b. 04/05/1896 Stockton, County Durham. d. 19/08/1985 Stockton, County Durham.
Edward Cooper (1896-1985) was born at 38 Saint Ann’s Terrace, Portrack, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham on 4th May 1896. He was known to family as Ned. His father, William Edward, was a labourer and a steelworker, originally from Dudley, Staffordshire. He married Anne Mackie, from Scotland, in 1882. Ned had eight siblings, two brothers and six sisters.
Ned was educated at Bailey Street Council Schools until aged 13. He played football for the school team and for local clubs on leaving school. He was employed as an errand boy in his uncle, Thomas Cooper’s butcher shop. After about a year, he became an assistant fruit carter with the local Cooperative Society and in 1911 got his own cart. When the war broke out, the Army commandeered most of the horses and he found himself unemployed. He enlisted on 7th September 1914 and spent six months in a camp at Bisley, Surrey. Ned went to France on 23rd July 1915, and was promoted to Sergeant on 13th March 1917.
On 16th August 1917 at Langemarck, Belgium, enemy machine-guns from a concrete blockhouse 250 yards (230 m) away were holding up the advance of the battalion on the left and also causing heavy casualties to Sergeant Cooper’s own battalion. With four men he rushed towards the blockhouse, but although they fired at the garrison at very close range (100 yards) the machine-guns were not silenced, so Sergeant Cooper ran straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in blockhouse. The machine-guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine-guns and 45 prisoners were captured.
He received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 26th September 1917. He returned to the Battalion in time for the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917. He was then awarded the French Medaille Militaire for rescuing wounded men under fire on the Menin Road (LG 10th October 1918). Ned later claimed he had no idea what the award was for. Having returned to England for officer training, he was commissioned on 26th June 1918 into the same Battalion and returned to France in September. He was demobilised in January 1919 and returned to work for the Cooperative Society.
Ned married Iris Kate Morris on 6th November 1919 and they settled in Stockton. They had three sons named Maurice, Keith and Harry. Ned became the Cooperative warehouse manager in Sunderland in 1926 and returned to Stockton as the fruit department manager in 1938, a post hee retained until he retired in 1961. He was active in the community, being a JP for over 20 years and helped with various church, youth and ex-service organisations, including President of the Thornaby Citizens Advice Bureau and Secretary of the local Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association. He was also a Freemason, being initiated into Saint John’s Lodge No 80 in May 1929 while working in Sunderland. His sons and grandson followed him as Freemasons. He attended every VC reunion until his death, including the Garden Party in June 1920, House of Lords Dinner in 1929, the Victory Day Celebrations of 1946, the VC Centenary in 1956 and every VC/GC Association Reunion from the first, 24th July 1958, until the 13th, 6th October 1983.
In the Second World War, he helped set up the local Home Guard and was appointed Captain in 3rd North Riding (Thornaby) Battalion in 1941. He was promoted to Major to command G Company, 9th North Riding (Middlesbrough) Battalion at Thornaby in December 1943. Ned Cooper and Tom Dresser VC were granted the Freedom of Middlesbrough. Ned was also given the Freedom of Stockton in July 1985. Ned was admitted to North Tees Hospital, Stockton on Tees and watched a documentary about his life on TV. Sadly, a few hours later, he suffered a heart attack and passed away on 19th August 1985. He was cremated at Teeside Crematorium and his ashes were scattered in the August plot of the Garden of Remembrance.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 and French Medaille Militaire. The VC is owned privately and on loan to Preston Hall Museum, Stockton on Tees.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRESTON HALL MUSEUM, STOCKTON, CO. DURHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: TEESIDE CREMATORIUM, MIDDLESBROUGH. ASHES SCATTERED.
Brian Drummond – Freemason’s Memorial, London.