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Squire Cooper

Private Squire Cooper, 16217, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 10th Battalion

Squire CooperSquire Cooper was born in Ossett in early 1884 and was baptised at South Ossett Christ Church on the 6th April 1884, the son of Dewsbury miner Thomas Cooper and his wife Frances Fanny (nee Campbell) who married in summer 1867. In 1884 the couple were living on Owl Lane, Ossett. Squire was the sixth of nine children born to the couple and he was their last child to be born in Ossett. Five of the children died before April 1911. The family appear to have moved from Ossett between 1885 and 1887 and in 1891 they were living at Barugh Green, Barnsley.

Like his father and his brothers, Squire, found work in the local pit and in 1901, still at Barugh Green, he was working as a trammer. In 1911, Squire was living at the Glossop home of his brother-in-law, hairdresser Soloman Page and his wife Frances Fanny (nee Cooper) who was Squires’ sister and their family. Squire was also now working as a hairdresser.

Squire Cooper enlisted at Barnsley and embarked for France on the 11th September 1915 with the 10th (Service) Battalion, KOYLI, formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under command of 64th Brigade in 21st Division. The Battalion moved to Berkhamsted and then to Halton Park (Tring) in October 1914, going on to billets in Maidenhead in November. They returned to Halton Park in April 1915 and went on to Witley in August. In September 1915, they landed in France. on the 13th February 1918 the battalion was disbanded in France, with at least some of the men going to 20th Entrenching Battalion.

Squire Cooper's army service record has not survived but his medal record card reveals that he embarked for France on the 11th September 1915 and he was awarded the 1914-15 Star in addition to the British and Victory medals.

The 10th KOYLI were involved in the attack on Fricourt on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st July 1916 as part of 64 Brigade, 21st Division. The 64th (Northern Brigade) in 21 Division consisted of the 9th and 10th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) in the front line, with the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment in reserve. The 10th Battalion, KOYLI war diary for the 1st July 1916 is very brief:

"The British offensive commenced, this battalion leading the 64th Brigade assault. They left the trenches at 7.30 a.m. and took Crucifix Trench that morning and held it till early the next day, when they were relieved by the 1st Lincolns. Casualties - Officers Killed: Capt. C.R. Heygate, Lt. J.W. Bamber, Lt. R.S.M. Beatson, 2nd Lt. J. Andrew, 2nd Lt. K.J.P. Asher, 2nd Lt. A.C. Cockroft, 2nd Lt. J.A.A. Fountain, 2nd Lt. M.E.J. Maude, 2nd Lt. L.F. Sharp, 2nd Lt. G.F.N. Wilkinson. Wounded 16 Other Ranks Killed 50, Wounded 292, Missing 135."

Sadly, one of those 135 missing men was Private Squire Cooper. Prior to Zero Hour (0730) the men from the KOYLI battalions (9th and 10th) crawled out into no man’s land in readiness for their assault. In front of them the German wire had been well cut by the week long artillery bombardment and both battalions made swift progress through the German’s front line trenches. Within 30 minutes they had secured an area around the north of Fricourt village as far as the road to Contalmaison. Here they were held by machine gun fire coming from their front and flanks, and dug in. To their left the 34th Division’s attempt at taking La Boisselle had been repulsed with enormous loss to its Tyneside Brigades. As the 34th Division attempted to remedy the situation the KOYLI found themselves in the unenviable situation of maintaining a position surrounded on three sides.

Battle of the Somme Day One

Above: Soldiers going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. Private Squire Cooper of 10/KOYLI was one such soldier and he never returned.

The "Barnsley Chronicle" from September 1916 had this story about Private Squire Cooper:

"Missing - Father Asks For News - A well-known Barugh Green resident in the person of Pte. 16217 Squire Cooper, 10th K.O.Y.L.I., 'D' Co., has been missing since July 1st. He is 32 years of age, and his aged father, Mr. Tom Cooper, of Barugh Green, would welcome any tidings of his lad. Another son, who is out in France, went through the Big Push, and in a letter home he says Squire was wounded, since which time nothing has been heard of him."

Ossett born Squire Cooper is not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour, probably because he and his family left the town in the mid 1880s. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918 listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Private Squire Cooper, died aged 32 years on the 1st July 1916 and is remembered on Pier and Face 11C and 12A at the Thiepval Memorial,1 Somme, France. The Thiepval Memorial can be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929).

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site