|Corporal Charles Keith Jago ROOKE (64)|
A Company, 12th Infantry Battalion Australian Imperial Force (Tasmanian)
Date of birth: 15th February 1868
Date of death: 25th April 1915
Killed in action aged 47
Commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial
|Charles Keith Jago Rooke was born at Rampisham in Dorset on the 15th of February 1868 the sixth son of the Reverend Frederick John Rooke, Canon of Salisbury, and Ellen Trelawney (nee Jago) Rooke, of Rampisham. He was christened at Rampisham on the 13th of March 1868.
He was educated at Mr. Erasmus Wilkinson's School in Bristol and at Lancing College where he was in Heads House from September 1882 to July 1885. He was a member of the Football XI in 1884/5, playing at outside left. After he left school he became Secretary of the Lancing Old Boys football team
He became a solicitor in April 1891 where he became managing clerk and later a partner in the firm of Messrs Freeman and Son of 30A George Street Hanover Square in London.
He served for five years as a soldier with the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Rifle Corps (Militia).
At the turn on the twentieth century he moved to Ashtead in Surrey where he lived at "Sunnybanks" in Wood Lane. He commissioned a new house to be built, "The Oaks" in Ashtead Wood Road, and on the 23rd of May 1903 he moved in. While living there he was an honorary member of the local working men's club and played football for the Ashtead Amateur XI.
After 20 years service with Freemans he sailed for Tasmania in March 1914 where he lived at "Reeatta", Mangalore in Tasmania and worked as a solicitor.
Following the outbreak of war he enlisted at Brighton in Tasmania on the 20th of August 1914. On enlistment it was recorded that he was 46 years and six months old and was 5 feet 11 ½ inches tall with green eyes and grey hair. It was also noted that he had an appendix scar.
The men of the battalion were equipped and trained at Pontville.
He was promoted to Corporal on the 1st of September 1914 and was offered a commission but refused it, preferring to stay with his comrades.
He embarked with the battalion at Hobart on the 20th of October on the 7,851 ton HMAT “Geelong” bound for Egypt and after a brief stop at Albany in Western Australia they landed at Alexandria on the 9th of December. During January and February they trained around a rocky hill called the Tigers Tooth although they were near enough to Cairo for trips into the city.
On the 2nd of March 1915 he embarked at Alexandria on board the “Devanha” for Lem in preparation for the attack on Gallipoli.
A Company left Lem on the Destroyer HMS “Ribble” on April the 24th and by 4.30am the following morning they were 100 yards off the beach where they were loaded into six small boats for the dash into shore. The boats were initially towed by a steamer but with 50 yards to go the men rowed the rest of the way. By this time they were already coming under small arms fire. They landed at the extreme north of the Divisional front at a feature known as the “Sphinx” where they came under heavy machine gun fire.
Their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Lancelot Fox Clarke DSO, urged the men forward some 50 to 60 yards to the base of the cliff where they continued to be subjected to heavy machine gun fire. He then ordered a platoon to silence the troublesome enemy post. By now it was daylight and the men began to climb the hill, climbing hand over hand, using the scrub to pull themselves up. At the top of the hill they saw the Turks and began to advance in open skirmish order. They stopped at an abandoned Turkish trench by which time the Turks had withdrawn some 600 yards away to the feature known as “Baby 700”. Colonel Clarke stopped the company and, while giving a message to be passed back to headquarters, he was shot and killed by a sniper.
The party now consisted of 50 men under Lieutenants Patterson and Margetts. These officers sent out two scouts who reported back that the slopes of “Baby 700” were clear of the enemy.
As the Company was preparing to move forward once more, they were joined by a party under Captain Tulloch of the 11th Battalion who then took charge. Captain Tulloch moved forward and ordered the survivors of A Company to dig in around the "Nek".
After a short rest, they were joined by Major Robertson of the 9th Battalion after which they advanced over the top of "Baby 700". They passed many dead Turks and started to take heavy rifle fire from the northern slopes of the hill. Lieutenant Margetts found a disused communication trench on the slopes of "Battleship Hill", some 700 to 800 yards away, from which large numbers of Turkish troops could be seen moving towards them. He directed the company’s fire on the trench and stopped the attack but they were forced to retreat back to the slopes of "Baby 700".
They were then ordered, along with a company from the 1st Battalion and one from the 9th Battalion, to rush the forward slope of "Baby 700". The hill was retaken then lost again, with a New Zealand unit joining in the struggle.
Lieutenant Margetts eventually headed back down to the beach to get more ammunition meeting Lieutenant Patterson with 20 men on the way. Patterson then led his men in a desperate counter charge and he and his unit were lost pushing the Turks back.
By this time A Company had ceased to exist as a fighting unit with its men scattered among the other units fighting beside them.
Out of the 31 officers and 970 men of the 12th Battalion who started the day, 8 officers and 472 other ranks answered the roll call the following day.
Charles Rooke was reported missing on the 25th of April 1915 following the battalion’s landing at ANZAC in Gallipoli. He was declared as having been killed in action on the 25th of April 1915 by a board of enquiry and a court of enquiry was convened on the 5th of June 1916 to make enquiries as to his fate.
Witness statements were sought, the first of which was taken at Malta on the 1st of January 1916 from Bugler T Cairnduff of A Company 12th Battalion who wrote the following:-
“From Tasmania, 35 to 40, moustache, dark, 5 ft 8, well educated. During charge April 26 [sic] near Anzac he was with a party on the left flank, which got cut off. Witness understands none were ever seen or heard of again, though at the time the thought was they were afterwards captured.“
The board then sought a statement from Private 308 W.E. Stone who had been wounded and was discharged from the army on his recovery. Also from Private 132 N Harrington who had been returned to Australia in July 1915 due to his wounds.
When Neil Harrington was contacted he said he knew nothing of Rooke’s fate but that he heard that he had been killed in action but he couldn’t remember who by.
When Stone was contacted he gave a hand written statement:-
“At 7am on April 25th 1915 Captain Burt of the 12th Battalion called for volunteers to act as scouts. Corporal C. K. Rooke replied, that the whole of his platoon (No.3 I think) would volunteer if given a few minutes to regain its wind. Corporal Rooke and myself went forward together until we reached the first hill; there I rejoined my own platoon (No.1) under the command of Lieutenant Patterson.
The last I saw of Corporal Rooke was when I left him to rejoin my own platoon at about 7.30am on the 25th of April.”
I declare to the truth of the above statement. Signed Private Walter Edward Stone. Stone later went forward and was captured but managed to escape and make his way back to the Australian lines.
Another short statement was given to the Red Cross Society by Staff Sergeant Latta from his bed in hospital at Alexandria:-
“Was seen at 6pm first day doing jolly good work and would have got the DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] for a certainty.”
An unattributed report in his file states that he was killed in the vicinity of Walker’s Ridge and he was said to have been buried 50 yards from the trenches there with the grave being marked by a stone bearing his name. His grave was lost during the subsequent fighting.
He is commemorated on the war memorial at Ashtead in Surrey and on the Australian National Memorial.