James Ezekiel Cooper, Private 15306, 8th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment
Killed in action 10th July 1916 in the Somme, France, aged 37
James Ezekiel Cooper was born on 2nd November 1878 and baptised on 5th January 1879 at Rainow Parish Church, the son of Mary and James Cooper, a tailor of Rainow.
In 1881, two year old James was living in a cottage on Rainow Road, Rainow with his parents, older brother Thomas (4) and cousins William (24), Arthur (15) and Thomas (11). Ten years later the family still lived in the same road and James, who was employed part-time as a ‘cotton operative’, had three more siblings: Sarah (9), Mary (6) and William, 11 months. By 1901, the family had moved to Stock Terrace in Rainow and James, then aged 22, had found employment as a stone dresser at Windyway Quarries on the old Buxton Road, owned by Messrs. J. Wetton & Sons.
James was educated at Rainow school and after leaving school he attended evening classes, winning awards for his studies. In his leisure time he was on the committees for the village flower show and sporting events, and was a keen athlete. He was also an Oddfellow, having passed through the offices of the Prince of Wales Lodge.
On 30th September 1909 James married Bertha Ann Leigh, of Hope Street West, Macclesfield, at Christ Church, Macclesfield. By this time James was employed as a stone mason and lived at Brook House, Kerridge End, Rainow. The couple set up home at the same address and had two daughters: Phyllis, born in January 1910, and Vera, born in April 1911.
The family later moved to 16 Hope St, Buxton Rd, Macclesfield.
James joined the Cheshire Regiment in Macclesfield on 4th September 1914, and on 14th October transferred to the 8th South Lancashire Regiment, which came under the command of the 75th Brigade in the 25th Division. His army service records describe him as 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with a 34 inch chest, a fresh complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.
James trained for nearly a year at Codford, Bournemouth, Wokingham and Aldershot. In June 1915 he spent five days in Connaught Hospital, Aldershot, suffering from D.A.H. (Disordered Action of the Heart) – a not uncommon illness during the Great War, thought to result from a combination of over exertion, mental stress and fatigue. H is battalion was drafted to France on 28th September 1915.
James was reported missing on 9th July 1916, and on 12th October 1916 it was assumed that he had been killed in action on the 9th or 10th July.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 27th October, 1916:
ANOTHER RAINOW LOSS – PRIVATE COOPER FALLS IN A CHARGE
Official news has reached Mrs Cooper, who resides in Hope Street, Macclesfield, that her husband, Private James E. Cooper, South Lancashire Regt, has been killed in the Somme fighting.
Private Cooper was a native of Rainow and was educated at the school there under Mr. Curphey. He also attended the evening classes for three seasons and carried off several prizes. In the local affairs of Rainow he took a prominent interest, being an active member of the flower show and sports committees, and he was a good all-round athlete. He was also an Oddfellow, having passed through the offices of the Prince of Wales Lodge. The deceased followed the occupation of a stone-dresser and was employed by Messrs. J. Wetton & Sons at the Windyway Quarries. Enlisting on the outbreak of war, he was drafted to France in August, 1915, and had seen much active service. He met his death while charging the third line of German trenches, the first two lines having been successfully taken, and letters from comrades testify to his cheerfulness under all circumstances. His last words were “down boys.” Private Cooper will be much missed at Rainow, where he was held in the highest esteem.
James’ personal effects were returned to his wife on 27th April 1917. They included his identification disc, a photograph, a few stamps and a card.
Private James Cooper has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. Pier and Face 7 A and 7 B of the Thiepval Memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private James Cooper.
In Macclesfield, Private James Cooper is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael’s Church war memorials. The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included two, with the words “Ever remembered by his loving wife and children, Phoebe and Vera – Private J. E. Cooper.” and “In loving memory of Private James E. Cooper, from his loving children, Phyllis and Vera.” (As printed in the Macclesfield Courier, 24th September 1921).
Elsewhere, he is commemorated on the Rainow war memorial.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: Rainow Parish Church
Cheshire Parish Marriage Registers: Christ Church, Macclesfield
WWI British Army Service Records
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
The Macclesfield Times: 27th October 1916