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Private 3607 George Cooper, AOC - A Defender of Ladysmith 4 months 2 weeks ago #80670

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I would like to proffer up a Smethwickian candidate for addition to the ABW Forum list of Defenders of Ladysmith:

Private 3607 George Cooper, Army Ordnance Corps

Born 28th March 1876 in Smethwick.

Army Service:

Enlisted in the South Staffordshire Regiment as Private 4701 during August 1895 and assigned to 1st Battalion.

Transferred to the Army Ordnance Corps in March 1897 as Private 3607. 31st March 1897 certified “Good” as Hammerman (blacksmith?).

Embarked for South Africa 15th July 1899. Embarked for Somaliland 2nd January 1901. Returned to Blighty 29th July 1903. Discharged to Army Reserve 2nd August 1903 after 8 years active service.

Medals: QSA with Defence of Ladysmith clasp only. KSA with two clasps – South Africa 1901 & 1902. African General Service Medal with Somaliland clasp.

His long stay in South Africa coupled with his single clasp makes me wonder if his blacksmithing skills were put to use in the reconstruction of Ladysmith.

Had George done with war? No, he had not:

Word War 1 – enlisted with Royal Army Ordnance Corps 26th August 1914, and given new Regimental Number of 0828. Embarked for France 16th May 1915 and finally returned to Blighty on 11th April 1919. During this period he had two periods back in Blighty – 10 months in 1917, and a fortnight in December 1918. The latter was obviously home leave but reason for more prolonged return to Blighty not known. Promoted to Corporal on 20th November 1918. He was demobilised 10th May 1919.

When he originally enlisted he was 19 years 5 months old when he was demobilised at the end of WW1 he was 43 years 2 months old. He fought in two wars and helped quell the Dervishes.

Home life:

His parents Isaac Cooper & Mary Ann Smith originated from Gloucestershire where they married in 1863. They moved to the Birmingham area in the late 1860’s and the 1871 Census found them living in the All Saint’s area of Birmingham and Isaac working as a Boiler Maker.

They moved to Smethwick in the mid 1870’s where George was born in March 1876, he was the seventh of their eight children. The 1881 Census found the family living in a back to back in Price Street, Smethwick. By the time George was admitted to Smethwick Central Board School on 24th Match 1885 the family were living at 42 Wills Street, Smethwick. George had previously attended Crocketts Lane Infant School in Smethwick. He left the Board School a year after he started but must then have gone to another school based on the 1891 census.

Isaac died in the late 1880’s and the 1891 Census shows 14 year old “Scholar” George living in French Walls Row, Smethwick with his widowed mother making ends meet by working as a “Bedstead Painter”. When George attested four years later in August 1895 he gave his mother’s address as 135 Baldwin Street, Smethwick.

George cannot be found on the 1901 census which is not surprising as he was in South Africa. His mother was now living alone in Rabone Street and still painting bedsteads.

Neither can be found on the 1911 Census but his WW1 paperwork gives his mother’s address as 80 Pope Street, Smethwick in 1914 and his 1919 discharge address as 27 Park Hill Road, Smethwick. His occupation was “Warehouseman in Screw Works”. The 1939 Register found him still at the same address and with the same occupation. He is shown as still being single and a widow, 9 years, his junior is also living at the same address. Several George Cooper’s died in the right area in the right period so it is impossible to determine his date of death.

George’s service records covering both periods of service are downloadable from FMP who want to charge me extra each time I want to look at the 1921 Census – this did not seem to get mentioned in the build up to the release!!!!!


George was not the only Smethwickian involved in the Defence of Ladysmith – there at least three others – Private 8275 Alfred Edward Dickinson & Private 9102 Frederick Colclough. Both served in the 2nd Battalion KRRC and both are included in the ABW Forum Defenders of Ladysmith list although Alfred’s surname is spelt incorrectly. The third is worth a post for his name alone - Rev. Algernon Angell James Andrews – but first I want to try contacting his great grand-daughter via Ancestry.

The photo shows the grocers’ shop in Smethwick on the corner of Baldwin & Cutler Street that George might have used at the time he attested in 1895. Thanks go to Alan L Warr who dated the photo at 1910.

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