William Cooper

2170 Gunner William Ernest Cooper, Royal Field Artillery

Born 1891 in Eastney, Portsmouth
Killed in Action 23rd September 1917 in Belgium

Family and Home 1, 2

William Ernest Cooper was born in Eastney, Portsmouth, the third of four children of James William Cooper and Martha née Dibben. His father was a Sergeant in the Royal Marine Artillery.

His siblings were: Winifred Sarah, b. 22nd Jan. 1887; Catherine Annie, b. 31st March 1888 and Herbert Archibald Sidney, b. 22nd Oct. 1892.

Death of William’s Father 3

The death of William’s father, James William Cooper, was registered in the Portsea Island District of Hampshire in the 3rd Quarter of 1898.

Moving to Little Gaddesden 4, 5

On 11th March 1901, William Cooper, who had come to live at Hudnall, was admitted to Standard 4 at Little Gaddesden School. In the 1901 Census taken three weeks later, 9 year old William is recorded with his widowed mother and sister Winifred, 14, living at 7 Hudnall, the Countess Brownlow Convalescent Home for Boys (now Upper Gade) where his widowed mother had been appointed Matron. In Little Gaddesden, his mother would have had the company of her elder sister Louisa, who had married John Young and lived at 43 Little Gaddesden.

Education 4

William did well at Little Gaddesden School. In March 1904 he won a prize of 2/- (two shillings, 10p in today’s money) for achieving the highest marks in Standard 6 in the four quarterly examinations during the past school year. He gained a place at Berkhamsted Grammar School but stayed at Little Gaddesden to complete Standard 7, starting at Berkhamsted in September 1905.

Employment 6

In the 1911 Census, 19 year old William was a Coachbuilder, lodging in the household of his employer, George Mead, at 9 Lurke Street, Bedford. His mother Martha was still Matron of the Convalescent Home at Hudnall with his sister Winifred as her Assistant. His sister Catherine was a Housemaid at Heydon, Royston and his brother Archibald was serving in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Hyacinth.

Military Service 7

William enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery in Fulham, London S.W. and first served overseas in France on 1st June 1915.

Death in Belgium 8

26 year old Gunner William Ernest Cooper, D Battery, 59th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery was killed in action in Belgium on 23rd September 1917, during the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

Burial in Belgium 8

William is buried in Gwalia Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium; his grave reference is II. C. 7. He is recorded as “Son of James William and Martha Cooper, of Hudnall, Little Gaddesden, Berkhamsted, Herts. Native of Southsea, Hants”.

Photo of William Cooper's grave
Photo courtesy of David Heard

The inscription on his headstone reads:

2170 Gunner
William Ernest Cooper
Royal Field Artillery
23rd September 1917 Age 26

The badge of the Royal Artillery is engraved within the cross.

We will remember them 2, 9

William Cooper is commemorated on the War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church Little Gaddesden. He is also named on the Roll of Honour in the church.

He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal. William’s younger brother Archibald Cooper, Royal Navy is also named on the Roll of Honour. He survived the war but died aged 29 on 3rd January 1922, whilst serving aboard HMS Valerian at Antigua. The Roll of Honour also names William’s cousin Reginald Young, Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport, who survived the war.


1. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions

2. https://www.findmypast.co.uk British Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924

3. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales deaths 1837-2007 Transcriptions

4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906

5. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcription

6. https://www.findmypast.co.uk  1911 Census for England & Wales

7. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919

8. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/442590/cooper,-william-ernest/

9. https://www.ancestry.co.uk  British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920

Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson