Private William Henry Cooper, 2nd Aircraft Depot, Royal Air Force died in France of influenza and bronchial pneumonia. He was born in Shirley on 1st November 1873 and, in 1881, was living in Bills Lane with parents William (a metal roller) and Louisa Amelia (née Harrison) ,who had married in Moseley in 1866. Harry, as he was known, was the third of the couple’s four children (two sons, two daughters).
The eldest of the four siblings – Edith Annie (1867-1892) – worked as a barmaid in Birmingham after leaving the private school she attended. She moved to the Isle of Man c.1889 and worked as a barmaid at the Central Hotel on the Promenade at Douglas. She met a wealthy Manchester merchant, divorcé George James Barker Cooper, and they married in Shirley in November 1891.
Less than a year after his second marriage, George took his wife to the Regent Hotel, Douglas, where they had stayed on several previous occasions. The morning after their arrival, she was found dead in their room, in a pool of blood, and with a stab wound to the heart. George was accused of murder, and two of his wife’s siblings – Louisa and Harry – gave evidence against him at the trial. Harry had previously given George a black eye after hearing him swear at Edith. Having then witnessed George strike Edith, Harry picked up a riding whip and thrashed his brother-in-law. The murder trial resulted in George being convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to 10 years penal servitude.
Census records don’t give any occupation for Harry, and his father, William, was described by 1891 as living on his own means. Distraught at the death of his daughter, Edith, William Cooper died in 1900. His widow and two of their surviving children – Harry and Louisa – then moved to Balsall Heath. Harry married Emma Eliza Holtom on 28th July 1917 and joined the Royal Air Force on 12th August 1918. His mother, Louisa, had died earlier in the year, aged 75.
Harry arrived in France on 5th September 1918, exactly three months before he died. He is buried at Awoingt British Cemetery but, with his parents having died and his surviving siblings having moved away from Shirley, he is not commemorated on the war memorial at his birthplace.
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