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Cecil Bernard Cooper

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Lifetime: 1889-1918

Reference: WO339/12308

Second Lieutenant Cecil Bernard Cooper was born towards the end of 1889. He was the son of Thomas Charles Cooper and Florence Louisa Cooper (nee Knowles). He was the younger brother of Captain Gerald Charles Mead Cooper. The family moved from Peckham (their home at the time of the 1891 Census) to Kingston by 1901.

According to his service record (WO339/12308) at the National Archives 2nd Lt Cecil Bernard Cooper served in the Royal Field Artillery from 1915 until 1918. However, he may have originally have tried to join as a cavalry officer. The London Gazette dated 31 October 1914 reported a temporary appointment as a Cavalry 2nd Lieutenant. Shortly afterwards, the same publication on 10 November 1914 reported the cancellation of such appointment.

His Medal Record suggests that Cecil Bernard Cooper originally went to France at the outbreak of war on 15 September 1914 as a Voluntary Driver (BRX 4211) for Hector Munro’s Ambulance Corps. This was an all-volunteer unit founded in summer 1914 by Dr Hector Munro (a rather colourful character: a noted socialist; vegetarian and nudist who ran a clinic in London). It used a convoy of motor ambulances donated by the British Red Cross to transport wounded men from the front line between Nieuport and Dixmunde to the hospitals at Furnes. Famous members of the Corps included Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker who attracted considerable press interest when they established a forward dressing station in the ruins of a house at Pervyse near the frontline at Ypres.

Gerald Charles Mead Cooper

Rank: Captain

Lifetime: 1888-1918

Cooper

The grave of Captain Gerald Charles Mead Cooper in East Sheen & Richmond Cemeteries

Captain Gerald Charles Mead Cooper of the Royal Engineers was born in Camberwell on 27 July 1888. He was baptised on 22 October 1888 at St Georges, Camberwell. His parents were Thomas C Cooper and Florence L Cooper who were aged 31 and 28 at the time of the 1891 Census when Thomas described his occupation as “commercial traveller”.

By 1901 the family had moved to Kingston. Gerald, now 12, had two younger brothers: Cecil (11) and Vivian (6). Both parents were employed in their own millinery business but they could afford to employ a servant. The family were still living in Kingston by the time of the 1911 Census: at Camborne, Richmond Road with the same servant still in service. Their father, a “hat material merchant”, employed all his sons in his business. On the day of the actual Census return, the younger son was absent, his entry being crossed through.

By the time of his enlistment in the army, however, Gerald was apparently a resident of Hampton Wick. On 23 November 1915 the London Gazette reported his appointment as a 2nd Lieutenant (on probation) to the Royal Engineers (Anglesey).

As an entry in the Return of Marriages Contracted in France between British Officers and Foreign Women reveals, whilst he was on service in France, Gerald married a seventeen year old French girl, Marie Antoinette Fejard, twelve years his junior. A record of the marriage, duly certified by the Acting Mayor of Amiens on 18 January 1918 and legally signed on 26 August 1918, gives tantalising details of the marriage ceremony which occurred at 11 o’clock on 17 November 1917 at the local maison commune at Amiens.

In the marriage record, Gerald is described as a British Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, ordinarily a “manufacturer” resident in London. Before the wedding the groom had certified that he was of British nationality, unmarried and didn’t need parental consent to marry. The bride however was a minor. She had been born on 5 March 1900 at Digoin in the district of Macon (Saone & Loire). Ordinarily, she resided with her parents at Persan (Seine & Oise). Her father was Jean R Fejard, a factory worker, and her mother, Pauline Rety. Her parents gave their consent for the marriage. Presumably because of the war she had moved to 30 Boulevard Pasteur in Amiens where the couple must have met.

The witnesses included one of Gerald’s fellow officers, Lieutenant William Hodgsen (Royal Engineers) (28) from Liverpool and three Frenchmen: Jean Pellisson (23) usually a dealer in Cognac in Bordeaux but, for the duration, adjutant at the Temporary Hospital No 5 at Amiens; Edmund Elue (49) a merchant ordinarily resident in Amiens and Maurice Hecart (31) another Amiens merchant but serving as a soldier. It’s very difficult to infer much from the witnesses’ identities, but , perhaps, Gerald met Marie at Jean Pellisson’s hospital?

Gerald disappeared from the record until his death was registered at Uckfield in Sussex in December 1918 and he was buried at East Sheen & Richmond Cemeteries. The record gives no hint of the cause of death. The grant of probate dated 31st January 1920 gives some further tantalising details. Acting Captain Gerald Charles Mead Cooper (RE) of Kingswood, (now 9) Glamorgan Road, Hampton Wick died on 21 November 1918 at Ferndale, Croham Rd, Crowborough. He left his estate worth £144 16s 6d to his widow, Marie Antoinette Cooper. The grieving widow can’t have been too devastated by her loss. Shortly after the probate was finalised, she married her second husband, Alfred Harry Case, on 20 March 1920 at St Mary’s, Fulham She had advanced socially and described her father’s occupation on her marriage certificate as “gentleman” an odd description for a factory worker! Her second marriage appears to have been successful lasting until the death of her husband in 1976. Marie Antoinette finally died in Hammersmith in 1991.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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