Rank or Title
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
Drummer John (Jack) Copley, 15563, 7th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action on February 17th, 1917, at Boom Ravine on the Somme.
A letter to his father, Walter, at Danesbury House, 98 Old Bedford Road, Luton, from his adjutant said John had been killed in action on February 12th (although the Boom Ravine battle was on February 17th). He wrote that the battalion was in action in front of Miraumont and John was killed by shell fire while delivering despatches. He was buried on the field of action and a cross marked his grave.
A friend of Drummer Copley also wrote to his parents. He said: "When we drummers go up the line we act as runners, and your son and I generally went together. However, it was our turn to stop out of the trenches, because half the drummers go in and the other half stop out.
"We were stopping on the transport and the order came through that six of us had to go in the line, so Jack and I and four more (one of the four is wounded) packed up and went. I was hoping that Jack was running with me again as we planned, but he had to go as brigade runner. From then I never saw him.
"He was posted in the front line and you can take it from me that he died fighting hard. He was missing for three days, but we kept his food, expecting him back. But then the news came through in orders."
Jack's story was the second tragedy in a love story. The body of his young sweetheart, 18-year-old Elsie Ritchie, was found in Wardown Lake with a picture of Jack sewn to her underclothing near to her heart. She had taken her own life on October 22nd, 1915, around the time her sweetheart was marching out of Luton with his regiment.
At the inquest it was stated that Jack had been engaged in the straw trade at the factory of Messrs Wing, Arnold and Wing, Guildford Street. At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the New Army and was attached to the 7th Bedfords.
Born in Sowerby Bridge, Yorks, John was the son of Walter and the late Rebecca Copley. His father had moved to Luton following her death in 1899 and remarried here, living with his second wife, Rose.