Remembering the Royal Navy nurse who made Tesco possible

Duncan Hoy
Duncan Hoy
Managing Director, Large Format Stores

Everyone at Tesco knows the story behind how the business began – and as a former soldier it’s particularly close to my heart.


After serving in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, Jack Cohen, like many of those returning after doing their duty, was faced with the decision of what to do next.

Taking his £30 demob money, he bought some groceries, hired a wheelbarrow and headed for a local market. Tesco was born.

What is less well known is that almost one hundred years ago, on New Year’s Eve 1917 Jack was on board Royal Navy ship SS Osmanieh, when she struck a mine and sank near Alexandria in Egypt. It was only the actions of a heroic Navy nurse that saved him from drowning and it’s important that Tesco, like many others, remember brave acts like these in the run up to Remembrance Sunday. Put simply, if the nurse hadn’t saved Jack Cohen that day, none of us would be working at Tesco today.

Supporting the poppy appeal

Growing up, I used to associate the Poppy Appeal with those who served in the First and Second World Wars. Unfortunately now it is also about my own generation, and about remembering some of the friends and colleagues I served with during my 6 years in the Army who didn't return from operational tours.

My experience and Jack Cohen’s story make me even prouder of the work that Tesco does to support the armed forces. We are again proudly supporting the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal this year with poppies and collection points in all of our stores, distribution centres and offices across the UK. Tesco was the first supermarket to sign the government’s Armed Forces Covenant and as a result set up our Armed Forces Network, which brings colleagues like me with military connections closer together. In addition, we continue to support organisations such as Help for Heroes and X-Forces who help ex-servicemen and women adapt to life after the military.

As we remember our brave servicemen and women in the lead up to Remembrance Day it’s right that we do continue to offer help and support where we can, and we’ll keep building on those efforts in the coming years.


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