Edward Cooper, known as Ted or Ned to friends, was born in Stockton in 1896, one of three sons and six daughters of a millwright. Leaving school at the age of 13, he started work as an errand boy at his uncle's butchers shop, then as an assistant at the local Co-op, earning three shillings and sixpence a week.
Soon after the First World War broke out in August 1914 Ted joined up, lying about his age to be accepted. He was just 21 and a Serjeant in the 12th Battalion, The King's Royal Rifle Regiment, when he earned his place in military history on the 16 August 1917 at Langemarck, during the Battle of Passchendaele.
The citation was published in the London Gazette on 14 September 1917, and reads:
"No. R.2794 Sjt. Edward Cooper, K.R.R.C. (Stockton).
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sjt. Cooper, with four men, immediately rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on. About 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire at the blockhouse. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, he immediately rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine guns and forty-five prisoners were captured in this blockhouse. By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives."
Yesterday (Wednesday 16th August 2017) the commemorative VC paving stone for Sjt Cooper was unveiled in front of his family, veterans and serving members of The Rifles Regiment and it's Associations at the Cenotaph at the Stockton Parish Church.
Ted was presented with his medal by King George V, but his heroism didn't stop there. In 1918, now a Lieutenant, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire, the highest award given by France to non-nationals for 'gallantry beyond the call of duty'.
After the war, Ted returned to Stockton and married Iris. The couple had three sons, eight grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. Ted became manager at the Co-op in Stockton, but the family lived in Thornaby until his retirment.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Ted was commissioned as a Major, taking command of the Home Guard Unit at Thornaby. In peacetime Ted served as president of Thornaby British Legion and was instrumental in the building of the town's war memorial. He was involved in the United Reformed Church, and served as a magistrates well as Citizen's Advice Bureau.
He missed only one Remembrance Day commemoration in 68 years until his death at the age of 89, shortly after being made an honoury freeman of Stockton.