Captain Norman Richard Cook D.S.C.

R.N.A.S. 1914 – 1918 War.
My grandfather was known affectionately as “Cookie”

Cookie joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), where his initial flying was done at the Graham White Flying School at Hendon Aerodrome in the United Kingdom. The aeroplane he learnt to fly in was a Henri Farman School Machine, 1911 Model – 50 HP Gnome Rotary Engine; top speed was 40 mph. The Henri Farman was known by pilots as “the Box Kite.” Cookie’s first solo flight was on the 22nd of January 1915.

On the 15th of June 1916 Cookie was appointed Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the RNAS.

Captain Norman Richard Cook Tickie

On the 13th of March 1917, Cookie was transferred to No. 4 Wing, under Huskisson who was in Command of Naval Squadron 4, operating in Furnes, France. The operation there was to attack enemy aircraft threatening the Dunkirk area, strafing kite balloons, watching train movements in the Ostend district, escorting French photographic machines and protecting their artillery machines. During this period they were taking delivery of Sopwith Triplanes (130 HP Clerget engines.) The French Division they were in contact with were 29th Division (General Rouquerol) at Coxyde and Escadrilles. There, they remained, until March 27th, when they were relieved by Breese’s Squadron, (No 10), and left to join the 1st Brigade and 10th Wing, RFC, on the Army Front.

The awarding of a D.S.C. to Norman Richard Cook was announced in the London Gazette on July 20th 1917

R.N.A.S. Records
61, Flight Sub-Lieutenant (Now Flight Lieutenant) Norman Richard COOK, 32, DSC, L.G. 20 July 1917, p 7424/5, For his services in an air raid on Zeebrugge Mole and hostile shipping, on 27 May 1917.

During the night of 27 May 1917, flying a DH 4, Cookie was part of a raiding party bombing Zeebrugge Mole and hostile shipping. The excerpt from his flying logbook of the account reads “Machine type and number DH 4, 5962, Passenger A. M. Darby, Time in Air 1.50. Raid on hostile shipping, dropped four bombs on Zeebrugge Mole, 6 on hostile TBD off Ostende and 6 on hostile submarine 200 yards from TBD. Intense and accurate AA fire from the Mole, machine being hit in the wing, several very near ones. 16 bombs carried (16 pound RL) dropped from 10,000 on Mole, 8,000 on TBD and 4,000 on Submarine” (written in pencil is the record UB-20).

1917: In the reference library, Campbell Museum, Durban they have an interesting large group photograph on microfilm of “Cookie” with a group of personnel at Cranwell, (it mentions 1917.) The photograph had been shown to the Mercury newspaper, (March 1946) by Capt. Cook and next to the photo there is text supplied by him saying that he had received his certificate No.25 issued at Cranwell. He had gone to France for 14 months and after that served with the Dover Patrol, winning his DSC and then being posted to Cranwell as an instructor. He recollected that the future King had been interesting to work with, but had a marked stammer.

July, 1918: His first deck flight in a Sopwith 1 Strutter was from HMS Furious, anchored at the Firth of Forth. This was one of three original aircraft carriers.

Captain Norman Richard Cook Strutter

Cookie spent 1925 in Pretoria, South Afrca, and the following year in Palestine.

In February 1929 Norman Richard Cook, DSC, was appointed as an Officer in the Union Defence Forces as Second Lieutenant, Reserve Officers.

Union Airways, SWA, was started by Major Alister Miller in August 1929. During this period Cookie was quite involved with the activities operating from the Wynberg Flying Club.

At the end of 1931 Cookie piloted the maiden flight of the de Havilland Gypsy Moth (ZS-ABW) to Wingsfield Airport, Cape Town. His passenger was, the then, Mayor of Cape Town; Reverend A.J.S. Lewis and they were the first people to officially land on the new airstrip at the airport.

On September 1st 1931 Cookie returned to the Union, and joined South West African Airways, Sudwes Lugdiens, where he was a pilot on the Windhoek/ Kimberly leg. He made the first ever night landing in South Africa at Kimberly Airport. This was on a fully equipped aerodrome with fixed lighting. There was a howling gale and the aerial lighthouse guided him in as a beacon. Once landed, it took six men to hold the plane on the ground. It was at the end of a long commercial flight, which I believe, was from Windhoek. The aircraft, I presume, was a Junkers.

South West African Airways

In 1933 in Nyasaland, Cookie performed an aerial survey of a new flight route from England to Cape Town. Creating flying boat stations and crew/passenger accommodation for overnight stops along the Rift Valley.

On February 1st 1934 the South African Government took over Union Airways. Norman Cook was transferred from Nyasaland and appointed Airport Supervisor at Windhoek.  Then on February 1st 1935, exactly a year later, South African Airways took over the running of South West African Airways.  At this time, Cookie resided at The Central Club, Windhoek, S.W.A.Z.

In 1936 Cookie was promoted again, this time to Durban as Assistant Port Captain (Flying), taking charge of Seaplane Services, Durban Empire Flying Boat Operations. Durban Airport, at this time, was South Africa’s only International Airport.

In 1937 Imperial Airlines arranged for Cookie to go to Alexandria, Egypt, to study their methods of handling seaplane services, before taking full control of seaplane services in Durban Bay, which apparently started in May of this year.

May 22nd 1937, the first Empire Flying Boat landed in Durban. It was a Cambria from Imperial Airways on the initial survey flight of the Empire Flying Boat Route from England.

June 6th 1937 Cookie was part of the history of the First Flying Service from Durban, South Africa to South Hampton, UK.

July 1st 1937 saw the First “ALL UP” AirMail service from Durban to South Hampton, UK. The pilot of “R.M.A.COURTIER-G-ADVC” was Captain E.S.J. Alcock.

Late 1937 BOAC took over Union Airways and moved its terminal to the Vaal Dam, Transvaal. 

1946 Cookie watched the launching of the Flying Boat tug, the Harry Cheadle built locally by Gilbert and Hamer. The Harry Cheadle was launched off Durban Docks by a special British Navy crane organised specially for the occasion.

Between May 1948 and May 1950 Cookie was promoted and transferred to Marine Airport, Vaal Dam, where he took position as Station Supervisor until his retirement in November 1950 to his poultry and floral farm, Rogues Roost, Heidleberg in the Transvaal.

In August 1969 my father, Captain Richard Millar Cook, took a light aircraft out over the sea at Durban Harbour, and scattered my grandfather’s, Captain Norman Richard Cook, ashes, (as per his request of a sea burial.) My father then presented a Junkers propeller from the aircraft that my grandfather had flown as a pilot with South-West African Airways on the Windhoek/Kimberly route on its maiden night flight, to Mr Peter Osborne, the Principal of the newly-formed Durban Aviation College. A plaque was to be mounted on the propeller in remembrance of Captain Norman Richard Cook DSC.

Cookie always tried to discourage his son (my father) from a flying career but if you have the bug……

Norman Cookie Cook Station Supervisor
Captain Richard Millar Cook

Captain Richard Millar Cook, QM


Captain Richard Millar Cook’s first salaried aviation job was at the break up of the federation when he joined Air Malawi as their first pilot in their brand new Beech 55.

He went on to fly all their aircraft (DHC 2 Beaver, DC 3 Dakota, Vickers Viscount, BAC 111, 748, Britten Norman Islander, Shorts Skyvan and the Vickers VC 10 (his absolute love)  as they grew. He flew with them until semi-retirement and a move to East London and Border Air. Sadly, lung cancer terminated his flying and not long after diagnosis, he died.  All the more poignant for a man who never picked up a cigarette.

Eric Cook, Aeronautical Engineer

I have the unfortunate affliction of terrible air sickness so went the route of fixing aeroplanes rather than flying them! I studied Aeronautical Engineering in Scotland and also obtained my British CAA LAE licence. I have had a 40 year career ranging from crop spraying to corporate and commuter aircraft and just about everything in between. My passion though is the more vintage aircraft and my current DHC 2 Chipmunk restoration project is well on it’s way. 

When Jim Davis first started 43 Air School I was contracting in Botswana, had some leave due and money burning a hole in my pocket. The ‘special opening’ price of a PPL lured me there for 4 weeks. During airframe and engine lectures, Jim had me snag shooting his aircraft as he didn’t think I needed to attend. There was very little infrastructure, with only the main building/tower/lecture halls and pub, no hangars were yet built and our haunted dorm wing, where I encountered a ghostly experience (but that’s another story). There was still a lot of The Empire Training School remains. Very, very different to what Port Alfred looks like today. 

Training was by dedicated instructors (mine, ex SAAF with a few thousand hours) not the 250 hour builders of today.

Eric Cook, Accountable Manager, Master Tech Aircraft Maintenance, Robertson, Western Cape

It was a proud moment when I went to my father with my brand new PPL licence. He congratulated me and ended it with saying I could now ‘start to learn to fly’. Deflated, I never forgot and found that those words were so true. I still get very air sick unless I’m flying the machine myself but there still is no better place to be!

Got to get the Chippie in the air – soon!