Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Crawley Volunteers

At the beginning of 1914 Ted Cook, head of the family business R. Cook & Sons was also a Sergeant in the territorials – ‘the Saturday Night Soldiers.’ Ted had been with the old volunteer movement since the early 1890s. Here is an excerpt from a report dated December 1906:

There was a large gathering in the railway hotel assembly hall, Crawley, on Wednesday evening on the occasion of the annual smoking concert and distribution of prizes to the Crawley men connected with the ‘C’ company of the 2nd Vol. Batt. Royal Sussex Regiment.

Captain. SWP Beale, in command of the company, occupied the chair, and he was supported by Major Oxley, a former commanding officer of the company.

Amongst the awards was the award for Best All-Round Man. – The challenge cup for the best all round man in the company, presented by the ladies of East Grinstead and District, was awarded to Sergt. Cook. Sergt. Cook also received the gold medal presented by Mr T. Baker (Crawley) to the best shot in the Crawley section.

The toast of the evening was given by Mr T.H. Martin who submitted “The Healths of the Officers, non commissioned officers and the men of the ‘C’ Company of the 2nd Vol. Batt. Royal Sussex Regiment. That was a great mouthful (laughter).”

In his speech Mr Martin said that he sincerely trusted that the volunteer movement in Crawley would get an impulse from the evening. He could remember 40 years ago when there was a very good company of volunteers, in Crawley, but it eventually dwindled down and became almost extinct. Then, about 16 years ago, Mr Henty and Major Oxley set the thing going again and attained a good deal of success, but after a time, it again dwindled; now, again, it was coming to the fore, and he thought he might say this was very much indeed due to the efforts of Sergt. Cook (applause).

After that gathering and the observations they would hear, he hoped the Crawley section would go merrily on, that new recruits would be obtained and that is would be even better than it was 40 years ago (applause).

“Now,” concluded the chairman, “the toast. Let it be a hearty one. Let there be hearty drinking and rousing cheers” (applause).

The toast having been enthusiastically honoured, Capt. Beale replied. Referring to the cup won by Sergt. Cook, he said that it was his (the speaker’s) duty to decide who was the best man in the Company. There were 88 men, all good, and the task of deciding upon one was enough to turn ones hair grey (laughter). The prize applied to the previous years work only, and the chief thing that had happened was the progress made by the Crawley section during that time, and this was due to Sergt. Cook (applause). The medal kindly given by Mr T. Baker of Crawley, also won by Sergt. Cook was a great encouragement, and he hoped someone would give a similar prize for competition among the East Grinstead men.

Major Oxley gave “The Visitors.” When he first knew Crawley, he said, he was told that nothing lasted here for more than two years (laughter), but that was 16 years ago and he could say that the volunteer movements was as strong today as it was then. He well remembered when the recruits attended to be sworn in one slim youth who first came forward was Sergt Cook (laughter); another who advanced with a shy face was Sergt. Thornton; and yet another, who just passed the standard for height, was Corpl. Quickenden (laughter). These had done yeoman service for 16 years and he hoped they and others would continue to render that service; also that more recruits would be obtained as a result of that gathering. The regiment was a good one and they were all proud of it (applause).

The evening ended with the National Anthem.

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