Ewing Cooke famed as cattle breeder but mystery as a soldier

EWING Edgar Cooke, one of the best known Guernsey dairy cattle breeders in Australia, was born in 1892 and lived most of his life at Bexhill.

His name is listed in the Bexhill book as a First World War soldier but no amount of searching in the usual files will give you his army record!

However, there are two clues to the mystery, one in the Discover Anzacs file where there is a short note concerning a Pte E.E. Cooke, and another in his Obituary when he died in 1972. He enlisted in a British Regiment!


Ewing's parents, Samuel and Isabella Cooke (nee King) brought their family to the Northern Rivers from the South Coast and settled at Bexhill in the late 1880s.

There was a large family and they all helped on the dairy farm. Ewing was especially interested in Guernsey cattle and perhaps this was one reason he decided to join a British Unit as it enabled him to visit Guernsey Island where the breed originated.

The Regiment he chose was King Edward's Horse. This was a Regiment made up of men from the various British Colonies and Dominions, including Australia.

It was established in 1901 and named after King Edward VII who came to the throne in that year. It saw service in the Boer War and the First World War before being disbanded in 1924.

Many young men in our area joined the local Light Horse Regiment but there is no record of Ewing doing so.

It is not known when Ewing joined King Edward's Horse but it was possibly in 1914 or 1915. In 1908 it had become part of the British Yeomanry and in 1913 it was transferred into the Special Reserve.

When the First World War began the Regiment was mobilized but remained in London until 1915 when it was dispersed and members were sent to France to serve with various army units. In 1916 the men were reunited and later went to Italy, only to return to France in 1918.

On 12 April 1918 Ewing sustained a gunshot wound to his leg and elbow. He was admitted to 24th General Hospital, Etaples, France.

It is not known when he returned to Australia but in his Obituary it states that he visited Guernsey Island several times and returned home determined to start a Guernsey Stud. In 1921 he went to the first Guernsey Fair held in Lismore and purchased some stock.

In 1925 he went to the Sydney Show and decided he had better cattle at Bexhill than the ones on show there. From 1926 he began showing his own animals and started winning prizes. He soon found that his stock was in demand.

By the 1930s he had sold animals to breeders all over Australia, including to the Western Australian Government. In 1936 he sold a complete herd to the Camden Park Estate in Sydney.

He visited Guernsey Island many times throughout his lifetime and bought extensively there. Because of this the breed in Australia was kept replenished and strong.

He continued to exhibit at shows and eventually had many thousands of ribbons.

He also became a much sought-after judge and was a life member of the Lismore Show Society. In 1925 he had married Dorothy Frances Hunter in Lismore. There were no children. Ewing died in 1972 and Dorothy in 1976. They are both buried at Bexhill.