Lieutenant-Commander Wilfrid Alan Cooke

Royal Navy, H.M.S. Algerine

Born:  1908
Died:  November 15th 1942

Wilfrid was born in Pretoria. His parents were Herbert Samuel Cooke and Emilie Carter. They married In Oxford in 1902. She was a schoolteacher and he was Principal of a Pupil Teachers Centre, living in Caversham. The Cooke family had lived in Caversham for about thirty-five years. Several of Herbert’s siblings were teachers. Wilfred had a twin sister, Elinor Mary. When they were born, their father was Acting Director of Native labour in Pretoria. At the time of the 1911 census, the children were living with their Cooke grandmother and an uncle and an aunt in Caversham

On February 18th 1921, Wilfrid entered the Royal Navy Reserve as a Probationer Sub Lieutenant. He was at HMS Ramillies from August 15th until January 1932. He was promoted Lieutenant on February 18th 1933.

Early in 1937, he married Mary Eleanor Payne at Caversham. Their son was born in 1941.

From May 29th 1937 until October 1938 he served on HMS Hardy.

From March 21st 1939 until April 1940, he served on HMS Bramble, a minesweeper, having been promoted to Lt. Commander.

Early in 1941, he was given command of HMS Salamander, a minesweeper, at Grimsby and, later, at Oban.

On January 22nd 1941, he was given command of HMS Algerine, another minesweeper.

Around 0345hours on 15 November 1942, HMS Algerine was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Ascianghi and sank off Bougie, Algeria.

The minesweeper was taking part in Operation Torch and had been tasked with clearing Bougie Roads from Axis mines, a mission which was accomplished successfully with the destruction of 46 mines.

The Ascianghi (Lt. Rino Ereler) had sailed from Trapani on the 9th for the Bougie area.  At 0339 hours the boat, which had moved to an area closer inshore, spotted a formation of 3 warships, initially identified as a cruiser escorted by 2 destroyers, and closed to attack. The submarine fired 2 torpedoes aimed at the second vessel in the line and missed, then turned and at 0346 hrs fired a second 2-torpedo salvo, this time against the tail unit. Lt Ereler believed both torpedoes had hit, forward of the bridge and between bridge and stack. The submarine disengaged without suffering any reaction and reached Naples, safely, on the 18th. Thirty two survivors were rescued by HMS Cadmus and taken to Bougie. Of these survivors, twenty four died, later, due to internal wounds caused by the detonation of the minesweeper’s own depth charges, which detonated at their preset depth. The remaining 8 survivors were on a carley raft and, thus, were not wounded when the depth charges exploded

Wilfrid was Mentioned in Despatches.

He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial Panel 61, Column 3.

At the time of his death, his wife was living at “Froxfield, St.Peter’s Hill, Caversham & his parents at Northcourt Avenue, Reading.

Wilfrid was a chorister in Christ Church Cathedral 1916-1919.