Leslie Charles Cooper came to Chelmsford from Great Dunmow as a child and after education at the Grammar School worked as a printer’s compositor and manager of a skating rink. He married before the war, without children, and joined the army in 1916. He was killed in action at Arras in May 1917. His home was in Hall Street.


Private, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment (formerly of the Essex Yeomanry)

On 25th May 1917 the Essex County Chronicle reported:

“Pt. Leslie Charles Cooper, of 6 Hall Street, Chelmsford, only child of Nurse Mitchell, 167 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, was killed in action on May 11. Deceased, a popular fellow, was 27 years of age. While at the elementary school he gained a scholarship to the King Edward VI School. He was apprenticed at Messrs. A. Driver and Sons’ printing works. Some time afterwards he left to undertake the management of the Skating Rink in London Road. He was a keen follower of sport, and was hon. sec. of the local Printers’ and Allied Trades Committee. He joined up with the Essex Yeomanry, and became a good marksman, heading the list in shooting. He was transferred to the Essex Regt., and went to the Front about six months ago as a marksman. He leaves a wife but no children.”

Leslie was born at Great Dunmow on 23rd May 1890, the illegitimate child of Louisa Ellen Cooper and the butcher, Nathaniel Harry Beedham.

At the time of the 1891 census, ten month-old Leslie was living with his mother, grandparents and four of her mother’s siblings at High Street, Great Dunmow. His grandfather was a butcher, his mother was a butcher’s clerk who had been born in Tattingstone, Suffolk in 1867.

Leslie’s mother married Harlow-born William Lawrence Mitchell in the Dunmow registration district in 1897. At the time of census four years later ten year-old Leslie was living with his mother, step-father, uncle, and lodger at 8 Co-operative Terrace in Goldlay Road, Chelmsford (today’s number 31).

Leslie won a scholarship to King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Chelmsford where he was educated from September 1903 to July 1905. His admission record shows that his step-father was a foreman at a works and resident at 31 Goldlay Road.

The 1911 census recorded 20 year-old Leslie living with his 43 year-old mother, 43 year-old step-father and a lodger at 160 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford (today’s number 167, pictured) following a renumbering scheme).

He was employed as a general printer; his step-father worked as a store keeper at Hoffmann’s ball-nearing works in Chelmsford. Leslie’s mother worked as a nurse,

Leslie married Ada Duce on 21st June 1911 at St. John’s Church in Moulsham. At the time Leslie was aged 21 and employed as a compositor. His bride was 28, and the daughter of George Duce, a labourer and had been born at Foxearth on 17th March 1883. At the time the couple both lived at 160 Upper Bridge Road.

Leslie worked for the Chelmsford printer’s Driver & Son, where he was a colleague of William Robert Elliston. By June 1914 he had become, with William, one of two Honorary Secretaries pf the Chelmsford Printing & Allied Trades’ Athletic and Social Club. In February 1915 the local papers reported that he had taken an additional job managing the County Skating Rink in New London Road, Chelmsford.

Leslie lived and enlisted into the army at Chelmsford around the end of March 1916 and saw service as Trooper 2670 in the 3/1st Essex Yeomanry, before transferring to the Essex Regiment on 14th December 1916. Leslie was killed in action in Arras on 11th May 1917 while serving as Private 33902 in B Company, 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment. He was aged 27.

The same day’s Essex Weekly News reported:

“Pte. Leslie C. Cooper, Essex Regt., was killed in action on May 11. Deceased, who was well known in Chelmsford, lived at 6, Hall-st., where his widow resides, and was the only child of Nurse Mitchell, of Upper Bridge-rd., Chelmsford.

Pte. Cooper, whose age was 27, was an old boy of the Chelmsford Grammar School, and subsequently served his apprenticeship with Messrs, A, Driver and Sons, printers, and was employed by the firm for some years. Afterwards he took over the management of the Skating Rink, London-rd. He originally joined the Yeomanry, but was transferred to a Battalion of the Essex Regt., and had been at the Front about six months. Deceased was a keen sportsman, and acted as secretary to the local Association formed for members of the printing and allied trades, by who he was much esteemed.”

The July 1917 edition of King Edward VI’s Grammar School’s publication, The Chelmsfordian Magazine, reported:

“As this war lengthens so does our sad list of casualties. Pte. L. C. Cooper was killed in action on May 11th. He joined the Essex Yeomanry and became a good marksman.”

Leslie has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, on the Essex Yeomanry War Memorial at Chelmsford Cathedral, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. Leslie was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

On 10th May 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following in memoriam notice:

“Cooper. - In proud and loving memory of Pt. Leslie Charles Cooper, of 6 Hall Street, Chelmsford who fell in action in France, May

Chelmsford who fell in action in France, May 11th, 1917, aged 27 years.

We often sit and think of him, and think of how he died
To think he could not say Good-bye before he closed his eyes.
Could we but kneel beside his grave and shed a silent tear
But oh, he sleeps in a distant land - one we loved so dear.

From his Wife and Mother.”

The 1918 register of electors listed Leslie’s mother and step-father still at 167 Upper Bridge Road. His widow remained at 6 Hall Street and she died in 1976. His step-father died on 16th June 1934, aged 67.

Leslie’s widow died in 1976, aged 93. 6 Hall Street is now part of the site of the Elim Christian Centre.

Acknowledgements to Ian Miller