Sergeant Edward Cooper VC

Discussion in 'Military Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member


    The battle fought in the summer of 1917 which is known in the official history books as Third Ypres, was a four month slog through mud and blood which achieved nothing except the death or wounding of 300,000 British troops and rather less than that number of Germans. But as in so many other campaigns the incompetence of the High Command was matched only by the heroism of the junior officers and men who had to carry out their orders. Over sixty VCs were won during Third Ypres. One of them was awarded to a dogged little sergeant named Edward Cooper who had already survived two years in the trenches and was now Second in Command of a platoon of thirty men of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

    As they waded through the mud on the approaches to the shattered Belgian village of Langemarck, the advancing troops came up against a line of German pillboxes, which were almost impervious to artilllery bombardment. Each block-house was equipped with two or more machine-guns and the British were caught in the interlocking fields of fire. Within minutes half the battalion were dead or wounded including Cooper's Platoon Commander. Shocked and angry Cooper picked up the dead officer's shiny new revolver and dashed into the attack against the nearest pillbox. Noticing that the machine guns were limited in their arc of fire he worked his way round to one side so that the fire of the bullets could not reach him, crept up close and fired the revolver down the barrel of one of the guns. Both machine guns were shot into silence. Cooper then marched around the back of the block-house and called on the enemy to surrender. Forty-five men with eight machine guns emerged and surrendered to him in full view of their comrades who were lining the trenches a few hundred metres away. When they realised what was going on the German troops in the trenches opened fire, missed Cooper and shot several of their own side.

    By the book, Cooper did everything wrong. He should have lobbed a bomb into the block-house, but he was a compassionate man and did not like to take life unnecessarily. When a senior officer arrived on the scene he abused Cooper for being off his line of advance, but eventually his achievement was recognised. On his own, armed only with a pistol, he had taken a position which could well have resisted an attack by a whole company.

    He was not sent on leave until 15 January 1918, nearly five months after the action in front of Langemarck, and when he left the front he still did not know anything about an award. It was not until he was sitting in a YMCA cafe at King's Cross railway station that he happened to see a newspaper carrying a list of the new VCs. The name of Chavasse caught his eye - Captain Noel Chavasse who had just won a Bar to his VC, one of only three men ever to do so and the poor man died shortly afterwards. Next in alphabetical order was Cooper.E. It was not until he had read and re-read the name and the regimental number that he realised that it was his own citation that he was reading. The small shy sergeant in the corner of the carriage said nothing, but when the train finally reached Darlington, where he had to change, Cooper was astonished to find his father and his elder brother waiting for him. Then, to his enormous embarrassment, a civic reception awaited him at Stockton-on-Tees.

    For thirty-five years he lived in modest obscurity until the Victoria Cross Association was formed in 1953 and someone hunted him down. Suddenly he was a hero all over again. On 24 July 1985 Edward Cooper VC was given the Freedom of Stockton but he died less than four weeks later on 19 August 1985.

    Birth: May 4, 1896
    Death: Aug. 19, 1985

    World War I Victoria Cross War Medal Recipient. He served as a Major in The 12th Battalion of The King's Royal Rifle Corps. He was awarded his medal for service at Belgium on August 16, 1917.

    Burial: Acklam Cemetery and Crematorium Middlesbrough North Yorkshire, England
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Heres a picture .....

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