Private Herbert Copley
14198, 9th (Service) Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died of wounds received in action on 13th December 1917, aged 26
Remembered with honour on the
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Tincourt New British Cemetery IV. B. 30
HERBERT COPLEY was born in Chapeltown, Yorkshire in November 1891, the second son of Walter and Sarah Copley and brother of Eliza, Amy and Colin. Walter worked as a timekeeper and weighman before moving to Barrow Hill and becoming a labourer in the cast iron foundry at Staveley Works.
The family initially lodged in the area with a Canadian widow, Norah Jackson, at 11, Canal Row which was a row of cottages by the side of the canal on Hollingwood Common. It was there that Herbert’s younger sister, Hilda, was born in 1898 and the house where the family lived for many years.
By the age of 19, Herbert had joined his father at the ironworks and was employed as a pipe moulder. His brother Colin was a colliery labourer. Living with the family on Canal Row were Herbert’s sister Amy, her husband Oliver Brooks and their two young children and Herbert’s youngest sister Hilda.
Herbert was a Wesleyan Methodist and would probably have attended the Ebeneezer Methodist Chapel, over the bridge, near to the Devonshire Works at Barrow Hill.
Herbert enlisted at Chesterfield on 4th September 1914 and originally joined the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbys Regiment), but with the numbers enlisting in the area being more than the regiment could handle at the time, batches of men were sent to other regiments. In Herbert’s case, he was posted to the Leicestershire Regiment on 24th September, aged 22 and 290 days. His medical report reveals that he was 5’ 3 ¾ tall, weighing 115lbs with a sallow complexion dark eyes and brown hair.
The 9th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment was raised at Leicester in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s 3rd New Army and joined 23rd Division as Divisional Troops. In April 1915 they transferred to 110th Brigade, 39th Division and proceeded to France on 29th of July 1915 to join the British Expeditionary Force.
The Battalion was in action in the Battles of The Somme, including The Battle of Morval in which the Division captured Geudecourt. In July 1916 they transferred with 110th Brigade to 21st Division and in 1917 they were in action during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Arras offensive, the Third Battles of Ypres and The Cambrai Operations.
Herbert’s service records show that he was wounded in action on the 10th December 1917 with a gunshot wound to his back and a compound fracture of his thigh. The Battalion Diary for the 10th December merely records:
Trenches: Enemy artillery activity, very lively for this sector.
Catalet Valley: being shelled from 9am onwards with all calibres.
The field hospital matron, in a letter to Herbert’s family, wrote “I regret to inform you that your son, Pte H Copley, Leicesters, who was admitted to hospital on Dec 12th suffering from a gunshot wound to his back, died the next day. I can assure you that everything that was possible was done to try to save him, but he did not rally from the shock and passed away in his sleep.”
Herbert was just 26 years old when he died on 13th December 1917 and had served on the Western Front for 2 ½ years.
Herbert is buried at the Tincourt New British cemetery; the area was then a centre for casualty clearing stations. He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star for which he qualified on 29th July 1915, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
When his personal effects were returned to his family, they included letters and photos, 2 religious books, a cigarette case, wallet and match box cover, a notebook, a metal mirror in a case, an almanac and a metal ring.
© Ann Lucas