Memorial Stone dedicated to First World War hero on 100th Anniversary

A service of dedication was held on Wednesday 16 August to honour the heroic actions of Sergeant Edward Cooper in the First World War.

A memorial stone was unveiled at the Cenotaph next to Stockton Parish Church to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Sgt Cooper’s bravery at the battle of Langemark, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V.

4 thoughts on “Memorial Stone dedicated to First World War hero on 100th Anniversary

  1. Stockton Own Hero: Sergeant Edward Cooper in the First World War.

    The Victoria Cross is awarded for the most conspicuous act of valour or extreme devotion to military duty in the presence of the enemy. A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer and supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion. Tradition states it is expected that “all military ranks are expected to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross” including the Chiefs of Staff and Generals. Two people have been awarded the VC on the recommendation of the enemy, they are Royal New Zealand Air Force Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg, who has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a VC on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses. The recommendation was made by the captain of the German U-boat U-468 sunk by Trigg’s aircraft, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope was also awarded a VC on the recommendation of the captain of the Admiral Hipper whose ship he had attacked and almost sunk. The Admiral Hipper’s commander, Kapitän zur See Heye, wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross, recommending award of the VC for his opponent’s courage in engaging a vastly superior warship.

    Sergeant Edward Cooper was born in Stockton on the 4th May 1896. He was the son of a millwright who worked at the Malleable Iron works in Stockton. When WW1 war broke out there was an ‘rush to the colours’ led to more people coming forward than could be absorbed by the army or navy. As a way of limiting the number of volunteers, the minimum age for recruits was raised to 19. This was a problem for Cooper. When he got to the recruiting office which was in Stockton Town Hall the army recruiter asked for his date of birth. Edward replied that he was born in 1896 and was promptly told that he was too young and was turned away. On his way out he bumped into a soldier he knew who asked Edward if he had just joined up, he explained that he had tried to but was a year too young. The soldier thought for a moment and then said, ‘Well I’m going for a cup of tea now maybe you will have another birthday while I’m away.’ At first, Edward was puzzled but soon realised the soldier was suggesting that he should lie about his date of birth and this is exactly what he did. He returned to the recruiting office and told them he was born in 1895 not 1896. This worked and he enlisted.Major Cooper won his V.C. on the 16th of August 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres known today as Passchendaele. The official citation reads: For Most Conspicuous Bravery & Initiative in the 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 causalities 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, he immediately rushed forward and fired his revolver into an slit-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 act of great courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious halt to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives. Citation date London Gazette 14th September 1917.

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