Susworth's fallen hero of the Great War

31091 Private, 1st Battalion
East Yorkshire Regiment

killed in action 25th September 1916 aged 29

Laister was born in Susworth on 3rd January 1887, the youngest child of George and Jane Cook (nee Hornsey; of Searby).  His older brothers and sisters were William, Ann, Maria, Thomas, Ada, Joseph and Bertha (died aged 2).

Their father became the drain foreman at Susworth and Laister worked as an agricultural labourer for George Henry Armstrong.

On 29th March 1916 he enlisted into the Army at Lincoln and in the last week of June went to France.

Laister's battalion were part of 64th Brigade, 21st Division, XV Corps in the 4th Army.  He may have been with them when the Battle of the Somme began on 1st July.

The 1st Battalion, East Yorkshires Regimental War Diary for that morning says:-

'Although our bombardment had been very severe and the German trenches badly damaged, there were still a few machine guns untouched and they took a heavy toll of the battalion.

 In spite of heavy losses the Brigade pushed on and seized the first objective, i.e. the Crucifix Trench and the Sunken Road, though the Shelter Wood and Birch Tree Wood still remained in German hands.  The object line was reached at about 8:05am...

 It was impossible to advance further owing to the heavy casualties the Brigade had incurred and all efforts were directed towards consolidating the position and holding the ground already won.'

Towards the end of that first day, his battalion were relieved and went back to their original assembly trenches.  For the next two days more fierce fighting continued until the night of 3rd July when the East Yorkshires were moved to Dernancourt.  The next morning they travelled by rail, away from the front line, to Ailly sur Somme, east of Amiens.

There followed two months of struggle until the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the next full scale offensive since the first day of the Somme.

It began on 15th September 1916 and was notable for the first time in history that tanks were used.  The plan was for XV Corps to break through the German lines at Flers allowing cavalry to get into the rear area of the enemy.

The village of Courcelette was captured and there was a renewed attack on the 16th.  The 21st Division got bogged down moving around Flers, fell too far behind the artillery barrage and their only tank was destroyed by shell fire.  The planned attacks of the next few days were cancelled.

At 12:35pm on 25th September, the Battle of Morval began.  It was designed to capture the objectives of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette that had not been secured.

XIV Corps struck east towards Morval and Lesboeufs while XV Corps, including the 21st Division with the East Yorkshires, attacked north towards Gueudecourt.

The XIV corps attack was a success and by 5.30pm headquarters knew the villages had been captured.

Unfortunately, the XV corps assault on Gueudecourt was not so successful.  The 21st Division was meant to take the village but one brigade got stuck in front of uncut wire and another was hit from the side by machine gun fire and forced to pull back.

Private Laister Cook was killed that day.

Thiepval monument

Thiepval Monument


His name is one of more than 72,000 on the Thiepval Monument for those with no known grave.


He is also remembered on the East Butterwick War Memorial sited in the grounds of St. Andrew's Church.


In 1919 his elder brother William and wife Annie (nee Fowler) had a son whom they christened Laister.