Tony Moon, who lives in Korumburra, a small town in the state of Victoria in Australia, emailed us in July 2016 about Thomas Mathew Cooper. Thomas was born in Wolverhampton in 1894, and served with the 58th Infantry Battalion, 5th Division 1st AIF. Tony Moon is a member of the Korumburra Local Returned Service League (RSL). In recognition of the Centenary of WWI the RSL has been researching their local Cenotaph over the last 4 years. 13 soldiers, including Thomas Cooper, who were not originally listed on the memorial, have been identified and their names added.
According to Wikipedia,
The 1st AIF was the First Australian Imperial Force, the main expeditionary force of the Australian Army during WWI. It was formed on 15 August 1914 following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. The infantry division fought at Gallipoli. After being evacuated to Egypt the AIF was expanded and fought in France and Belgium on the Western Front in March 1916. Two mounted divisions remained in the Middle East to fight against Turkish forces in the Sinai and Palestine. An all volunteer force, the AIF gained a reputation as a well-trained and highly effective military force, playing a significant role in the final Allied victory. However, this reputation came at a heavy cost with a casualty rate among the highest of any belligerent for the war.
Tony Moon tells that Thomas’ brother Frederick Cooper was listed as his next of kin, and that by 1915 Frederick was living at no 33 Liscombe Street, Newport, Monmouthshire. He was apparently still living there in the early 1930s. Tony also tells us that, although Thomas Cooper’s time in Korumburra may have been brief, he did refer to the town as “his place of association” and that at the time of his enlistment (26 July 1915) he was working on one of the local farms.
At the time of Tom’s death his Battalion was fighting at Fromelles. This battle proved to be a disaster for the 5th Division and the men of the 58th and 59th Battalion suffered many losses. Korumburra lost 3 other men on that day. Tom was seen to be carrying ammunition to support that Battalion’s advance on the evening of the 19 July 1916, and was killed with his mate, Jack Colwell. The Korumburra RSL did not know if news of Tom’s loss, or the circumstances around it, ever made it back to his home town. So on the anniversary of his death they decided it would be a nice to send a message to Wolverhampton that Tom has not been forgotten. They hoped that the message would filter down to his family, to say that his name now takes pride of place with the other 231 “locals” they have lost over the years. His efforts on 19 July 1916 are well remembered in a far of corner in a small town in Australia.
Information which we have managed to trace at Wolverhampton Archives follows:
The entry on the CWGC :-
COOPER, THOMAS MATTHEW
Australian Infantry, A.I.F. Australian 14.
AUSTRALIAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL, FROMELLES
A FreeBMD search turned up the birth of Thomas Matthew Cooper registered at Wolverhampton in the quarter ended December 1894. Thomas Cooper appears on the 1901 census, age 6, living at 17 Moore Street with his father William, age 43, Occupation Bricklayer, born Gateshead; mother Mary age 39,born Ireland and brothers James age 17 Stamper of Saucepans, William age 15 Heater of Edge Tools, and Fred age 12 and sister Mary age 9. The death of William J Cooper was registered at Wolverhampton in the first quarter of 1910. The 1911 Census has Thomas Cooper age 16, Occupation Moulder’s Helper in the Brass Casting Trade, living at 17 Moore Street, Willenhall Road, Wolverhampton with his brother Fred Cooper age 22, Occupation Setter, Edge Tool Makers and his sister Mary Cooper age 20 Occupation Plater’s Helper, Cycle Plater’s Trade. Records were traced of a Thomas Cooper age 19 travelling to Brisbane in 1913 but this is unlikely to be the same man as he was accompanied by Elsie and Hilda Cooper and travelled to Brisbane, a city far distant from Korumburra.