S. G. Cook.

20/3/14 – Huntingdonshire -- The new Hunts Battalion.  

Since the formation of the Territorial Force as an effective branch of the British Army serving under his Majesty George of V., and the merging of the Hunts. Volunteer Battalion into the Regiment of a neighbouring county, the inhabitants of Huntingdonshire have felt justifiably aggrieved at thus practically loosing their identity as a unit of force reared and fostered within its own borders. Now happily, at last, a sense of injustice has been removed, and the county has once again an opportunity of testifying to its usefulness and loyalty by the formation of a Battalion of a wheelmen, who undoubtedly will act up to the noble and historic traditions which have made the county a notable figure in the history of our native of land.

As the meetings of the Hunts. Territorial Association are not open to the public, nor do I remember ever seeing a representative of the Press present, which I am sure is to be regretted, I have been requested to review the events which have led to the consummation of such a desirable issue.

The idea of forming a Cyclist Battalion for the county was brought before the Association in March of last year, primarily the effect of a casual conversation between Major de Winton, Brigadier General, Eastern Command, and Captain Cook, which led to another informal conversation between the Brigadier General, Colonel Linton, and Lieutenant Colonel Butler, the subject matter of which was reported to the meeting. After some discussion it was decided to call a special meeting of the Association to consider the advantage and advisability of raising a Cyclist Battalion, the members deemed it of vital importance to the county that no unavoidable delay should impede the progress of the suggestion, but that every facility ought to be afforded to bring the matter to a practical an early conclusion.

Consequently a few weeks later this meeting was held, when Major Herbert and Captain Cook were instructed to draft and forward a letter to the War Office asking for authority to raise a Cyclist Battalion in Hunts.

 The reply to this communication was received towards the middle of May, in which the Army Council expresses their thanks for the offer, but regretted that they were at present unable to avail themselves of the proposal, but would bear it in mind in the event of a further cyclist battalions being required.

 This reply was considered at the meeting held in July. It did not, however, daunt the Association. Various representations were made to Colonel De Winton, who sent a letter to the secretary of the Association, in which he spoke very favourably of the proposal, suggesting that the matter should be kept the front and a second communication be sent to the War Office a little later.

 In the meantime the Bedfordshire Association were invited to take over the responsibility of raising two more infantry companies in order to leave Hunts.  a free field to ensure the complete success of their new unit, should it be sanctioned.

 The Hunts Association desire to record their grateful thanks to Mr. John Cator, MP, or for South Hunts., who was good enough to have several interviews with Colonel Seely, Secretary of State for War, in consequence of which we were requested to furnish the War Office with more particulars. Accordingly, at the meeting held early in September, it was decided to send further information by submitting certain correspondence to the War Office, including a copy of the letter which had been received in July from Colonel De Winton, and also to ask that the War Office would receive a deputation from the Hunts.  Association upon the subject of the proposed Cyclist Battalion.

 In consequence of these various negotiations, which were so energetically conducted, as well as by the unfailing persistence of Major Herbert and Captain Cook, admirably supported by the Association, another communication was received from the War Office, intimating that they were now willing to accept the offer of the county, providing the Beds. Association would undertake to raise the two infantry companies now raised in the county of Huntingdonshire .

 The difficulties now seemed all but swept away and the meeting in November appointed to prospective officers a committee to draw up a scheme for the raising of the cyclist battalion.

 The Beds. Association, at the same time, received a similar letter, and about a fortnight later they wired a request that the final decision on the requirement that they should undertake the raising of the two companies postponed for eight months.  

This was considered most undesirable and might have or rendered our efforts of no avail, so a resolution was passed expressing strong disapproval of this delay seeming that officers and men throughout the county were waiting for enlistment, but in order to meet the wishes of the Beds. Association, the Hunts. Association were prepared to continue to support the two infantry companies pending a decision as well as to raise the cyclist battalion, and would undertake to accept no transfers from the men of the present companies, excepting time expired-men, until after the next annual training. Copies of this important decision were sent the War Office, Col. De Winton, Lieutenant Colonel Butler and the Secretary of the Beds.  Association.

 This action bore fruit in the shape of a letter from the War Office arranging a conference on the subject, the Beds.  Association being represented by Lord Ampthill and the Hunt. Association by Captain Cook, when a long discussion took place with Major General Bethune, Director General of the Territorial Force. It eventually transpired that on the very morning the Hunts.  Association met in January of this year a letter arrived containing provisional authority for raising of the new Battalion, the names suggested being the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, with a request that a report should be forwarded as soon as possible, with the number of recruits likely to enlist and a nominal role of officers of for the new unit, whereupon the secretary was instructed to inform the War Office that we were quite certain that the requisite number could be raised, and also that twelve the gentleman had already intimated their desire to be appointed officers.

The Hunts. Association also desire to acknowledge their appreciation of the generous spirit of the Beds.  Association, evidenced by their letter in December, saying that our proposal was entirely agreeable to them and expressing their cordial thanks for members their wishes in so handsome a manner. Shortly afterwards the announcement that the new unit of the Hunts.  Cyclist Battalion had been sanctioned appeared in the Gazette. The companies were to be distributed as follows-

 Huntingdon and Godmanchester 2 companies, St. Ives and Somersham 1 company, St. Neots and Kimbolton 1 company, Ramsey and Warboys 1 company, Fletton and Yaxley 3 companies.

 The following names were submitted to the War Office for approval:- Honorary Colonel Right Hon. the Earl of Sandwich; Senior Officer in command, Major E. R. Herbert, Second Officer in Command, Captain Cook.

 The County will, I trust consider this result highly satisfactory, that within twelve months, through the steady perseverance and the unremitting attention of the Territorial Force Association, coupled with the indefatigable labour and untiring zeal of Major Herbert and Captain Cook, the county of Huntingdonshire has now it own Territorial unit, under its own name, and bearing its own responsibility.

May I, in conclusion, express the earnest hope that, as these efforts have been made so willing would to the end generously the young men of the County will be as enthusiastic in support of their new battalion. Only so can they adequately reward these endeavours by rallying round the officers in good numbers, thus providing once again that the little county will not shirk its responsibilities, but will provide an effective branch of his most His Majesty's Forces and will be worthy of the confidence the Army Council and the Empire have placed in them. Finally, may the County "Wiresides" become as effective in days to come as were Cromwell's "Ironsides" in days gone by, though we trust the time may be long distance ere the stern of necessity arises.

 Article by T. Coxon.


Major S. G. Cook - He was the president of the " Hunts. Cyclists' old Comrades Association " formed in 1932 and meetings held at the Territorial Hut Fletton.

From Peterborough Standard 17/10/1914 under a heading "The Hunts. Cyclist Battalion." orders for Sunday (< 17/10/1914)  gave the following change of company responsibility for the officers, it was also stated that these changes were by no means permanent.  Major Cook will leave the command of F Company and remain in command of the Withernsea detachment.

7/8/14 - Good - Bye - Territorials leave Huntingdon.  Since the beginning of the week the headquarters of the Hunts Cyclist Territorials at Huntingdon has been seen of the greatest activity, and many recruits were accepted. The whole of the two Huntingdon companies were paraded on Tuesday evening, and again on Wednesday previous to the church parade. Further equipment, including trenching tools - a sort of combination of small pick and spade - was issued, and the whole of the men and their equipment were carefully inspected. Early this (Thursday) morning they were paraded and Marched to the Huntingdon Great North Region Station, ready for conveyance to their appointed station. Soon after 8.00 the railway station was surrounded by a large crowd. The Earl of Sandwich, in uniform, arrived by motor, and Mrs. Howard Coote and party were present in their car and Mrs. Barkley had also driven to the station. At 8:30 the train arrived, partly filled by the St. Neots contingent, under Lt. K. Hunnybun. The engine drew out and coupled on to the luggage vans standing in the dock and these were backed onto the front of the train. Meanwhile the two Huntingdon companies had arrived singing loudly and had been welcomed by cheering from the crowd. Safely in the trying the greater part of the "terriers" removed their coats, while at least two heads were hanging out of each open window and other faces were pressed against the glass. The shunting of the luggage was not yet complete and the interval was spent in the singing of "are we downhearted?" And popular songs learnt at Skegness during the recent camp and the shouting of "good - byes" to relatives and friends, who were either lining the railings of the up platform, or standing on the down platform at the carriage doors. At 8:40, when the train began to move, handkerchiefs were waved from the windows and both soldiers and crowd re doubled their cheers, which were continued until last of the train had passed under the bridge. The officers in charge were Captains M. Barkley, and A. R. Lowe, and Lieuts. J. M. S. Gardner, while Captain Cook joined the battalion later.

Major S. G. Cook, 2/1st Hunts. Cyclists Battalion is seconded for service with a provisional Battalion, 13th May 1916 (" London Gazette," May 12th 1916)

From an entry in the Kelly directory of Huntingdon dated May 1915 Cook - S. G.,  Maj. Hunts. Cyclist Bn. held the position of Military Member with the Huntingdon Territorial Force Association.


From the Obituary of Col. S. G. Cook - As A Soldier - Col Cook’s military career affords a fine example of patriotic volunteer service.

He joined the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, of which St Peter College Students formed one of two local companies. Colloquially they were known as the Greycoats, because of their uniform, they were then commanded by Col. the Earl of Euston.

Mr Cook was commissioned as Second-Lieut in 1898 and was then one of the few local officers who received his Commission from Queen Victoria. He continued his service after leaving the college and as Capt. Cook succeeded the late Major R Payling in command of the Peterborough Company up to 1908.

The Volunteers were then superseded by the Territorials, and Capt. Cook was then associated with Col. J. T. Woolrych Perowne, Major T. H. Walker and Capt. F. E. C. Stanley on the formation of the new Peterborough Battery of the R. F. A. which was afterwards commanded by Col. the Earl of Exeter.

In 1912 on the invitation of Co. Chas Linton he transferred to the Hunts Territorial Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.                           

Last War - Just before the last war-in March 1914- on his suggestion and hard work as a member of the Hunts Territorial Association, the Hunts Cyclists Battalion was formed thus giving the county its own Territorial unit. The young battalion had its first camp at Skegness, where it was commanded by Lt-Col. E. R. Herbert with Capt. Cook second in command, in July 1914. Just over a week later the war storm of that year burst and the battalion was mobilised for active service. It was the first unit to leave Peterborough taking over a section of coast defence duty in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

 Major Cook was in command of F (Fletton) Co. with Lieut. (now Col.)  A. H. Mellows as his subaltern. He served in turn with both the 1st and 2nd Battalions but in 1916 transferred to the Royal Welch Fusiliers thence passed to the Manchester Regiment. He was selected to attend a senior’s officer’s course at Aldershot with a view to commanding a battalion at the front, but instead was appointed to a post on G. H. Q. Staff, remaining on the educational side of Army training.

 Col. Cook’s services were recognised by conferring on him the honours of Deputy Lieut ( in1936), and the Order of the British Empire (Military Division). He also received the territorial decoration, the general service and victory medals of the last war and the territorial overseas medal.

A few years later he was largely instrumental in forming the Hunts Cyclist Old Comrades Association and was its generous and enthusiastic president.

Present War - In the present war he acted as troops welfare officer for Hunts and has given much attention to those duties.

Early in 1942 when the Army Cadet Force was in the making he was appointed by the War Office and Education Department to take the preliminary steps locally and he formed the Hunts and Soke of Peterborough Battalion, establishing seven companies in Peterborough (including Fletton) and another for the towns in the rest of Huntingdon.

Of this unit he was appointed County Commandant with the rank of Colonel. He took the keenest interest in it and especially the camps, the first of which was at Alwalton last year, and the second of which has just been concluded at Washingley. Though he did much to arrange this camp, he could take no active part in it, a matter of great regret to him during his last illness.

 Col S. G. Cook died at his home Garden House Cathedral Precincts Peterborough on the 16 August 1943.

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If you can help with any data on this Huntingdonshire Cyclist please contact me at huntscycles@btinternet.com

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. .. Martyn Smith