22nd Jul 1916. Helping the Prisoners of War


A meeting of the Rugby Prisoners of War Help Committee was held on Wednesday evening. Mr Wm Flint, C.C, Chairman of the Committee, presiding. Also present : Mrs Lees, Rev Father Jarvis, and Messrs A E Donkin, W H Clay, C J Newman, G W Walton, J Mellor, and the Hon Secretary, Mr J R Barker. Apologies for absence were received from Mrs Blagden, Mr F R Davenport, and Mr S H Weobley.

The Chairman, in reviewing the past work of the Committee, said that, starting with a list of 13 prisoners of war, the work had grown to such an extent that the Committee were now looking after the welfare of 55 men from Rugby and the villages. The expenditure had increased so very considerably that the Executive thought the Committee should meet to consider what steps should be taken to maintain the weekly parcels to the prisoners of war.

The Hon Secretary presented a statement of accounts to date. Subscriptions and donations amounted to £526 16s 6d, and the cost of food parcels and other expenditure was £417 8s 2d, which left a balance in hand of £109 8s 4d. He was glad to be able to report that during the past week there had been a slight improvement in the subscriptions, and although the money in hand would only provide for a few weeks parcels, he was glad to be able to report that several local efforts were being made to raise funds. It was, however, very necessary that, without delay, the Committee made arrangements to secure sufficient money to carry on the work for several months ahead, especially in view of the possibilities of further names being added to the list.

Various schemes were suggested and agreed upon, the first effort to be a Flag Day, Mr Newman and Mr Barker agreeing to carry out the arrangements as early as possible.


The following local cases were heard before Mr Carmichael at the Coventry Munitions Tribunal on Friday in last week.

Alick J Tabor, Woolscott, near Rugby, applied for a leaving certificate from the B.T.H.—The case was adjourned from a previous Court. Another adjournment for four weeks was granted ; and the Court instructed the lad to return to work.

G North, 113 Railway Terrace, Rugby, was fined 10s for absenting himself from work at the B.T.H without leave for the whole of the week ending July 8th, the fine to be paid in four weekly instalments.

A King, 385 Clifton Road, Rugby, was charged by the B.T.H Company with being absent from work without leave on Saturday, July 8th, for 8¾ hours on Monday, and the whole of Tuesday, July 11th. The man’s previous time-keeping had been bad, and he was fined 15s and ordered to pay in weekly instalments of 2s 6d.

F H Shorthose, 19 Market Street, Rugby, was summoned for refusing to work overtime at the B.T.H on Saturday afternoon, July 8th, thereby delaying skilled men.—He was fined 10s (2s 6d per week), and was warned by the Chairman regarding his defiant attitude before the Court.

J Asquith, Shawell, Rugby, employed at the B.T.H, was charged with failing to work diligently on the morning of July 8th, and the case was dismissed owing to the conflicting evidence. Asquith asked for expenses ; but, in reply, the Chairman informed him that he was lucky to get off.

POST LETTERS EARLY.—The Postmaster-General calls attention to the fact that in view of the restricted number of postal collections and deliveries now afforded throughout the kingdom, it is particularly desirable that letters should be posted as early in the day as possible. In many rural districts there is only one delivery, and letters for such districts, unless posted in time for early evening mails, will not be delivered until the second day after posting. Early posting also facilitates the work of the Post Office sorters, and on account of the great depletion of staff for military purposes this assistance will be much appreciated.


The Baths Committee reported the receipt of an application from the Officer Commanding a Squadron, Royal Flying Corps for facilities for his men to attend the Baths at a reduced rate. They had informed him that free use of the swimming bath was granted to all soldiers or sailors in uniform on condition that they provided their own towels and drawers, or paid the regulation price for same. The numbers attending the baths and the amounts received for the month of June as compared with the same month in 1915, were as follows :—Baths, &c : Swimming bath, 1916, 5,511 ; 1915, 6,008. Slipper baths, 1916, 1,455; l915, 1,074[?]. Receipts, 1916, £54 10s 2d ; 1915, £56 10s 7d.-Approved on the motion of Mr Walker.


The Water Committee had decided that the grounds at Brownsover Mill be opened during the summer from noon to 8.30 p.m (Sundays included) so long as no damage was done.—Adopted.


Capt the Earl of Clonmell, of the Warwickshire R.H.A, is transferred to the Territorial Force Reserve.

The Rev C T Bernard McNulty, M.A, vicar of Holy Trinity, Leamington, has recently been promoted from 4th to 3rd Class Chaplain, with the rank of Major, and has been appointed Senior Chaplain of his Division.

We are pleased to note that Capt G T Hilton, of North Street and Hillmorton Road, Rugby, has been mentioned in despatches for distinguished conduct in the field.

George E Middleditch, 1st Lieutenant, Oxon and Bucks L.I, was wounded at Ypres, France, some four weeks ago. Before the War Lieut Middleditch was an apprentice (premium) in the L & N-W Rly Erecting Shop. At the outbreak of the War he joined up at once as a private. He soon got promotion—first a lance-corporal, then a corporal, next a sergeant, then a commission as 2nd lieutenant, now 1st lieutenant ; and, we understand, has been recommended for a captaincy. He was wounded in the leg and back at Ypres, and is now well again. He visited the shop on Tuesday, and received a splendid ovation from his fellow-workmen and a very hearty send-off.


Pte J F Holmes, East Surrey Regiment, son of Mr J Holmes, of Union Street, has been seriously wounded during the recent fighting.

Capt S Morris Bickersteth (O.R), a brother of the Rev Julyan K F Bickersteth, formerly of Rugby, was killed during the attack on Serre on July 1st. He was 23 years of age.

Mrs Greenwood, Kirstall, Lower Hillmorton Road, has received news that her son, Lieut J Greenwood, Northants Regiment, the well-known Rugby and Newbold footballer, has been wounded.

Other Rugby casualties reported recently are : Diver W Elkington (11137) killed ; and F H Warden (2168), F Burberry (275), and Sapper H Barrows, R.E. ; Ptes J Varney (Rugby), A Welsby (New Bilton), and T Lee (Swinford), wounded.


Lance-Corpl W J Cooper, R.W.R, son of Mr Jack Cooper, of Harborough Magna, was killed in action on June 26th. Lance-Corpl Cooper was a native of Newbold, but had spent most of his life at Harborough Magna. He was 30 years of age, and was called up as a reservist in August, 1914, and had been in France from the beginning of the war. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, he was employed in the Cement Works at Newbold.


Mr Tom Smith, of Newbold, has received official intimation that his son, Rifleman Tom Smith, of the Rifle Brigade, was wounded on June 1st, and has been missing since that date. Rifleman Smith, who was about 23 years of age, was employed at the Cement Works before he enlisted at the commencement of the War.

Pte Wm Curtis, Leicester Regiment, another employee of the Cement Works, and son of Mr A Curtis, has written informing his parents that he has been wounded, and is now in hospital.


LOCAL CASUALTY.—Mrs J Manning received news last week that her son, Pte Thomas Manning, was wounded and in a base hospital in France ; and on Tuesday notification came that he had died. Mrs Manning has three other sons serving in the Army, two in France, and one at Salonica. Much sympathy is felt with the family in their bereavement.


MRS CASHMORE of Lower Street, has received information that her youngest son, Pte F Cashmore, of the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, died of wounds received in the great push on the 6th inst. Previous to this Pte Cashmore had taken part in much fighting both at the Dardanelles and Egypt.


CORPORAL CONSTABLE WOUNDED.—Mr and Mrs Ernest Constable have received an intimation from Corporal Harry Constable, stating that he is lying wounded in Firdale Hospital, Sheffield. The wounds are in both legs, right arm, and head, but he writes cheerfully, and it is hoped that he may effect a good recovery. It is barely six weeks since he was sent to the front.

DEATH OF PRIVATE SUTTON RUSSELL.-The sad news was received on Tuesday of the death of Private Joseph Sutton Russell in hospital of malarial fever on the 14th last. Private Russell enlisted in the Army Ordnance Corps in December, 1914, and was with the contingent in Mesopotamia. It was known that he had been in hospital, and only on Tuesday morning a post card was received from him, dated 6th June, on which he stated that he was out of hospital, and that his health was improving. So the shook caused by the news of his death was very great to all his relatives and friends, and, indeed, to the whole village. Before he joined the army, Private Russell had been for some years a clerk in the office at Messrs Kaye & Co’s Cement Works. He was also the Clerk to the Parish Council, assistant overseer, tax and rate collector, and Secretary to the Co-operative Society. He was of a genial temperament, and always ready to make himself useful. As a member of the Parish Church choir, and in many other capacities, he will be greatly missed. Private Russell was the life and soul at the Cricket Club in the pre-war days, and it was always a pleasure to witness his performance either as a bats man or a bowler. The deepest sympathy is felt for his widowed mother, brother and sisters, and for his fiancée, Miss Hilda Jeacock. His brother, Lance-Corpl Arthur Russell, is now in training in the Royal Warwicks.


KILLED IN ACTION.-News was received on Tuesday of the death of another of our brave village lads. Corporal Frank Doyle, a bright young fellow, was attached to the Berkshire Regiment. He enlisted early in the war. He was shot down at his post, with three more of his comrades. The sad news was conveyed to his widowed mother by the Rev R S Mitchison, of Barby, who motored to tell her. Much sympathy is felt throughout the village with Mrs Doyle in her sad loss. Mr Mitchison’s son-in-law is an officer in the same soldiers Company, and has been severely wounded.


Mr and Mrs John Orton have received news that their son, Pte H Orton, of the 1st Worcesters, has been wounded in the left hand. He is now in hospital in England, and progressing favourably. He has seen many months of fighting in France.

RIFLEMAN R B BUTLIN KILLED.—Mr J Butlin has received news of the death of his son, who was shot through the heart. He was one of Kitchener’s Army, who joined the King’s Royal Rifles. His death occurred on the 10th inst., and he was laid to rest at Potijze Military Cemetery, near Ypres. The inscription on the tomb was : “ He tried to do his duty.” Much sympathy is felt for Mr Butlin, who has lost his wife, a grandchild, and son in the space of a few months, and is himself an invalid. He has also received a sympathetic and comforting letter from the chaplain.



FROM THE FRONT.—Pte Thomas Thacker, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was slightly wounded in the latest attack on the West. Pte Thacker, who had previously been wounded, received some shrapnel in the ankle. He has been at his home since July 13th, and has made such good progress that he will return to his depot in the course of a few days.


SERGT W E CONSTABLE, youngest son of Mr and Mrs John Constable (formerly of Dunchurch), who joined the Royal Engineers early last year, has been mentioned in despatches by General Sir Douglas Haig, dated April 30th. He is to be warmly congratulated upon his distinction.


CASHMORE.—Died of wounds in France,. Private F. Cashmore, 1st R.I.F., aged 24 years.

CHATER.—In loving Memory of our beloved and only child, Rifleman W. H. Chater, Machine. Gun Section, 12th R.B. Killed in action in France, June 30th, 1916, aged 31 years.
“ Sleep on, beloved, and take thy rest,
We loved you well, but God loved you best.”

COOK.—Died of wounds on July 8th, Cyril Edward, Second-Lieutenant, Royal Sussex Regiment, elder son of Sam Cook, Wargrave, Berks, and grandson of the late Mrs. Cook, of Hillmorton House, aged 23.

DOYLE.—In ever-loving memory of Corporal Frank Doyle, the dearly loved son of Betsy and the late Joseph Doyle, of Frankton. Killed in action at No Man’s Land, July 13, 1916.
“ He sleeps, not in his native land,
But ’neath some foreign skies,
And far from those that loved him best ;
In a hero’s grave he lies.”
—From his loving MOTHER, BROTHERS, and only SISTER (LIZ).

Cooper, John. Died 1st Jul 1916

Based on the CWGC record, John Cooper was born in about 1889 in St Phillip’s, Sheffield, the son of Alfred and Mary Ann Cooper, latterly of 33, Essex Street, Rugby. He served with the 8th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, with the rank of Lance-Sergeant, and the number 9178.

His Military Records survive, although not fully legible. He joined up as a professional soldier before WWI, as his attestation was on 6 May 1908. He was then 5ft 35/8in tall; weighed 129lbs; had a fresh complexion; brown eyes and dark brown hair. He was a ‘bricklayer labourer’, then aged 19 years and 3 months.

He enlisted at Rotherham and was also in Pontefract and York for a short while. He was in hospital at Aldershot for over a month with measles in May and June 1909.

He was then posted to British India, with the 1st Battalion, being in Karachi by January 1911. On 25 April 1911 he was promoted to Lance-Sargeant. He was also posted to Jullanpoore [possibly Jalalpur, Pakistan] in 1913; Poona in 1914 and whilst in India he was hospitalised on six occasions: with psoriasis (in Quetta), with ringworm (in Karachi), with malaria (twice in Karachi and once in Jullanpoore), and then tonsillitis (again in Jullanpoore).

On their return from service in British India, the regular 1st Battalion was formed up as part of the 83rd Brigade in the 28th Division. John was back at Alnwick Castle by 16 November 1914, his ‘Home Service’ being recorded from 19 November 1914 to 14 January 1915.

The 28th Division comprised regular battalions returning from overseas service and went to France in January 1915. John’s Medal Card and Military Records suggest that he went to France on 15 or 17 January 1915. The 1st Battalion saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres [22 April – 25 May 1915] and later that year in the Battle of Loos.

On 5 [or 7] May 1915, during 2nd Ypres, John received a gunshot wound to his right hand, possibly during the actions on the Frezenberg Ridge. He was returned to England on 10 May 1915, and was thus not himself involved with the 1st Battalion in the Battle of Loos and was thus not shipped with the Battalion to the Balkans as part of the British Salonika Army.

After time in hospital and at the depot, he was posted as L/Sergeant to the 3rd Battalion, in UK, on 16 July 1915. When war broke out in August 1914, the 3rd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment had been at Pontefract, as a depot and training unit. They moved on mobilisation to Cleadon and in January 1915 moved to Sunderland. In August 1915 they moved to Durham and later returned to Sunderland in February 1916 as part of the Tyne Garrison.[1]

During this period, and probably before the move to Durham, John was posted as L/Sergeant to the 8th Battalion on 5 August 1915. This would be his final posting and agrees with his CWGC record.

The 8th Battalion was formed in Pontefract in September 1914 and in October 1914 joined the 23rd Division as part of 70th Brigade. The same year it was at Frensham, Hants, in October, and at Aldershot in December. In 1915 it was at Shorncliffe, Kent in February, and back to Hampshire at Bordon at the end of May.

During this time John joined the Battalion and they landed at Boulogne by the 27 August 1915, and in October 1915 transferred with the 70th Brigade to the 8th Division. After the Battalion landed in Boulogne they went on to Western Front, concentrating as a Division at Tilques (a few kms north-west of St Omer). The other units in 70th Brigade were: 11th Sherwood Foresters; 8th KOYLI; 9th York and Lancaster; 1/8th Middlesex (until Feb 1916); 70th MGC and 70th Trench Mortar Battery.

The account below of the final days of John’s service is based upon the regimental diaries and other sources:[2]

4th Apr 1916 – 70th Infantry Brigade prepare for battle On the 4th April 1916, in preparation for the coming battle, the 8th Division moved up to the Le Boisselle-Thiepval sector, the 8th Battalion York & Lancaster occupying trenches to the left of the sector in front of Authuile Wood, periodically withdrawing to reserve at Albert. The ground occupied by the 8th Division was the most difficult of the whole front, no-man’s land being exceptionally wide and the attack of the 70th Brigade would have to be made beneath the southern spur of the Thiepval salient which was commanded in enfilade by the Germans.

1st July 1916 – 8th Yorks and Lancs at the Battle of The Somme. Plans had long been in place for the great offensive along the line of the River Somme to draw the Germans away from Verdun to the East and so relieve the beleaguered French forces there. Despite what many people have been told about the Somme battle, it was never intended to be a war-winning campaign. It had clearly defined strategic aims, and in many respects was successful, it’s failures are extremely complex and outside the scope of this article. That it has become a by-word for failure and incompetence is, in my opinion, unfair. The huge and terrible loss of life has blinded us to any other interpretation but it is pertinent to remember that a German Staff Officer described the Somme as ‘the muddy grave of the German Field Army’.

After the artillery barrage lifted, the battalions began their assault near the village of Ovillers at 7.30am, 1st July 1916. Immediately after leaving their trenches the battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and most of the men were killed or wounded. The remainder carried on and took the enemy front line trenches and about 70 men eventually reached as far as the third line of German trenches, but only one man returned from there! What was left of the battalion remained fighting in the first line of trenches until overwhelmed. Such was the ferocity of the fighting that the Germans were forced to move extra troops in to face the 70th Brigade and this enabled other British units to make significant advances.

The 8th York and Lancaster Regiment took 680 men and 23 Officers over the parapet, all the Officers were either killed or wounded and of the battalion only 68 returned. The battalion had effectively ceased to exist as a fighting unit and was withdrawn that evening. The 8th K.O.Y.L.I.’s losses were only marginally less.

John was ‘Killed in Action’ sometime during that horrific advance on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His body was found and he is buried in Grave Reference: V.C. 24, in the Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood, close to where he was in action.

Authuile (now Authuille) is a village 4 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. Blighty Valley was the name given by the Army to the lower part of the deep valley running down South-Westward through Authuile Wood to join the river between Authuile and Aveluy. Blighty Valley Cemetery is almost at the mouth of the valley, a little way up its northern bank. Blighty Valley Cemetery was begun early in July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, and used until the following November. At the Armistice it contained 212 graves but was then greatly enlarged when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries to the east. Most of these concentrated graves were of men who died on 1 July 1916.

John was awarded the 1915 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In the absence of any matching census information, it seems likely that his widowed mother moved to Rugby after her son John’s death.

In later 1916, his mother was still living at 109 Woodside Lane, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, and was receiving a separation allowance of 1/11d and an allotment of pay of 5/3d. By 17 May 1919, she had moved to Rugby, and was living at 33 Essex Street, with her 28 year old son, Henry Cooper. It seems likely that Henry had moved south to work in Rugby, and that his widowed mother had accompanied her son; he had signed for his mother on official documents, and she had ‘made her mark’. The location of 18 year old Eliza Cooper, a sister ‘of the half-blood’, was not known.

Whilst John Cooper is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, it seems that he was probably never in Rugby, but it was his mother’s home by the time that records for the memorial were being collated.




– – – – – –


This article on John Cooper was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.

[1][1]         http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=4996

[2]         http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=1097

Cooper, Harry. Died 31st May 1916

Harry Cooper was born on 30th January 1899 and baptised at St Paul’s Church, Foleshill on 20th December, later the same year. His parents John Cooper and Sarah Ann Finch had been married at the same church on 28 August 1898. John was a carpenter and Sarah the daughter of a railway guard.

Harry Cooper – photo by permission of Rugby Library.

By 1891 the family had moved to Rugby, living at 14 Riley’s Court, Dunchurch Road. John was a carpenter & joiner and by 1911 the family, Harry now had two brothers and two sisters, lived at 8 King Street.

On 15th October 1915 Harry Cooper was sixteen years of age and a grocer’s boy when he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd class. He was 5ft 6¾in tall with auburn hair and blue eyes. After training at Portsmouth, he joined HMS Defence on 25th January 1916.

HMS Defence, stern view

HMS Defence, stern view

HMS Defence was a Minotaur-class armoured cruiser built in 1907, the last armoured cruiser built for the Royal navy. She spent the first part pf the war in the South Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, blockading German ships in the Dardenelles.

During the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916, she was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, leading the First Cruiser Squadron.

Near the start of the battle soon after 18.00, after confusion and several near misses during the deployment of the British Fleet, Arbuthnot was attracted by the drifting hull of the crippled Wiesbaden. With Warrior, Defence closed in for the kill, only to blunder right into the gun sights of Hipper’s and Scheer’s oncoming capital ships. Defence was deluged by heavy-calibre gunfire from many German battleships, which detonated her magazines in a spectacular explosion viewed by most of the deploying Grand Fleet; she sank with all hands (903 officers and men).

Harry Cooper, Boy 1st Class, J/42183, is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial. He is also listed on the Rugby, St Phillip’s Church Memorial





Sources: Parish Registers, Census, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1853-1928 on Ancestry.co.uk
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Jutland