Cooke, Edward (1770?-1799) (DNB00)
COOKE, EDWARD (1772–1799), captain in the royal navy, born 14 April, 1772, was son of Colonel Cooke of Harefield, and brother of General Sir George Cooke, who commanded the first division and lost his right arm at Waterloo; also of Major-Gen. Sir Henry Frederick Cooke, private secretary to the Duke of York. His mother, Penelope, daughter of Sir William Bowyer and sister of Admiral Sir George Bowyer [q. v.], after Colonel Cooke's death married General Edward Smith, uncle of Admiral Sir W. Sidney Smith. Cooke was made lieutenant on 14 Sept. 1790, and in 1793 was appointed to the Victory, going out to the Mediterranean as Lord Hood's flagship. In August he was entrusted with the negotiations with the royalist inhabitants of Toulon, a service which he conducted with equal skill and boldness (James, Nav. Hist., 1860, i. 75), and which resulted in Lord Hood's obtaining possession of the town and arsenal. Cooke was then appointed lieutenant-governor of the town, Captain Elphinstone (afterwards Lord Keith) being governor. He continued in this post till the evacuation of Toulon in the end of December. His services were rewarded by promotion, and on 12 April 1794 he was advanced to the rank of post captain. In June he had charge of the landing for the siege of Calvi, and took an active part in the subsequent operations, his zeal drawing forth the warm encomiums of Nelson, under whose immediate orders he was serving (Nelson Despatches, i. 409, 410, 413, 416, 476). In the following year he was appointed to the Sibylle, a fine 40-gun 18-pounder frigate, recently captured from the French, and in her went out to the Cape of Good Hope, whence he was sent on to the East Indies. Towards the end of 1797 he was at Macao, and sailed on 5 Jan. 1798 in company with Captain Malcolm of the Fox, designing to reconnoitre the Spanish force in the Philippines and, if possible, to capture two richly laden ships reported as ready to sail from Manila. As they neared the islands it occurred to Cooke that they might pass themselves off as French. The Sibylle, a French-built ship, was easily disguised, and he himself spoke French fluently, an officer of the Fox spoke French and Spanish, and a little paint enabled both frigates to pass muster. On 14 Jan. they were off Manila. No suspicion was excited, the guardboats came alongside, the officers were taken down to the cabin and hospitably entertained, while in the foremost part of the ship the Spanish seamen were stripped, and English sailors dressed in their clothes were sent away in the guardboats to capture what they could. They thus took entirely by surprise and brought off three large gunboats. By the time the townsmen and the garrison realised that the two frigates were English, Cooke and Malcolm, in friendly talk with the Spanish officers, had learned all that there was to learn. They then sent them on shore as well as all the prisoners, to the number of two hundred, and, with the three gunboats in tow, stood out of the bay (James, ii. 237). The carrying off the gunboats under cover of a false flag was a transgression of the recognised rules of naval war, but they seem to have considered the thing almost in the light of a practical joke, and the Spaniards, who had been liberally entertained, bore no grudge against their captors.
In February 1799 the Sibylle was lying at Madras when Cooke learned that the French frigate Forte was in the Bay of Bengal, and on the 19th he put to sea in quest of her. On the evening of the 28th the Sibylle was off the Sand-heads; about nine o'clock she made out three ships, which she understood to be the Forte and two Indiamen just captured. The Forte supposed that the Sibylle was another country ship, and, as she came within hail, fired a gun and ordered her to strike. The Sibylle closed at once, and, with her main yard between the enemy's main and mizen masts, poured in a broadside and shower of musketry with deadly effect. The Forte was, in a measure, taken by surprise; the terrible broadside was the first intimation that she had to do with the largest English frigate on the station. For nearly an hour the two ships lay broadside to broadside at a distance seldom greater than pistol shot. About half-past one Cooke's shoulder and breast were shattered by grape shot, but the action was stoutly maintained by Mr. Lucius Hardyman, the first lieutenant. At half-past two the Forte, being entirely dismasted, and having lost a hundred and fifty men killed and wounded, struck her colours. She was at the time the largest and most heavily armed frigate afloat; was about one-third larger than the Sibylle, and carried 24-pounders on her main deck, as against the Sibylle's 18-pounders. And yet the Sibylle's loss was comparatively slight. The darkness of the night, which rendered still more marked the very superior discipline and training of the Sibylle's men, must be held to account for the extraordinary result of this, one of the most brilliant frigate actions on record. Lieutenant Hardyman was immediately promoted to be commander, and, in January 1800, to be captain of the Forte. But Cooke's terrible wounds proved mortal. After lingering for some months in extreme agony he died at Calcutta on 25 May. He was buried with the highest military honours, and monument erected to his memory by the directors of the East India Company.
[James's Naval History (1860), ii. 365; Naval Chronicle, ii. 261, 378, 643.]