John Reginald COOPER
Rank: Private
Number: 12131
Unit: 2nd Battalion BORDER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 12 March 1915
Age: 23
Cemetery: Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Reginald was the eldest son of Elizabeth Ellen and Joseph Barlow Cooper, of 58 Nelstrop Road, Heaton Chapel. Joseph had earned a living as a labourer in a cotton mill but died in 1907, aged 42.

When Reginald left school, he went to work as an assistant in the warehouse of James Woolley & Sons Ltd. The company, which manufactured pharmaceuticals until 1967, had its warehouse on Victoria Bridge, Manchester. It's manufacturing factory was nearby on Knowsley Street, Cheetham. Reginald is commemorated in the Company's entry in the City Battalions Book of Honour (page 650).

He enlisted just after war was declared in August 1915 and embarked from Southampton to go on active service in mid-February 1915. Less than a month later, he was dead.

The 2nd Battalion was a regular army unit but had been devastated by the casualties of the first few months of fighting. New recruits, who had joined for the duration of the war only, were now being sent as soon as they were trained and the Regimental History records that 50 arrived on 15 February (although information from the Regimental Museum suggest that Reginald only embarked from Southampton on 17 February, so he may have been part of a smaller later batch).

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle would be the first British offensive of the War .The front line ran parallel to the road between Armentieres and Bethune around the village of Estaires. The attack was scheduled to start on 10 March. On the first day, 2nd Borders were in reserve and were not called on to go into action. The next day, they moved up to what had been the original front line.

About 8am, they moved forward again to occupy the trenches that had been the German front line and remained there all day, with bayonets fixed, ready to advance in support of other troops. In the early morning of the 12th, they again moved forward ready to attack at 8.30am. This was postponed until 10.30 due to fog. The Regimental History records that "at the appointed hour "C" Company moved forward, coming immediately under heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The attack progressed for some 15 minutes, but the casualties were so heavy in both the leading regiments that the officer commanding the attacking line ordered the advance to stop until strong artillery or covering fire had been brought to bear." The British guns were not ready until midday and the Borders continued their advance half an hour later "pushing on and getting close up to the position which was rushed as soon as the guns ceased firing. The Germans came out of their trenches holding up their hands and waving handkerchiefs in sign of surrender and the 2nd Border Regiment sent back 400 prisoners and captured large numbers of rifles. The companies were hurriedly reorganised and the advance pushed on in the direction of a red house on the road, but coming again under heavy flank fire and the Battalion being now practically isolated, Colonel Wood decided to halt and fall back to the German trenches."

The Battalion remained in the trenches for the remainder of that day and the next before being relieved, but by that time Reginald had been killed. Casualties in the Battle had been heavy - nearly 300 members of the Battalion were dead, wounded or missing. Reginald's body was never recovered and identified and he is commemorated on the nearby Memorial to the Missing.

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