Major Sir Ernest George Stenson Cooke

Ernest George Stenson Cooke was born in London on 5 October 1874. He was known simply as Stenson Cooke.

He became  a Second Lieutenant of the Volunteer 1st London (City of London Rifle -Volunteer Brigade) on 9 December 1893  moving through the Ranks, promoted to Captain in 1902 but he retired in 1903.

Away from work  was a keen fencer , competing in many competitions and holding demonstrations  often as below in his Regimental uniform. He obviously excelled as he represented  Great Britain in foil and epee in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and became national champion in 1928.

In 1899 he married Sarah May Brooke

In 1905 he accepted of a new job in running and association for motorists and took the Automobile Association from just 90 members to being a business of national importance. By 1914 the membership had reached 100,000 motorists and numerous AA scouts were employed , initially to warn members of Police Speed Traps but later to help with engineering problems.

Cooke kept his military interest and in  the new AA patrols wore a military style khaki uniform and were often recruited from retired armed forces personnel. In 1909 he again was  closely involved with the military in an exercise involving transfer of troops via the new motor lorries.

On 21st September  1914 he joined the 8th Battalion Essex Regiment in his old rank of Captain and immediately brought his enthusiasm with him.

One of his first moves was to ' encourage' 107 of his AA scouts to enlist in the 8th Essex Regiment and swap their motorcycles for bicycles. With the duties of the Regiment around coastal defence the AA men's experience would help in their duty of noticing and identifying enemy aircraft and independent duties.

AA patrol men report for duty with 8th Essex

The novel recruitment made the national press and no doubt helped recruitment generally.

In 1915 he recruited more men to form the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Essex.

His knowledge of running a large company soon caused the transfer in July 1916 of Major Cooke to HQ Staff in the War Office  and then to the Ministry of National Service where he took on the important role as Controller of Supplies. After the war it became clear that he was offered the promotion and move in 1915 but turned it down so that he could stay with his AA men and ensure that they were trained to the full.

Despite a full time role in the War Office Stenson Cooke continued to be active within the AA and was regularly reported in the press expressing views on behalf of motorists and especially AA members.

Perhaps surprisingly he received the British War Medal but no other official recognition for his work in the war.

Once the war finished he returned to the AA

On 23 February 1933 he was knighted for services to motoring.

Major Cooke died at his home in Guildford on 19 November 1942 and is buried in Hampstead Cemetery.