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Miles Cooper was born towards the end of 1890 whilst his family were living at Thorneythwaite in Matterdale. He was one of the nine children of Joseph and Bridget Cooper, including his youngest brother George Robinson Cooper, who is one of those who died in World War One. His father had started working at Greenside mine around 1883 having been born in Penrith. The family lived in Dockray and it is likely that Miles attended school in Matterdale. We know that he was employed as a farm labourer and on 13th May 1909 he enlisted with the 3rd Battalion The Border Regiment in Carlisle.
His reference, like many of those from the Dale who enlisted, was written by the Revd William Prosser Morris. At the time his next of kin were his father, living at Number 2 Glenridding, and his brothers Christopher (living at 35 Chapel Street Appleby), Thomas (at Deepdale Bridge) and Adam (3 Halton Terrace). It is likely that he joined the Territorials initially. We know that he completed various courses in musketry in 1909 and 1911 and attended 3 week long annual camps every year from 1910 to 1914. He seems to have been something of a character, and within 2 weeks of joining he was facing 5 days “Confined to Barracks” punishment for “using obscene language in the dining hall”. His tongue got him into trouble 4 more times in 1909, leading to a total of 24 more days confined to barracks. He also got into trouble in July 1910 for failing to attend a musketry training course. We think from the 1911 census that he was living in Ingleton in Yorkshire, and working in the coal mining industry. On the 23rd December 1911 he married Jane Moore, from Thornton in Lonsdale, in Yorkshire, and on 3rd February 1914 a daughter, Mabel was born.
When war was declared Miles was still serving with the 3rd Battalion the Border Regiment, based in Carlisle, which became the Training Battalion for the Regiment throughout the war. On 20th October 1914 he got into trouble again, and was awarded 10 days “FP No. 2” -
Following this Miles transferred to the 2nd Battalion and was posted on 25th November 1914. The second Battalion had sailed for Belgium on the 6th October and saw action at the First Battle of Ypres from October 19th to November 22nd 1914. On 13th December 1914 Miles, serving with A Company 2nd Battalion Border Regiment of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) filled in his Will (see left), leaving everything to Jane, who was living in Middlesborough.
It is unclear from Miles’ service records exactly what action he saw in France but we do know that the Second Battalion were involved in The Battle of Neuve Chappelle (10-
However we know that Miles’ story took a very different turn. We know from his Service Record that by 19th May 1915 he had been posted back to the 3rd Battalion, by now in Shoeburyness in Essex. It is possible he had bee invalided back on the UK at the end of 1914 with Scabies.
Private Miles Cooper
4013, 2nd and 3rd Battalion Border Regiment
Born around 1890 Matterdale.
Son of Joseph and Bridget (nee Allison) Cooper, Number 2 Glenridding
Husband of Jane (nee Moore) and Father of Mabel (born Feb 1914)
It is here that Miles’ story takes on a sad twist. All we know is that according to his official records on the 8th November 1915 he deserted. He was never heard of again.
All we have to go on are the letters and information included in his Service Record. We know that on 20th March 1916 the British Red Cross and Order of St John sent a standard request for information form to the Officer in Charge of the Border Regiment Records in Preston asking for Information on “Cooper Miles, 4013, Pte, 2nd Border Regt B Coy”. The only clue we have to the response are the words “Deserter 8 11/15” which have been hand written on the form. There is then nothing in the records for a staggering 10 years before we see a heartbreaking set of correspondence between Jane and various officials asking for information.
The first was written on Nov 26th 1928 by Jane (signing herself Mrs Miles Cooper) and living at High Westhouse, Carnforth, Lancashire.
Dear Sir, I am writing to ask you if you have ever had any information concerning Lance Cpl M Cooper No 4013 3rd Border Regiment last heard of at Shoeburyness 1915 as a deserter. As I should be glad of any information of the same. Could you give me any advice as what to do to have him presumed dead......13 years this...It is the army paper which I received when I made enquiries about him at that time hopefully (?) you will be able to give me any information that you ???? (may have) if any.
Please let me have the enclosed paper back again as is is all I have to prove his desertion. I am yours truly
Mrs Miles Cooper
PS Could I claim the Widows Pension if I get him presumed as dead. I have one child 14 years of age.
The letter was passed around internally within the Army before Jane was sent a reply on the 19th December 1928.
With reference to your letter of 26th November, address to the Officer-
Before this reply was received Jane had sent another plaintive request for information on Dec 10th 1928. The trail then goes cold for another 5 years when, on 25th November 1933, a full 18 years after Miles’ disappearance, another request was made, this time from the British Legion & United Services Fund, Benevolent Committee, Wenning Avenue, Bentham, Lancaster to the Under Secretary of State (presumably of the War Office).
Will you kindly furnish me with the necessary information concerning No.4013 L/C M Cooper 3rd Battn Border Regiment. I am informed by this mans wife that she has not heard from or of him since 1915. This is to support a claim to presume death and approve for ???????????? (widows pension?) to which we assume she may be entitled to. I shall esteem it a great favour if you will comply with this request made on behalf of Mrs Jane Cooper and Daughter Goodenber Road, Bentham, Lancs.
Thank you in anticipation. I am yours truly..
In terms of the rest of his family, Miles’s mother had died in June 1904 and in July 1905 his father Joseph married Rachel Hayton. Joseph died in October 1922. George’s eldest brother Thomas married Edith Hannah Kitching from Hartsop in June 1907. We know they had one daughter, Mary Elizabeth born in July 1908. Another older brother Adam married Margaret Ellen Dewis in December 1908 . We know they had at least 7 children (James Robinson (1910), Margaret Annie (1913), Mary Evelyn Allinson (1914), Sydney Pattinson (April 1916), Dorothy Ellen (1917), Eileen Elsie* (1921), and Adam (1928). Adam died in 1941 in 7 Low Glenridding, and his wife died in 1965, aged 85.
We’re not sure what became of all George’s nephews and nieces but we do know James Robinson continued to live at the family home of 7 Low Glenridding until his death in March 1992 aged 81.
Sadly the response sent on 18th December 1933, shown below was not encouraging.
This is all that we know from his Service Record. There are other snippets of information, including the almost laughable official Army Form 0.1624 -
Likewise we have no idea what happened to Miles himself. Rumours amongst some of the locals are that he may have been shot for desertion, but his name certainly does not appear on the lists of any of the poor souls who suffered that fate and it seems unlikely this would have happened especially given that he was in England at the time. One thing is for sure -
Sadly we also know nothing of the fate of poor Jane and their daughter Mabel. They certainly seem to have received little or no sympathy from the Army. If anyone does know anything about them please let us know.
We do know that Miles’ brother George Robinson Cooper, died whilst serving with the Coldstream Guards on the 27th August 1918, aged 26 in Flanders.