Harry Cooper (Ch) K 33374, Stoker 1st Class.
Harry was born on 4th April 1884 in Bishopgate, Egham, Surrey to parents William and Sarah (Austin), one of 5 children.
The family were recorded living at Princess Street, in the parish of Bray in 1891; William worked as a bricklayer and labourer and at that time the family of 7 also shared the house with William’s niece and 4 labourer lodgers.
10 years later, on the 1901 census, Harry was aged 16, working as a cabin boy - he still lived with his parents and just 2 siblings; the others having left home. There were again 4 labourer lodger also residing in the house in Hanworth.
The following year William and Sarah became landlords of The Anchor Inn, in Stanwell Moor - Sarah ran the pub while William worked elsewhere during the day and assisted Sarah in the evenings. William passed away in 1907 but with the help of her family, Sarah continued to run the pub and maintain the license.
By the 1911 census Harry was married and living in Wales. He had met and married his wife Emma Rea in 1909 in Swansea, their first son William born the same year, Harry working as a labourer at a reservoir works. In 1911 he was working as a contractors labourer and he, Emma and William lived with his older sister and her family at 7 Wern Road, Swansea. Later in 1911 his second son Frederick was born and the family moved back to England. Their third son Harry Jnr was born in 1913 in West Ham.
Harry and his family moved into 5 Kent Cottage in Stanwell Moor to be nearer his mother Sarah; Harry working as a driver of a steam powered breakdown crane on the railway. Sarah was still running the Anchor Inn and Harry would often have a drink in the pub of an evening, where he met and became great friends with the village poacher George Slade.
Harry volunteered for military service in 1916 with the Navy on 22nd May for hostilities following a comment of a customer in his mother’s pub stating that certain men were cowards for hiding behind their jobs and not going to join the war effort. Harry in fact held a position on the railway which made him exempt from requiring to go to war, but he volunteered regardless. His friend George was declared unfit for military service after examination due to an accident years before where he had broken both his legs when falling out of a tree. Harry, on preparing to leave for training with the Navy, asked of George to look after his wife and children should anything happen to him.
He began his training at Pembroke II, for basic training as a Stoker 2nd class, his knowledge and experience around coal fired steam engines being put to good use. On 14th August 1916 he was posted to HMS Gibraltar, a depot vessel, for ship training, until 21st December 1916. On the 31st December 1916 Harry also became a father for the fourth time.
He left Pembroke II following final training, and was posted to HMS Vanguard on 22nd May 1917, being promoted to Stoker 1st Class. He was shortly due leave when the ship exploded, as his wife was, at the time, travelling up to Scotland to show him his new baby son. Harry’s friend George kept his promise after Harry’s death and married Emma in 1919.
Harry is remembered on the Stanwell Village War Memorial, his Victory and British medals awarded to his son.
#130 - 195/843
1891, 1901 & 1911 England and Wales Census - Ancestry.com
Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 ADM 171/99
TNA Series: ADM 242/7; Scan Number: 0878
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 The National Archives Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; 007 (1914 - 1919)
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 The National Archives Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 933
Photo of Stanwell Village - copyright Francis Frith Collection
Photo and additional information courtesy of Jeanette Hedley