Quibell Cooper


Ashville Cenotaph: QUIBELL COOPER – obviously a late addition

Ashville Memorial Hall: not included (according to listing on Wharfedale Family History Society)

1921 Roll of Honour: not included, so presumably not included on original Clock Memorial

Connection with Primitive Methodism: Yes. Firstly, he had a non-conformist baptism performed by Rev Edward Dalton a Primitive Methodist Minister. His obituary appears in the Primitive Methodist Leader of 28th November 1918.

Owing to the unusual given name there is only one recorded soldier who fits.


Quibell’s obituary (Primitive Methodist Leader, 28th November 1918) tells us a lot about his war:-

Gunner Quibell Cooper, R.F.A. – Mrs. Cooper, of Kensington, Liverpool, has suffered a severe loss in the death of her youngest son, Gunner Quibell Cooper, who was mortally wounded on October 14th, and died the following morning. He was interred in Duisans British Military Cemetery, France. As a scholar at Belle Vue Sunday School, Leeds, and lately at Jubilee Drive, Liverpool, be was highly esteemed. On March 6th last he was badly gassed, and sent to Queen Mary’s Hospital, London. He returned to France on October 1st and died on October 14th.” Presumably the second October 14th should be October 15th.

Owing to missing records we do not know when Quibell enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) or when he first went to the Western Front. However, we do know that when he was “badly gassed” in March 1918 he was serving as a Driver in the X2 Trench Mortar Battery, RFA. As a Driver he drove the horses used for moving the artillery and associated ammunition wagons but would have doubled up as a Gunner if required. The “X2” shows it was one of three medium artillery units attached to the 2nd Division of the British Army. The main purpose of Trench Batteries was to take out enemy machine guns posts and snipers.

The Forces War Record website states he reported to the 100th Field Ambulance on 13th March a week after the date given in the obituary. This suggests that after being gassed he attempted to carry on his duties for a further week. He was then put on to the No.1 Ambulance Train for evacuation out of the war zone for treatment and convalescence back in the UK as stated in his obituary.

Just over 6 months later Quibell was back at the Western Front and serving with “C” Battery of the 155th Brigade of the RFA. He was now a Gunner. A Brigade Battery used heavier artillery than a Trench Battery and was responsible for the barrages put up before an infantry advance and the rolling or creeping barrage put up as the infantry advanced. A rolling barrage was laid down about 100 yards in front of the advancing troops and required good co-ordination between the infantry and artillery and great skill by the artillerymen to avoid “friendly fire” casualties.

The war Quibell returned to would have been very different from the one he left. In March 1918 the Germans would have just begun their major and last offensive which nearly caused a different outcome to the war. Whilst Quibell was back in the UK they became over-stretched and began to run out of resources and by October the Allies were advancing towards the Hindenburg Line in the final offensive that ended the war. However, the Allies were still suffering heavy losses as the monthly summary for September 1918 in the War Diary of the 155th Brigade of the RFA shows.    

It also shows that two of Quibell’s “C” Battery comrades won the Military Medal in his absence.

In contrast the War Diary for October records very few casualties and for the 14th October shows none. All War Diaries tend to be rather under-stated records. 

At the time the 155th Brigade were attached to the Canadian Artillery providing barrages and harassing fire in support of Canadian troops well east of Arras. Presumably he was taken to one of two Canadian casualty clearing stations just west of Arras and died there as, at the time, the War Cemetery at Duisans was used to bury those who died at these two stations. This cemetery holds the remains of Gunner Quibell Cooper along with those of 2,863 United Kingdom combatants, 320 Canadians, 83 Germans, 7 Australians, 7 New Zealanders, 5 South Africans and 3 Indians. 

Family life

First of all we need to clear up his unusual given name, explained by the fact that his paternal grandmother started out life as Mary Ann Quibell. One of his uncles was also called Quibell Cooper. A Public Member Tree on Ancestry.com has managed to trace the Quibell line back to a William Quibell born in 1675 in Nottinghamshire.

Quibell was born on 23rd March 1892 in Leeds and baptised in a non-conformist church on 11th April 1892. The baptism was performed by an Edward Dalton. The MPMA website shows the Rev Edward Dalton was a Primitive Methodist Minister in Leeds in 1892. Incidentally, the Forces War Record website gives his religion as Church of England which is obviously an error but then they get his birth place wrong as well.

His parents were Samuel Cooper and Mary Jane Fitchett who were both born in Lincolnshire. At the time of the 1901 census the Cooper family were living in Leeds but they had already moved around a bit as the two eldest children were born in Nottingham, the next two in Lincoln and Quibell in Leeds. Samuel gives his occupation as “General Insurance Manager” and two of his children are already following in his footsteps, working as “Insurance Clerks”. Rather amusingly the enumerator has put down that Quibell is a daughter.

By 1911 they had moved again and were living in the Kensington area of Liverpool. Samuel, aged 64, was now a retired insurance manager and 19 year old Quibell was working as a “Fruiterer’s Assistant”. The three eldest children had all left home. The return shows that his parents had been married for 29 years and had only 3 children all of whom were still living. This means the two eldest children on the 1901 census, who would have been aged 37 & 36 by 1911, were Quibell’s half sister & brother.

Assuming he attended Elmfield College between the ages of 11 and 16 he would have been there from 1903 to 1908. It seems a bit surprising, in view of the obituary in the Primitive Methodist Leader, that he was not included on the original memorial and it took until the 1930’s for the omission to be realised.

In spite of the implication in the obituary that Quibell’s father had predeceased him and his mother was still living in Liverpool both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission & Forces War Records give his parents as “Samuel and Mary Jane Cooper, of ‘The Empress’, Central Promenade, Douglas, Isle of Man.” The Empress Hotel is still functioning. Burial records show they both died in the Isle of Man, Samuel on 28th June 1918 aged 71 & Mary Jane on 22nd February 1924 aged 73. They have a joint grave in Douglas Borough Cemetery and it bears an inscription to Quibell, which from the very poor quality photograph I have of it, appears to say he was “killed in action” rather than “died of wounds”.  

Comments about this page

  • I initially thought this late addition to the Ashville Cenotaph was an “error” as I first found him on the Forces War Records website and they told me his religion was C of E. They are wrong as he was baptised a PM and was “esteemed” in the Sunday Schools of Bellue Vue PM Church in Leeds & Jubilee Drive PM Church in Liverpool. 

    He was an Artilleryman and they seemed to have been prone to gassing. I think because they stopped using gas on the enemy infantry because it had a nasty habit of rebounding but the artillery, who were farther way, were still fair game. You don’t need to feel sorry for the 155th Brigade RFA as they gave as good as they got – their War Diary records the receipt of 700 rounds of Mustard Gas shells! All part of man’s inhumanity to man! The really poignant reading are the entries where they record X numbers gassed followed by “(NYD)”. I puzzled over this for a bit until I realised it stood for “Not Yet Dead”. I have saved readers the really poignant entry – “25 horses killed”! 

    His father was an Insurance Manager and they were obviously reasonably well to do but never appeared to have a live-in servant, which gets a tick in my book.

    By David Redhead (20/04/2018)

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