Cooke, John (1763-1805) (DNB00)

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COOKE, JOHN (1763–1805), captain in the royal navy, entered the navy at the age of thirteen, on board the Eagle, carrying Lord Howe's flag on the North American station, and, having remained in her through her whole commission, was promoted to be lieutenant on 21 Jan. 1779. He was then appointed to the Superb, with Sir Edward Hughes, in the East Indies; and having been obliged to invalid from that station was appointed to the Duke with Captain (afterwards Lord) Gardner, who went out to the West Indies and took a distinguished part in the glorious action off Dominica on 12 April 1782. After the peace Gardner was for some time commodore at Jamaica, Cooke remaining with him as first lieutenant of the Europa. In 1790 he served for some time as a lieutenant of the London, bearing the flag of Vice-admiral Sir Alexander Hood, and in February 1793 was appointed first lieutenant of the Royal George, bearing Sir Alexander's flag. After the battle of 1 June 1794 he was promoted to be commander, and a few days later, 23 June, to be captain. He then served for a year in Newfoundland as flag captain to Sir James Wallace, in the Monarch, and on his return home was appointed, in the spring of 1796, to command the Nymphe, which, in company with the San Fiorenzo, on 9 March 1797, captured the two French frigates Resistance and Constance. These were at the time on their way back to France after landing the band of convicts in Fishguard Bay; in memory of which, the Resistance, a remarkably fine vessel, mounting forty-eight guns, on being brought into the English navy, received the name of Fisgard (James, Nav. Hist., 1860, ii. 91). When the mutiny broke out in April and May, the Nymphe was at Spithead, and her crew joined the mutineers. On Cooke's attempting to give some assistance to Rear-admiral John Colpoys [q. v.], he was ordered by the mutineers to go on shore; nor was it thought expedient for him to rejoin the ship. Two years later he was appointed to the Amethyst, which he commanded in the Channel till the peace. In October 1804 he was invited by Sir William Young, the commander-in-chief at Plymouth, to come as his flag captain; but a few months later, having applied for active service, he was appointed to the Bellerophon, in which he joined the fleet off Cadiz in the beginning of October 1805. To be in a general engagement with Lord Nelson would, he used to say, crown all his military ambition. In the battle of Trafalgar the Bellerophon was the fifth ship of the lee line, and was thus early in action; in the thick of the fight Cooke received two musket-balls in the breast; he fell, and died within a few minutes, saying with his last breath, ‘Tell Lieutenant Cumby never to strike.’ A monumental tablet to his memory was placed by his widow in the parish church of Donhead in Wiltshire. His portrait, presented by the widow of his brother, Mr. Christopher Cooke, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[Naval Chronicle, xvii. 354.]

J. K. L.