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Cecil Bernard Cooper

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Lifetime: 1889-1917

Reference: WO339/12308

Second Lieutenant Cecil Bernard Cooper of “A” Battery, 38th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery was killed in Belgium on 9 August 1917.

According to the records of his old school, Tiffin Boys, he was born on 8 November 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.

Both he and his elder brother, Gerald Charles Mead Cooper attended Tiffins Boys School. He was a pupil from 11 November 1897 until ?July 1902. At the date he entered the school his parents’ address is given as Camborne, Richmond Park Road, Kingston, although the family subsequently moved to Twickenham Park. At the date of his death in 1917 the family apparently were living at Elmhurst, Twickenham Park so his parents must have moved to Hampton Wick after this date.

His Medal Record and his obituary in The Surrey Comet both state that Cecil Bernard Cooper originally went to France/Belgium 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.

His obituary states that whilst he was working with the Red Cross in Belgium he was offered a commission in the Cavalry which he refused. This is supported by an entry in the London Gazette dated 31 October 1914 which reported his temporary appointment as a Cavalry 2nd Lieutenant. Shortly afterwards, on 10 November 1914, the same publication reported the cancellation of such appointment.

According to his obituary, Cecil Cooper returned to England in the Spring of 1915 and obtained a commission with the Royal Field Artillery. This report accords with his service record (WO339/12308) at the National Archives, which records that 2nd Lt Cecil Bernard Cooper served in the Royal Field Artillery from 1915 until his death.

Having completed his training in England he was sent to France early in 1916 according to his obituary, where he was killed in action. The exact date is currently unclear. The date given for his death in the notice of Probate is 9 August 1917 whereas his obituary gives 8 August.

By the date that his medals were sent to his family the Coopers were living at Kingswood, Glamorgan Rd, Hampton Wick which is why he and his older brother, Captain Gerald Charles Mead Cooper, were both commemorated on the Hampton Wick Memorial.

Second Lieutenant Cecil Bernard Cooper is buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery in Belgium. He is also commemorated on the First World War Memorial at Tiffin Boys School and we would like to thank the school archivist for providing information on him.

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 Anglesey Royal Engineers died on 21 November 1918 at Crowborough of septic pneumonia following Spanish influenza.

He 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.

Gerald, like his younger brother Cecil, was a pupil of Tiffin Boys School from 11 November 1897 until July 1902. By 1897 when he joined the school the family had already moved to their home in Richmond Road, Kingston. We have a lot of information on his extensive education from his lengthy obituary in The Surrey Comet dated 30 November 1918.After he left Tiffins he was educated at Surrey House, Margate and thereafter at the Knaben Institute, Aarburg, Switzerland and in Paris.

Captain Cooper was particularly sporty. According to his obituary he was a keen swimmer; a cricketer; footballer and tennis player. He had been the Secretary for many years of the Latchmere Lawn Tennis Club and a playing member of the Clapham Rovers Football Club.

Having completed his education, he joined his father’s business in 1906 when he was 18. He was the manager of his father’s premises in the City of London, possibly at 76 Stamford Street SE (the business address given for his father in his brother’s obituary in 1917)until war broke out in 1914. He must have been reasonably successful as he became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers and a Freeman of the City of London. He served in the City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) from 1910-1914 and so on the outbreak of war applied for a commission.

Concerned that a delay in his application for a commission might mean he missed out on the fighting he decided, like his younger brother Cecil to join the Hector Munro Ambulance Corps presumably as a volunteer ambulance driver, like his brother. This all volunteer unit was founded in summer 1914 by Dr Hector Munro. An interesting figure- Dr Munro was a noted socialist; vegetarian and nudist who ran a clinic in London. The Corps ran a fleet of ambulances donated by the wealthy for the Red Cross ferrying the wounded from the Front line in Belgium and France. Captain Cooper is said in his obituary to have taken “an active part in the great work that the Corps performed in Belgium”.

We are told in his obituary that early in 1915 Captain Cooper again sought a commission and that he was eventually appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Anglesey Royal Engineers. At the time he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant, which was reported in the London Gazette on 23 November 1915, his address was given as a resident of Hampton Wick. Having undergone “the usual training” he was sent to France where, as might be expected of an engineer, his principal work consisted of works of construction including bridge building and railway extensions.

In November 1917 at the Battle of Cambrai, according to his obituary, he narrowly escaped becoming a prisoner of war. He lost all his kit but his Company got back to Allied lines without suffering many casualties. Subsequently he was promoted to a full Lieutenant and afterwards to the rank of Captain.

Shortly before the Battle of Cambrai, 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?

Captain Cooper remained in France until July 1918 when he was invalided home suffering from neurasthenia (shell shock). On his discharge he was given light duties in England and sent to Crowborough where he was given command of the 7th Company Royal Engineers. While on service at Crowborough, Captain Cooper sadly contracted Spanish Influenza. Devoted to his work he remained on duty for seven days before taking to his bed by which time, The Surrey Comet, comments “septic pneumonia had supervened and after four days’ great suffering, very patiently and bravely borne, he passed peacefully way”.

His death was registered at Uckfield in Sussex in December 1918 and he was buried at East Sheen & Richmond Cemeteries. The grant of probate dated 31st January 1920 states that 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 may not 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 Cooper family lost two sons in the First World War both of whom are commemorated on the Hampton Wick Memorial as well as on the Great War Memorial in Tiffin Boys School. In addition, their remaining son, Vivian, was gassed at the Battle of Loos, according to Captain Cooper’s obituary, and invalided out of the army. We would like to thank the archivist of Tiffin Boys School for additional information on Captain Cooper.

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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