Private George Robinson COOPER (17523)
2nd Bn. Coldstream Guards
Born: About May 1892, Matterdale, Cumberland
Died: 27 August 1918, Croisilles, France (Age 26)
Born around May 1892 in Matterdale, George Robinson Cooper was the youngest of ten children born to Joseph and Bridget Cooper (nee Allinson). His father worked at the Greenside Mine and the family lived in Dockray, so it is likely that George attended school in Matterdale. His mother died in June 1904 and in July 1905 his father Joseph married Rachel Hayton. By 1911, aged 18 years, George was working as a Carter at Crookabeck Farm in Patterdale but must have later moved to Glencoyne Farm, as he gave this as his address when he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, in early December 1915. George’s service number of 17523 comes just before that of Ernest Lake 17524, suggesting they went along together to sign up. George would have received his basic training at the Battalion’s barracks in Windsor. This would have included rifle and bayonet practice, trench warfare, digging and maintenance, and lasted for about 12 weeks (it got less as the war progressed). After this he would have been given a short period of leave before being posted to the front.
When he arrived, in the spring of 1916, the 2nd Battalion were billeted in the town of Poperinghe, about 8 miles west of Ypres in West Flanders, where they would regularly march to the front line to relieve another Battalion, spend typically two or three days in the trenches before being relieved themselves by another Battalion. Every few weeks, the Battalion would be rested at camps thirty or forty miles away from the fighting. This routine was interrupted from time to time, by concerted offensives along the front. It was during one of these battles at Passchendaele, on the 31st July 1917, that his friends Ernest Lake and Cecil Mason were killed. George himself was wounded twice whilst serving on the front.
By August 1918, the 2nd Battalion had gradually moved southwards into France and was now positioned in Ransart, a small village about 8 miles south of Arras. Conditions were now much worse, they were spending up to a week in the front line trenches and even their relief periods were taken in the reserve trenches and dugouts. The Battalion had spent a month away from the front in June, training and resting in Saulty, some 20 miles away, which must have been a welcome respite.
On the 27th August 1918, the 2nd Battalion, in conjunction with the 2nd Bn. Grenadier Guards, were ordered to attack in a 1500 yard front towards Croisilles. George was part of No.2 Company under the command of Capt. Eccles MC that was to form the left side of the attack and in one of the two platoons led by Lt. Lake. At 7am (zero hour) an artillery barrage was commenced on the German positions, which allowed the advance to begin. Initially No 2 Company made good progress and took many prisoners however the Germans brought more machine guns into action and casualties increased, including Capt. Eccles who was wounded. The two platoons led by Lt. Lake had to ‘dig in’ when they became outflanked and their numbers had been reduced to just 18 (from around a hundred) – it seems probable that George was killed in this phase of the attack. In the end, very little ground was gained for such high losses - the 2nd Bn. alone reported 57 killed, 63 missing and 202 wounded.
George was one of those initially reported as missing but was later confirmed as having been killed in the action. Lieutenant H W Lake wrote to his parents to say:
“it was a great attack the guards made and I am sure your son did his share nobly”.
His parents also received a rather more personal letter subsequently from his Company Commander Captain Eccles of the Coldstream Guards:
“I was very sorry to hear that your son was killed on the 27th August. I would have written sooner but I was wounded myself . Your son was a good soldier and his death will be a great loss to the regiment. Men of his type can be ill spared. You have my deepest sympathy in your sad loss.”
George had served with The Coldstream Guards in Flanders for around two and a half years and his medal card1 shows that he was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
We have found extracts from his Battalion's War Diary that cover the action in which he was killed - these and other items can be viewed from the list of Research Documents below.
He is remembered and commemorated on:
The Patterdale War Memorial
Glenridding Public Hall – Roll of Honour (alongside his older brother Miles Cooper, of the Border Regiment)
Croisilles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France2
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate
What became of his family?
George's mother Bridget died in June 1904 aged 49 and is buried in St Patrick's Churchyard. On the 17th July 1905 his father Joseph married Rachel Hayton at St Patrick's Church. Joseph died in October 1922 aged 70 and is buried in St Patrick's Churchyard with Bridget.
Georges eldest sister Mary was born in Matterdale around November 1875.
Eldest brother Daniel Allinson was born in Matterdale around November 1877.
Older sister Barbara was born in Matterdale around November 1879.
Older brother Christopher was born in Matterdale around August 1882. In 1909 he was living in Appleby.
Older brother Thomas was born in Matterdale about May 1884. He married Edith Hannah Kitching from Hartsop in June 1907. They lived at Deepdale Bridge and had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who was born in July 1908.
A brother Joseph was born in Matterdale around May 1885 but died as an infant later that year.
Older brother Adam was born in Matterdale around November 1886. He married Margaret Ellen Dewis on the 28th December 1908 in the Wesleyan Chapel, Patterdale. They had at least 7 children (James Robinson (1910-1992), Margaret Annie (1913), Mary Evelyn Allinson (1914), Sydney Pattinson (April 1916), Dorothy Ellen (1917), Eileen Elsie* (1921) and Adam (Jnr) (1928). Adam died in 1941 at 7 Low Glenridding and his wife Margaret died in 1965, aged 85.
Older brother John William was born in Matterdale around February 1888.
Older brother Miles was born in Matterdale in August 1890. He married Jane Moore from Thornton in Lonsdale on the 23rd December 1911 and they had a daughter Mabel on the 3rd February 1914. Miles joined the Border Regiment but deserted in Essex during November 1915. His whereabouts were never discovered and Jane had a difficult time getting information and a pension. (Click Here for more details about Miles)
1. Medal Card for Private George R Cooper, Coldstream Guards
The Victory Medal
To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918).
The British War Medal
To qualify for the British War Medal a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.
2. Croisilles British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Plots I and II of the cemetery, were made between April 1917 and March 1918 and the rest formed after the Armistice, when graves were brought in from the neighbouring battlefields and from some smaller burial grounds. The majority of the soldiers buried in the cemetery belonged to the Guards, 7th and 21st Divisions. Croisilles British Cemetery now contains 1,171 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. Some 647 of the burials are unidentified. More Details
Page Editor: Norman Jackson
Page Last Reviewed: 23 Feb 2021