Edward Cooper (1896-1985)
Stockton on Tees' Victoria Cross hero
Edward Cooper, known as Ned, was born on 4 May 1896 in Portrack, Stockton. His father was William Edward Cooper, a labourer at an ironworks, from Dudley in Staffordshire. His mother was Annie Cooper, nee Lynch, from Aberdeen. Edward was part of a large family, having two brothers and six sisters. By the time of the 1911 census, when Edward was 15, he had left school and was working as a message boy for a warehouse.
After lying about his age, Edward enlisted into the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He fought in the 12th Battalion, with his medal roll card stating his regimental number as 2794.
Edward fought in the battle of Langemark, part of the Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele. During this battle, at the age of 21, Edward was awarded the Victoria Cross for the following actions, described in the London Gazette dated 14 September 1917: “For Most Conspicuous Bravery & Initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sergeant Cooper, with four men, immediately rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on. About a 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire at the blockhouse. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, he immediately rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine guns and 45 men were captured in this blockhouse. By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives.”
After the war ended, Edward returned to Stockton and married Iris with whom he had three sons. He returned to work in the Co-operative Society and became a manager. Edward died on 19 August 1985 at the age of 89 in Stockton following a heart attack. He is remembered on several plaques in his home town as Stockton’s only recipient of the Victoria Cross.
In addition to the Victoria Cross, Edward was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, the highest award given by France to non-nationals for ‘gallantry beyond the call of duty’.
When the Second World War began, Edward was commissioned as a Major in charge of the Home Guard Unit at Thornaby. His Victoria Cross is on display in the Green Dragon Museum in Stockton.
There is further information and photos of Edward on the following websites:
North East War Memorials Project: http://www.newmp.org.uk/index.php
Heritage Stockton: http://heritage.stockton.gov.uk/people/major-edward-cooper/
Teesside Gazette: https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teessides-first-world-war-vc-5668900
The Northern Echo: http://www.thenortheastatwar.co.uk/vc-recipients/hero-learnt-of-his-victoria-cross-by-reading-the-paper
Civil Parish: Stockton on Tees
Birth date: 04-May-1896
Death date: 19-Aug-1985
Armed force/civilian: Army
Residence: 15 Barrett Street, Stockton (1901 Census)
12 Barrett Street, Stockton (1911 Census)
12 Roseberry Crescent, Thornaby-on-Tees (Address on Medal Roll Card)
Education: Bailey Street Boys School, Stockton
Employment: Messenger, Warehouse (1911 census)
Family: Parents: William Edward Cooper, Annie Cooper nee Lynch
Siblings: Alexander J Cooper, Jane Cooper, Annie Cooper, Jessie Cooper, Emma Cooper, Arthur Cooper, Edith Cooper, Martha Cooper
Spouse: Iris Cooper
2794 Sergeant, 12th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Medal(s): Victoria Cross, 1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Memorial(s): Plaque Cooper V.C. 1917, Stockton Library
Photo Cooper V.C. Co-op, Stockton
Photo Cooper V.C. 1917 Bailey Street Boys School, Stockton
Room Cooper V.C. 1917 Masonic Hall, Stockton
Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham