Charles Cooper was the son of Thomas Mowbray Cooper and his wife Bertha Cooper. He was born about 1893 in Manchester.
The family had obviously moved around a good deal, as shown by their places of birth. In the 1901 census for England, available on Ancestry, they were living at 8, Egerton Road, Rushholme, Manchester. Head of the family was Tom M. Cooper, age 44 and born at Manchester.
He was described as having no occupation, but this was crossed out and above it was written that he had “means, stocks and shares.” His wife Bertha was 34, and had been born at Cape Town, South Africa. The rest of the family were Elizabeth, 15, born at Cape Colony, Alfred, 13, also born at Cape Colony, Bertha age 11 who had been born at Natal, then they had moved as Charles age 8, and Hubert age 6 had been born at Manchester. There was also a servant, Bertha Fleming, age 24, born at Manchester.
Ancestry Death records give an entry for Tom Mowbray Cooper in the fourth quarter of 1906 in Manchester, age 50.
By 1911, Bertha, now age 45 and a widow, is living at Melyd Avenue Prestatyn. She is described in the census for Wales as being of private means, and born at Cape Town South Africa. She had given birth to 5 children, who were all living. The only one of her children at home on the night was Elizabeth, now age 25, born at Worcester, Cape Colony. The younger Alfred, 23, is described as a mariner, and his sister, the younger Bertha, 21, is working as a servant in Carlisle – these were easy to identify by their unusual birthplace. Charles and his younger brother Hubert could not be found.
After this, there are several entries in the website “Incoming Passenger Lists”, for a Mrs Cooper of the right name and age as Charles’ mother entering Britain from Natal, South Africa, and also from Australia, but of course we cannot be certain, and also, we do not know when Charles went to South Africa, but there is information about him in the South African records of World War 1.
From these records we know that his next of kin was his mother, Mrs Bertha Cooper. However, there are two addresses given for him. One is given as c/o Mrs Jewitt, of Newcastle, Natal, South Africa, and the second is c/o Mrs Napier, 22 Cedar’s Road, Clapham, London, England. Both are described as his sisters.
Charles was 24 years old, and his religion was Church of England. His occupation was a labourer on the South African Railways.
There are several transfers detailed on his records while training, before he was “taken on strength” on April 13th 1917 in the 1st battalion South African Infantry, and he embarked at Capetown on the SS Ceramic on August 3rd 1918.
There is no card for Charles in the Archives at Hawarden, however there is a reference to Charles in the Prestatyn Weekly of June 18th 1918.
Private Charlie Cooper (South Africans) is a prisoner of War in Germany, and has been missing since March.
There appears to have been some confusion regarding Charles death, as the card detailing his service is stamped with the words “Missing”, and also “Prisoner of War,” then also that he was missing since March 24th 1918. The next entry is that death was accepted as having occurred on or since April 17th, and that his death took place at Le Chateau War Hospital. It also states that he was shot in the leg, and the cause of death was “died of wounds.” The sequence of events and the dates are very confusing.
Charles’ mother in Prestatyn must have clung on to the hope that he was a prisoner of war, and it may be that after being reported missing he was hospitalised but not identified until later, but of course we have no way of knowing.
There is an entry for Charles in the Register of Soldier’s Effects, in which his mother Mrs Bertha Cooper received a sum of £32 17s 6d on November 11th 1920. Confusingly, on this form the cause of death is given as M.D.P. (Missing, death presumed.)
Mrs Bertha Cooper died at Prestatyn in late 1938.
Photo from Findagrave.com
Photos courtesy of South African War Graves Project.