over Old Edwardians at Kingsholm on 9th October 1897, when he again scored a try on debut. Later in the season he added a second try against Bath.
In 1898-99, Jim started the season still seen by the Gloucester selectors principally as a second team player, and he made 11 appearances and scored 10 tries for them, before he established a permanent place in the first team half way through the season. This was a very good one for the Club with a record of won 27, lost 6, drawn 1, points for 300 and against 116. WB (Bill Bailey, the doyen of Gloucester rugby correspondents) summarised it in the Citizen as “a brilliantly successful season, and one which will form one of the brightest chapters in the history of the Club.” Jim played in 16 matches, scoring a try, 5 conversions and 2 dropped goals. WB wrote: “Jim Cook had a regular place in the team since Christmas, and is recognised as the smartest centre three-quarter Gloucester have had since Walter Jackson. A splendid knowledge of the game, with plenty of confidence, Cook is a fair “box of tricks” in attack, and few will forget the remarkable display he gave against Northampton. At present the old St Mark’s man has not sufficient pace to take full advantage of his special efforts, and his defence is not of the strongest. With an improvement in these two respects, however, Cook should prove one of the best players who ever donned a city club jersey.
Unfortunately Jim suffered a dip in form in 1899-1900, which led WB to comment at the end of the season that: “One of the biggest disappointments of the season was the failure of J Cook to retain the wonderful form which he exhibited at the close of last season.” The result was that Jim was dropped and his place at centre was taken by “Jummer” Stephens, although he did play in 17 of the Club’s 32 fixtures, and scored 9 tries, 8 conversions and one dropped goal. He put in another 11 appearances for the seconds, scoring 7 tries, but hereafter would play only for the firsts.
He was back with a vengeance in 1900-01, scoring 6 tries in the first 5 matches of the season, reaching a total of 19 for the season, and playing in all but one of the Club’s 34 fixtures. He scored hat tricks against Old Edwardians (won 27-0) and Coventry (won 35-0), and two each against Bath (won 33-0) and Cardiff (won 11-3). Remarkably he was not the Club’s leading try scorer, coming second to George Clutterbuck who ran in 23. However, Jim had contributed fully to a very successful season, described by WB in the Citizen: “During a long and brilliant career the Gloucester team have accomplished some noteworthy triumphs on the football field, but this season has been remarkable for the number of records set up. For the first time since the Club’s tenancy of the Kingsholm enclosure, the team has gone through a heavy list of home matches without once sustaining defeat – a brilliant performance when the quality of opponents met is considered…..One of the most pleasing features of the season has been the admirable work of the three-quarter line. Both in attack and defence the quartette have proved wonderfully effective, and Clutterbuck, Stephens, Cook and “Whacker” Smith are deserving of all the praise that has been bestowed on them. No four players ever worked better together, and when at the top of their form they took a lot of beating. In Cook and Stephens, the Club have two of the cleverest centres to be found in England. Both have a perfect knowledge of how the game should be played, and are up to nearly every trick on the board. Two seasons ago Cook gave evidence of possessing remarkable abilities, but he was a disappointment last year, and was dropped. The “rest” undoubtedly did him a world of good, for in the season just concluded he has proved a past-master in the art of making openings, and a veritable thorn in the side of all opposing teams. His “cross-cut” is a wonderful gift, and has deceived even such experienced hands as Gwyn Nicholls and Willie Llewellyn, the Welsh Internationals. Besides scoring 19 tries himself, Cook gave twice as many away to colleagues, selfishness being altogether unknown to him. In one or two important fixtures, the old St Mark’s man was shaky in defence, but his cleverness enabled him to repeatedly cover his mistakes.”
In 1900-01, Jim also picked up 3 County caps playing for Gloucestershire against Midland Counties, Cornwall (try) and Glamorgan. In the 1901 census he was married to Louisa, with two children, working as a blacksmith’s labourer like his father, and living at 6 Jacques Buildings, Oxbody Lane, Gloucester.
1901-02 was to be Jim’s last season with the Club. He played in 15 of the 34 fixtures, scoring 5 tries against Northampton, Cambridge University, Coventry (2), and his last try for the Club against Old Merchant Taylors on Boxing Day 1901. His final appearance for the Club was in a painful 0-18 defeat away at Newport on 8th February 1902. WB wrote of this season: “Last season Gloucester were splendidly served at three-quarter by “Whacker” Smith, Cook, Stephens and Clutterbuck, a quartette fully capable of extending any opposing line in all phases of play. Combination especially was brought to a high state of proficiency, and there was not a cleverer line in the country. With the same players available again, Gloucester were fully expected to prove a formidable opposition, and the opening matches promised well. Clutterbuck, however, was early placed hors de combat, and with Cook getting out of hand with the Committee, the famous combination was broken up…..J Cook and G F Collett were the principal colleagues of Stephens in the centre, and both did good work. The ex-Cantab found a regular place in the team in February, though perhaps not so effective in attack as Cook.” We do not know what caused this falling out between Jim and the Club, but it ended his amateur career. He went north and signed to play professionally for Hull (where he played alongside former Gloucester teammates George Hall, Dicky Goddard and Jack Lewis).
Before this, Jim played in 4 of Gloucestershire’s 5 matches, all won before the end of 1901. In the first of these against Midland Counties at Kingsholm, it was reported that “Cook executed a marvellous run from his own 25 which resulted in arty by G Hall”. However, the County Championship Final was not played until April 1902, by which time Jim was out of contention – Gloucestershire lost 3-9 to Durham. On 27th November 1901 he played for London & Varsities v Rest of the South in an England Trial at Richmond, together with 5 of his Gloucester teammates, but the coveted International Cap eluded him.
Jim finished his Gloucester career with 92 appearances, 36 tries, 13 conversions and 3 dropped goals, adding up to 146 points (together with another 38 appearances, 28 tries, 3 conversions and 90 points for the 2nd XV)
During World War One, Jim was engaged in war work at a munitions factory in Kent.
Jim died suddenly in Hull in 1933, WB wrote the following obituary, which was published in the Citizen on 25th February 1933:
“Death of Jim Cook
Another old Gloucester footballer has “passed on” in the person of Jim Cook, whose sudden death occurred at Hull earlier in the week. Eldest of six brothers, Jim Cook was one of the most brilliant attacking centres ever turned out by Gloucester, and was well described as the “Box of Tricks”. He was an exceptionally clever exponent of the “dummy”, which he exploited with such rapidity that opponents were absolutely bewildered.
Cook made some amazing runs at Kingsholm, and on one occasion – I believe it was in a County Match against the Midlands – after “dummying” his way through the opposition and crossing the line, he came back into the field of play again, and beat another player before finally touching down for the try!
Member of Famous Team
Cook was associated with the Gloucester team under Walter Taylor’s successful captaincy – 1896-1900. Some notable triumphs were achieved during those four years against the strongest teams in England and Wales. In the four years, of 132 matches played 92 were won, as against 26 defeats and 14 drawn games. Llanelly and Swansea both lost unbeaten records during the period, and Cook had the distinction of dropping the winning goal against the famous All Whites. In Taylor’s fourth year as captain a great win was obtained over Blackheath at the Rectory Field, and Bristol (twice), Leicester and a powerful Barbarians XV, were also defeated.
What a host of fine players were contemporary with our departed friend: G Romans (full back); Percy Stout, G F Clutterbuck, F M Luce, G F Collett, C Smith and Walter Taylor (three-quarters); A Stephens, Car Cummings, G Hall and R Goddard (half-backs); and C Williams, Frank Stout, F Goulding [=Goolding], C Hall, C Rose, W Spiers, A H Click, T Hatherall, F Oswell, B L Watkins, G H Smith, J Lewis, A Hawker, H Manley, Cecil Miller, and others. And of all this long list only two players – Lewis and Miller – lived outside the city! Wonderful!
Joined Northern Union
The prowess of Gloucester players at that period attracted the attention of Northern Union (now the Rugby League) clubs, and Jim Cook, with George Hall, Dicky Goddard and Jack Lewis, all joined Hull, for which team they rendered splendid service. Cook played for Yorkshire – a distinct honour, for competition to get into the side was exceptionally keen with such a wealth of talent available. Cook’s son followed in his father’s footsteps, and signed on by Hull Kingston Rovers at an early age, also distinguished himself in the best class of Rugby League football for several years until heart trouble forced him to give up.
The Cooks, like the Halls, were a remarkable family of Rugby footballers. In addition to Jim Cook, his brothers Dave, Harry, Charles, George and Albert all appeared for Gloucester, four at least gaining their City caps. Charles and Albert were wounded in the War – one losing an eye and the other a leg. George, a very fine centre three-quarter, joined the Oldham (Rugby League) club, with which combination A Wood and Willie Hall (Gloucester players) were also associated. Of the Cook brothers, four are still alive, and the sympathy of old footballers will be extended to them in their bereavement. Jim Cook only paid fleeting visits to his native city after his departure North, and the last occasion, some months ago, was a sad one – to attend the funeral of his father. He was 55 years of age. Of cheery disposition, he will be remembered by his former colleagues not only as a splendid footballer, but also as a pleasant companion. Cook was a product of that famous local Rugby nursery – the old St Mark’s Club.”
David, the second brother was born in 1882. In the 1901 census he was working as a labourer in an iron foundry and living with his parents and his four younger brothers. Later that year he made his debut at full-back for Gloucester in the 2nd XV match against Barnwood on 5th October 1901. He went on to play in a further 6 matches for the seconds, scoring his only try against Newport A on 8th February 1902, and making his final appearance against Chepstow on 12th April 1902. So, he finished with 7 appearances and one try for the 2nd XV, but never played for Gloucester 1st XV.
Dave served with the 5/Gloucesters during WW1..
Henry, Known as “Harry”, the third son, was born in1884. In 1901, like his father and elder brother, Jim, he was working as a blacksmith’s labourer, and living at 66, Sherborne Street, Gloucester. Harry played at centre three-quarter for Gloucester, but most of his career was in the seconds. He first played for them on 1st October 1903 against West End. There are some games in the 1903-04 season for which team lists are not available, but Harry played in at least 15 games.
In 1904-05 he played in 25 matches, scoring 16 tries, and in 1905-06, he made 23 appearances and scored 4 tries and one dropped goal.
He seems then to have taken a break in his rugby career. By 1911, he was still single, and living with his parents at 84, Alvin Street. He later went to work at the Wagon Works. He resumed his Gloucester rugby career in 1911-12, when he played in 17 2nd XV games, scoring 11 tries. He also made his debut for the 1st XV on 7th October 1911 against Northampton, and played his second and final game for them on 2nd November 1911 against Stroud.
He played in two 2nd XV matches in 1912-13, scoring a try; he scored his final try and made his final appearance for the Club in 1913-14, but the number of appearances he made is not known.
He finished his Gloucester career with 2 appearances for the 1st XV, and at least 83 appearances for the 2nd XV, during which he scored at least 33 tries and one dropped goal.
Harry joined the Gloucestershire Regiment in September 1914, landed in France in July 1915, was promoted to Lance Sergeant, and was wounded in the hand and discharged from the Army in July 1917. During the war he played rugby for the 8/Gloucesters team. He married Ethel May Cousins in 1930, and died in Gloucester in 1952, aged 69.
Charles, the fourth son, known as “Ninnie”, was born in 1887. As a boy he lived at 66 Sherborne Street. In the 1901 census his occupation was transcribed as “shamrock dipping”.
He was a full back whose local club side was St Marks RFC. Whilst there he made at least 3 appearances for the Gloucester 2nd XV in 1906-07, scoring a penalty against Cinderford A on 13th April 1907. He was selected for at least 15 further 2nd XV games in 1907-08, and scored 15 tries and a dropped goal. Although he made at least 9 more appearances for Gloucester 2nds in 1908-09, scoring a penalty, a dropped goal and a goal from a mark, this was also the season in which he broke through into the first team. He played 14 games that season, and was given the goal kicking duties when Welshman was not available, ending the season with 20 conversions, 4 penalties and a dropped goal, amounting to 56 points (he failed with only 11 kicks at goal). His first points for the Club were 2 conversions in the 19-8 win at Clifton on 5th December 1908. Towards the end of the season there was fixture congestion over the Easter period. On Good Friday, Charles played in an 11-15 defeat at the hands of London Welsh, and the following day he was up against Castleford. It turned out well – Gloucester ran in 16 tries, 12 of them converted by Charles, who added a penalty for a personal tally of 27 points in Gloucester’s 75-5 victory. This was a record for the Club at the time, the previous best being 74 points against Clifton in 1901-02.
At this time, the pack, led by Billy Johns, a current England International, was the mainstay of the Gloucester team, and there was quite a lot of chopping and changing in the back division. F Welshman started the season as both Club and County full back, and retained his County place throughout the season, but as WB recorded at the end of the season: “At full-back F Welshman did not maintain the consistent form he showed the previous year. At times he touched brilliance, but fell off in his kicking half-way through the season. About this time C Cook was tried at full-back for the Seconds, and he proved such a success that eventually he deposed Welshman, who was tried at three-quarter. The experience gained by Cook this season should serve him in good stead next year, and Gloucester should have in the old St Mark’s player one of the best custodians in the West of England.”
It was not to work out like that. In 1909-10, Charles made only 3 appearances, kicking one conversion and one penalty 9 in the first game of the season, an 11-6 win over Penarth, before transferring to Abertillery for the rest of the season.
Charles was welcomed back for 1910-11, when he had the most prolific season of his playing career, during which he made 37 appearances out of the 40 fixtures, more than any other player. He kicked 46 conversions, 5 penalties and 2 dropped goals for a personal tally of 115 points, which also made him the leading points scorer, although Arthur Hudson did score 32 tries. Charles resumed for Gloucester with a bang – 3 conversions in the 30-5 win over Bream in the first game, and 8 conversions in the 61-0 win over Stroud in the second. He later kicked 6 conversions against Lydney, and another 4 in the return match with Bream.
Charles missed the match against his former teammates from Abertillery – he had to catch the train earlier that afternoon at the start of a 3-day journey, with overnight stops in London and Paris, before Gloucester’s first match on French soil in Toulouse. Gloucester beat Stade Toulousaine 18-13 on 28th February 1911, with tries from Holford, Pegler and Hall, Charles adding a conversion and a penalty. The result was somewhat controversial, and the match finished with a hostile demonstration against the referee, who was none other than the Rev O E Hayden, a Gloucester Committee man, who had accepted the invitation to take charge of the game. Fortunately nothing serious happened, and under an escort of players and gendarmes, Rev Hayden was able to exit the field of play unmolested. Two nights in Toulouse, and another in Paris on the way back, before arriving back in Gloucester on Thursday evening doubtless left the players tired, but they still had enough energy left to defeat Swansea 13-6 on the Saturday, Charles kicking 2 conversions. The trip to Toulouse was judged a great success, and was never forgotten by the players, who regarded themselves as fortunate to be selected in the party.
At the end of the season, WB wrote: “In C Cook, Gloucester have a treasure at full-back. His play all through was brilliantly consistent, and he deservedly ranks amongst the best custodians in the country. In the second half of the season especially his form touched greatness, and he played a notable part in the two big wins over Swansea and Cardiff.”
Charles also made his county debut in 1910-11 against Devon at Exeter on 5th November 1910, but unfortunately Gloucestershire were defeated 3-13, and he was not selected again. Charles had the misfortune to be a contemporary of W R Johnston (Bristol and England) and it speaks well of his ability that he was occasionally selected for the County ahead of Johnson. In club football, Charles was generally acknowledged to hold the advantage over his rival, his fine kicking, either foot, safe fielding and catching of the ball, and the ability to extricate himself at close quarters, making him an outstanding full back. Johnston, however, had the real big match temperament – he never let England down, hence his sixteen international caps, and precedence normally in County selection.
By 1911, he was still living with his parents, but the family had moved to 84, Alvin Street, and was employed as a general labourer.
In 1911-12, Charles played in 29 of Gloucester’s 40 matches – he remained at full back, but scored only 3 conversions, because Lionel Hamblin took over the kicking duties. Perhaps the proudest feature of Gloucester’s season was their record at Kingsholm of 7 wins and 2 draws in their 9 games against Welsh clubs. They also enjoyed another trip to France, this time defeating Stade Francais 13-3 in Paris – “the Stade Francais club entertained the visitors to a banquet, and the boys had a great time.” WB summarised Charles’s contribution as: “The City were worthily represented at full-back by C Cook, who all through the season was in capital form. His kicking and fielding were great features in his displays, whilst his defence left little to be desired.”
During the 1911-12 season, Charles won 3 further County caps against Monmouth, Glamorgan and County Dublin in Dublin, but he was omitted for all the County Championship matches in favour of Johnston.
Charles played in 28 of the 40 matches in the 1912-13 season, and scored 8 conversions and 6 penalties with his place kicking. WB assessed that: “At full-back, C Cook has again been the regular custodian, and he has accomplished some fine work. Early in the season he was in poor health, and had to miss several games, but when fit he was the Cook of old – clever, reliable, and a splendid kick.”
Charles was again first choice at full back in 1913-14, and played in 32 of Gloucester’s 37 fixtures (only Bert Parham played in more). He kicked 18 conversions and 3 penalties. Early in the season, Charles kicked 8 conversions in a 56-0 win over the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment. One of the highlights of the season was Gloucester’s first visit to Twickenham, where they played a Harlequins side led by Adrian Stoop, and then regarded as the strongest club in England. Gloucester’s defence was impenetrable that day, with Charles prominent in the heroics – “Charles Cook added to his reputation at full-back” – and 2 dropped goals from Hamblin secured a famous 8-0 win. There were also notable victories against Cardiff, Swansea, Pontypool and Leicester (twice). Commenting on the season as a whole, WB acknowledged that: “C Cook, though not enjoying the best of health, has worthily maintained his reputation at full-back, and there is no other player in the city at present to touch him.”
The First World War then intervened. Charles was by now working at the Wagon Works, by September 1914 he had enlisted as a private in the 1/5 Gloucestershire Regiment, landed in France in March 1915, and soon saw active service alongside William Parham. During the war Charles played for the 5/Gloucesters XV and represented C Company in the Inter-Company Championship.
On 13th April 1915, he also played, alongside his brother, Albert, in the famous match behind the British lines at Nieppe near Armentieres, on the border between Belgium and France. The 48th (South Midland) Division played the 4th Division. The 48th division were captained by the England captain Lieutenant Ronnie Poulton of Harlequins and contain no less than ten Gloucester players who between them would end up playing nearly 1,000 games for the Club. Poulton was killed by a sniper’s bullet just two weeks later. The 4th division included an English, a Scottish and two Irish internationals, both of whom later became presidents of the Irish RFU. The match was watched by other leading rugby players, grateful for a brief respite from the trenches. Charles ended on the winning side, 17-0, but had to give way, as at Gloucester, to Lionel Hamblin for the place kicking.
Charles was later appointed battalion grenadier, and then promoted to corporal.In 1917 Charles won the Military Medal at Beaumetz. Both Charles and William Parham returned home to Gloucester on leave in September, but re-joined their regiment by 1October. Three days later they were fighting in the Battle of Broodseinde, when the 5th Gloucesters suffered 131 casualties struggling to make progress in the face of unmolested German machine guns – Charles was wounded in the face and consequently lost an eye, and his friend, William, was killed. Charles was invalided out of the Army in January 1918.
After the war Charles joined the Gloucester Corporation and was employed by them until the end of his working life until he retired in 1952 aged 65 years.
With so many of the players who had represented the Club before the war, killed, injured or retired, the Club were keen to persuade experienced players to play again. Having lost an eye as a result of his wartime injury, Charles did not play during the 1919-20 season, but he was persuaded to turn out for Gloucester again in 1920-21, resuming against Old Merchant Taylors on Boxing Day 1920. He played 12 games before finally retiring from the game, but during this final hurrah he took part in some further memorable matches. The Club went through the season without experiencing defeat at Kingsholm, and the greatest of their many victories was against Newport. In January 1921, the Welsh Club arrived at Kingsholm undefeated in 25 matches, and with a side containing 10 internationals. Gloucester rose to the occasion, with Charles displaying a stout defence at full back, and earned a hard fought 12-9 victory. Each member of the team was presented with an inscribed silver cigarette case to commemorate the occasion
WB commented on his Charles return to the side: “Charles Cook, who lost an eye in the 1914-18 war, did not resume with his old colleagues the first season after the resumption of football, and it was not until the Boxing Day match against the Old Merchant Taylors in 1920 that he found himself sufficiently fit and confident to take up his position at full back again. Cook was an extremely clever and resourceful custodian, and a splendid kick either foot, but owing to his handicap he never quite regained his pre-war form, and after taking part in a dozen games he finally retired.”
Charles finished his Gloucester career with 155 appearances and 269 points, made up of 100 conversions, 19 penalties and 3 dropped goals. He also made at least 29 appearances for the 2nd XV, scoring 15 tries, 1 conversion, 2 penalties and 6 conversions for 80 points. We have a photograph of Charles in his Gloucester blazer and cap, kindly sent to us by his grandson, Andy Cook.
In 1921, Charles married Alice Julia Hoebig, and they later had 3 children.
On his retirement in 1952, Charles became an attendant on the wing stand at Kingsholm, a service for his old Club which he continued to perform until the end of the 1957-58 season when he missed two matches due to illness, and decided it was time to step down. Away from rugby Charles was a keen gardener and, having sufficiently recovered from his illness, had dug and planted his garden a month before he died suddenly on 16th May 1959 at his home at 37 Bibury Road, Gloucester, aged 82.
George “Baggy” Cook, the fifth brother, was born in 1888. He is missing from the 1901 census, because he had already enlisted in the Army. However, he returned to Gloucester in 1907, and joined the Gloucester Club. He played at threequarter for both Gloucester and the County, and had all the attributes for that position – a safe pair of hands, smart in seizing on an opening, and always alert for a burst through.
George first played for Gloucester 2nd XV in 1906-07, but incomplete records mean the number of appearances he made is not known, although he kicked a penalty against Gloucester Old Boys on Boxing Day 1906, when he may have been home on leave rather than permanently.
His one and only season with the 1st XV was 1907-08. He dropped a goal for the Possibles against the Probables in a Club trial game at the start of the season, and made his debut for the first team against Lydney on 2nd November 1907. He scored his first try a week later in a 13-6 win at Exeter, and scored another the following week in a 15-5 win at Cheltenham. He later scored 2 tries against Pill Harriers, and finished the season strongly over Easter. In what were to prove his last 3 games, all won in the space of 5 days, he scored 2 tries and a penalty against Lennox; a try, a conversion and a penalty against Cinderford; and a conversion against Bristol on 25th April 1908.
He appeared 27 times, and scored 46 points from 9 tries, 6 conversions, 1 penalty and 1 dropped goal, which made him the second highest scorer of the season (behind Arthur Hudson with 25 tries). WB summarised his season: “In the centre G Cook, formerly of the Gloucester Regiment, proved a rare find, and his future career will be watched with great interest. Cook is a born footballer, and his form throughout has been most consistent.” He also finished with at least 5 appearances, 4 tries, 1 penalty and 1 dropped goal for the 2nd XV.
He made his debut for the County on 20th February 1908, in a South West replay against Cornwall at Kingsholm, and remained in the side in a further replay against Devon at Torquay six days later. Losing to Cornwall, although beating Devon, Gloucestershire progressed no further, and George’s county career was over after 5 days and 2 caps.
He looked set to go far in the game, but decided instead to join the professional ranks at Oldham Rugby League Club.
As a Reservist for the 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, George was called up in August 1914 and was attached to the 1st Battalion and immediately went to France with the British Expeditionary Force. George was reported missing on 11 November 1914 and on 15 January 1915 his parents received official notification from the War Office that he was now considered as having been killed in action on that date. George however had been seriously wounded, taken prisoner and was treated in a hospital in Lille. George, severely wounded with gunshot wounds to the back, had lain out in No Man’s Land for thirty-six hours before being discovered by a party of Germans. He was given medical treatment including several operations and then spent over four years in a POW Camp in Germany. These wartime injuries finished his rugby playing days.
George died on 14 July 1924 at Oldham, aged 35 years. Nine days before his death, George had taken part in a cricket match and whilst waiting for the tramcar to return home was caught in a heavy shower of rain. Two days later he became ill and pneumonia rapidly set in which proved fatal.
Albert, the youngest of the brothers, was born in 1893. In 1901, he was living with his parents at 66, Sherborne Street, Gloucester. By 1911, he was employed as a general labourer, still living with his parents but now at 84, Alvin Street. He was a back-row forward who first played for Gloucester in the 1911-12 season, when he made 18 appearances for the 2nd XV. He made his debut against Cinderford & District on 28th October 1911, and went on to play in 18 games that season, scoring 6 tries. Towards the end of the season he stepped up to the 1st XV, playing his first game for them on5th April 1912 against London Welsh. Gloucester won 14-0, Albert scoring a try. He played a further 2 games for the first team before the end of the season.
He gained a regular place in the side in 1912-13, when he played in 27 of the Club’s 40 fixtures, and scored 4 tries against Clifton (2), Leicester and Cinderford. He was often played alongside his brother, Charles. WB commented that Albert was “a useful recruit”. He also played 7 games for the 2nd XV.
In 1913-14, Albert played in 25 of the Club’s 37 matches, of which 25 were won and 10 lost, under the captaincy of George Halford. One of the highlights of the season was Gloucester’s first visit to Twickenham, where they played a Harlequins side led by Adrian Stoop, and then regarded as the strongest club in England. Gloucester’s defence was impenetrable that day, and 2 dropped goals from Hamblin secured a famous 8-0 win. There were also notable victories against Cardiff, Swansea, Pontypool and Leicester (twice). Commenting on the season as a whole, WB reported that: “Other useful men who figured pretty often in the side were A Cook…..and it may be said of the forwards generally that they fully upheld the club’s reputation.”
The Great War then ended Albert’s rugby career, because he was unable to resume afterwards, so he finished with 55 appearances and 5 tries (plus 25 appearances and 6 tries for the 2nd XV).
By the start of the Great War, Albert was employed at the Wagon Works. Along with most of the Gloucester rugby players and his brothers, Albert enlisted as a private in the 1/5 Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment in early September 1914, and during the war played for their rugby XV. He went to France in March 1915.
On 13th April 1915, he also played, alongside his brother, Charles, in the famous match behind the British lines at Nieppe near Armentieres, on the border between Belgium and France. The 48th (South Midland) Division played the 4th Division. The 48th division were captained by the England captain Lieutenant Ronnie Poulton of Harlequins and contain no less than ten Gloucester players who between them would end up playing nearly 1,000 games for the Club. Poulton was killed by a sniper’s bullet just two weeks later. The 4th division included an English, a Scottish and two Irish internationals, both of whom later became presidents of the Irish RFU. The match was watched by other leading rugby players, grateful for a brief respite from the trenches. Albert ended on the winning side, 17-0.
Albert was severely wounded in the attack on Pozieres on 23rd July 1916, as a result of which his leg was amputated. He was invalided out of the Army, and this of course ended his rugby career. In 1919 at Gloucester Albert married Kathleen Hannah Nicholls and at the time of his death on 29th November 1954, the couple were living at 28 Lichfield Road, Gloucester.
[I am grateful to Chris Collier for providing the career statistics used in this profile, and to Martin Davies for the military and family history details.]