JAMES WALSHAM COOK
died 4th February 1944 aged 22
4864306 Private, 6th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders
James was born in 1921, the son of John R. and Alice (nee Glover)
His brothers were Frank Lawrance (1922-1973) and John R. (born 1925).
The 6th Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders became part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the British 1st Infantry Division. They served throughout North Africa before moving on to the Italian Campaign.
Operation Shingle was launched on 22nd January 1944 and was an amphibious landing at a bay in the area of Anzio and Nettuno. The intention was to outflank German forces to enable an attack on Rome and the action became known as the Battle of Anzio.
The success of the landing relied on the element of surprise and any delay would see the occupation of the mountains by the enemy with the attackers being trapped. The commander of the U.S. Fifth Army knew the risks but did not pass these on in full to his subordinate General Lucas.
The landing happened without opposition and a jeep went as far as the outskirts of Rome without resistance. General Lucas failed to capitalise on the element of surprise and delayed the advance for a few days until he judged his position was sufficiently consolidated and his troops ready.
While this happened Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German Italian theatre commander, moved every spare unit into a ring around the beachhead and on the flanks of the mountains. His gunners had a clear view of every target and the Germans stopped drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water. They intended to create an epidemic of malaria by re-establishing the brackish environment in which the mosquitoes flourished. They planned to destroy the allies by epidemic and for weeks a rain of shells fell on the beach, the marsh, the harbour and anything that was observable from the hills.
The British 1st Infantry Division attacked Peter Beach 6 miles north-west of Anzio. By 3rd February the Germans were able to launch an artillery bombardment on the British sector. Their troops assaulted the positions and isolated some units which managed to escape in a night withdrawal. During this attack the British lost 1400 men.
Private James Cook is buried at Anzio War Cemetery, Italy.