Ernest was the eldest of the five known children of Tom and Elizabeth Cooper. Tom originated from Leicestershire and is believed to have moved north in connection with his work as a fitter at a railway locomotive works. They lived initially in Gorton and Ernest was born there but, shortly afterwards, they moved to the Stockport area, taking up residence at 10 Northgate Street.
They later moved to Cheadle Heath and Ernest had become a member of the committee of the local football club. He worked for Melland and Coward, Vale Road, Heaton Mersey. On 5 September 1914, with the War a month old, Ernest travelled into Manchester and enlisted into the third of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment. Click here for details of their recruitment and training. Ernest was assigned to No. 8 Platoon, "B" Company.
Whilst still in training, Ernest will have received news of the death of his father in 1915 (his mother had died in 1912, aged 49). In the November, he went overseas on active service with his comrades in the Battalion. The Battalion History takes up Ernest's story:
"The 25th February was a day of heavy snow, which did not add to the comforts of trench life. On the following day as strong patrol of the enemy appeared on the Manchesters' wire in front of Knowles Point, where "B" Company had a listening patrol of two NCOs and eight men. The Manchesters patrol sent in several bursts of rapid fire and threw bombs and then withdrew to Duck Post without casualties. Sergt Shirley and Ptes R Done and S Forster were mentioned in despatches for their part in the engagement. On the evening of the next day a party of Germans, estimated at sixty strong, attacked Knowles Point. Warning of the coming attack was given by scouts who had been sent out in front to protect a working party and, as a consequence, the enemy was met by hand grenades and rifle fire. Sec-Lieut. Nelson who was in command, sent back for re-enforcements, holding his posts with great coolness by the rapid fire of his garrison of three NCOs and ten men until these were brought up by Lieut T J Kelly and Sec-Lieut. Salmon, the former of whom assumed command of the party. A Lewis gun was also sent up. The enemy then retired, leaving two men dead on our wire and were seen to carry off a number of wounded. Our casualties were three men killed and nine wounded."
Ernest was one of the three men killed. An officer later wrote to his sister and the letter was published in the Stockport newspapers. He is not named in the newspaper but was, almost certainly, Lieut T J Kelly who is understood to have been in command of the platoon since it was in Britian.
"It is my painful duty to inform you that your brother, Private E Cooper, was killed on Sunday night during an attack on an advanced post. I was beside him when he was hit and all that was possible was done for him but unfortunately it was of no avail. Your brother has been in my platoon since the formation of the Battalion and I regarded him as one of the steadiest and most trustworthy men I had. With the platoon, he was very popular and we shall all miss so cheerful a comrade and so good a soldier. The sacrifice you are called upon to bear is a very hard one but I know it will be a consolation to know that your brother gave his life for his country."
Of the men mentioned in the Battalion History, Sergt Shirley became in an officer in the battalion and died on 1 May 1917. Bernard Salmon was killed in action of 9 July 1916.