Rank or Title
Date of Birth
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
Pte John William Cooper, 55240, 16th Battalion Welsh Regiment, met a particularly tragic death at the Front in Belgium on May 22nd, 1917, drowning in a deep water-filled shell hole from which he was unable to escape before help could reach him.
His story arrived in Luton in a letter from the Rev W. T. Havard, a Church of England Chaplain with the Forces. He wrote: "He was in the front line trenches yesterday morning with his battalion when he seems to have fallen into a shell hole and, being unable to get out as it was somewhat deep, he was drowned before anyone became aware of the sad mishap. This morning, borne by comrades to his grave, we laid him to his last rest in the British Cemetery in the rear of the lines."
In a postscript the writer added that the grave would be carefully looked after, registered and a cross would be erected.
London-born John was the son of Luton-born parents William and Louisa, both of whom had died in London. In the 1911 Census he is recorded as being a boarder at 77 Dallow Road, Luton, along with his older sister Violet Jane, and he was a clerk at a dyeworks. Violet was likely to have been the recipient of the letter from the Front.
The Luton News report of John's death said he had worked at the T. Lye and Sons dyeworks in New Bedford Road for some years until he obtained a job at the Hewlett and Blondeau aeroplane factory at Leagrave.
The 33-year-old was called up in November 1916 and trained at Landguard in Suffolk. After a few days' leave the following Christmas, he was drafted to France in February 1917, dying after just three months in the trenches.
Sister Violet married American-born Wallace Foster Ritchie at St Mary's Parish Church on July 27th, 1919, and died at 1 Wingate Road, Luton, in September 1947.