30 November 2003

At 11:00 on Sunday, 30th November 2003, a memorial plaque was unveiled at Warstone Lane Cemetery, Hockley, Birmingham, commemorating Private James Cooper VC, 2nd Bn, 24th Regiment ( later the South Wales Borderers ).

James Cooper died in 1889 and was buried, along with 34 other bodies, in Common Ground in Warstone Lane Cemetery, Hockley. The cemetery is now closed to burials and it was thought inadvisable to erect a headstone over Cooper's burial plot owing to possible vandalism. However, a recent addition of a wooden cross does denote Cooper's last resting place.

A memorial plaque has been attached to the rear wall of the Cemetery Lodge, closest to the War Memorial, to remember the bravery of James Cooper. It is thanks to Clive Blakeway and the efforts of others connected to the Shropshire War Memorial Association that the this project has been successfully concluded.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 17 December 1867 ], Andaman Islands, 7 May 1867, Assistant Surgeon Campbell Douglas MD; Private Thomas Murphy; Private James Cooper; Private David Bell; Private William Griffiths; 2nd Bn, 24th Regiment.

"For the very gallant and daring manner in which they risked their lives in manning a boat, and proceeding through a dangerous surf to the rescue of some of their comrades who formed part of an expedition which had been sent to the island of Little Andaman, by order of the Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, with the view of ascertaining the fate of the commander and seven of the crew of the ship Assam Valley, who had landed there and were supposed to have been murdered by the natives."
James Cooper was invested with his Victoria Cross on 16 April 1868 by Major-General A. Faunce, Rangoon, Burma

The officer who commanded the troops on the occasion reports: "About an hour later in the day Dr. Douglas, 2nd Bn, 24th Regiment, and the four privates referred to, gallantly manned the second gig, made their way through the surf almost to the shore, but finding their boat was half filled with water, they retired. A second attempt made by Dr. Douglas and party proved successful, five being safely passed through the surf to the boats outside. A third and last trip got the whole of the party left on shore safe to the boats".

It is stated that Dr. Douglas accomplished these trips through the surf to the shore by no ordinary exertion. He stood in the bows of the boat and worked her in an intrepid and seamanlike manner, cool to a degree, as if what he was doing then was an ordinary act of everyday life. The four privates behaved in an equally cool and collected manner, rowing through the roughest surf when the slightest hesitation or want of pluck on the part of any of them would have been attended with the gravest results. It is reported that seventeen officers and men were thus saved from what must otherwise have been a fearful risk, if not certainty, of death.

Medal entitlement of Private James Cooper - 2nd Bn, 24th Regiment

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Iain Stewart, 4 December 2003