Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of the Bridgnorth area who died during the two World Wars.
Thomas Cooper was born at Chetton where he was baptised on 28th October, 1883. He was the son of Edward Cooper, a labourer, and his wife Mary. By 1891 Thomas was living in Ditton Priors with his grandparents, Elisha and Mary Cartwright.
In 1901, at the age of 17, Thomas was working as a cowman at Racecourse Farm, Tasley. By 1911, still single, he was back with his grandparents at Bent Lane, Ditton Priors working as a horse driver.
Thomas may already have been a soldier at the start of the war. If not, he volunteered very early as he arrived in France on 5th February, 1915. He served with the 2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry. Thomas was killed in action at Ypres three months later on 9th May, at the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge. The Battalion History tells the story:
On the night of the 8th of May the battalion was ordered to hold the trenches from Bellewaerde Farm to the Railway. As this line proved to be too extensive, a portion of it, on the left, was occupied by a battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. On the 9th about 6 a.m. the enemy started shelling our line and continued until 2 p.m., all firing then ceased for about half an hour, when it suddenly recommenced with increased intensity working systematically up and down the line. Soon after four o'clock the shelling developed into an absolute furnace of fire. For twenty minutes this rain of shells continued. Shells of every description, from "Jack Johnsons" to 9-pounders, fell in and about our trenches. Suddenly it ceased. It was obvious that an infantry attack was coming, and an order to clean rifles was passed along.
Almost at once a line of Germans appeared over the crest of the hill some 250 yards in front. This line was followed by a second and then a third. On they came, shoulder to shoulder, their lines stretching right across the front. The troops hailed this apparition with deep satisfaction; here at last was something they could deal with. The enemy was met with a heavy and accurate fire. His lines melted away, some lay down, some turned and ran. Then it was seen that many of the enemy were wearing British uniform, and these came on shouting to our men. The battalion took no notice, but continued to Fire. The Royal Fusiliers, however, ceased firing, though only for some twenty seconds, but it was twenty seconds valuable time lost.
The enemy rallied and came on again over the ridge. He was again met by a heavy fire, which he could not face, but turning round fled in disorder. This brought to an end a really satisfactory infantry fight, which made up to the troops for a great deal of their sufferings under the appalling bombardment they had endured. [Wood pp.81-82]
Private Thomas Cooper, 6713 KSLI, is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He was awarded the Victory and British Medals and the 1915 Star.
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.