William COOPER
Rank: Private
Number: 305378
Unit: 4th Battalion TANK CORPS
Date of Death: 14 August 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Moreuil Communal Cemetery Allied Extension, Somme, France

William was born in the Stockport area and lived with his parents at The Wharf, High Lane. As a youngster he had furthered his education by attending the Sunday School attached to Windlehurst Wesleyan Church. He was also a member of the High Lane Liberal Club and much of his social life probably centred around the Club.

He enlisted at Stockport, probably in 1915 or early 1916, and was assigned to the Cyclist Company of the Army's 68th Division (one formed for home service duties). He undertook his training with the Division and probably served in the UK with it before a transfer to the Tank Corps. His father, also called William, served in the army during the War.

There is some question about William's death. Tank Corps records, published after the War, record him as having "died". This is a designation usually indicating a death from natural causes or accident as opposed to "died of wounds" or "killed in action". His burial at Moreuil might tend to support that - there are no other Tank Corps men buried in the Cemetery, suggesting that it was not used for casualties from the fighting that was going on nearby. Similarly, almost all of the burials are from the early spring of 1918 - again suggesting this was neither a frontline burial area nor an area used by military field hospitals.

It is, however, possible that the records are wrong  and he was injured in the fighting sometime in the previous days and died near Moreuil, perhaps on the casualty evacuation route. On 8 August, the British Army opened an offensive that would lead to the end of the War three months later. The whole strength of the Tank Corps, about 500 vehicles,  would spearhead the infantry attack and William's Battalion was assigned to support Canadian troops.

The History of the Tank Corps records they "drove on ahead of the infantry despite the mist, spreading panic amongst the Germans as they loomed up at close quarters. After a few tougher points of resistance had been overcome, there was a general flight of the enemy. The first objective was gained about 8am, the second by 11am. The German guns had hit back hard when the mist cleared, and only eleven of the 4th Battalion's tanks remained, but they had made a decisive contribution on this sector."

The rest of the Corps had also suffered heavy casualties and, on the second of the offensive, it only had 145 tanks fit for action. The attack was described in the Official History of the War as being of a "very disjointed nature" but still three miles of ground were gained. On the third day, tank numbers were reduced to 67 and only slight progress was made. By the day, the 11th, reserves were all but expended and only a few hundred yards of ground were taken. Across the battlefield, the major attacks were suspended but local actions, of course, continued.

Further information about William can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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