IT may be 100 years since the Great War but its impact still resonates today, with the losses suffered by thousands of families affecting those several generations later.
Every November we commemorate the armistice that ended the fighting but in this centenary year interest in the First World War is especially heightened as our national institutions, local communities and individuals look back on the great conflict that shaped the nation as we know it today.
Young and old it seems, have an interest in the war and feel a connection to those young men that answered the call to arms, leaving behind loved ones and friends, to fight on battlefields far from hearth and home. We reprint here two tributes by Black Country school children, Scarlett and Oliver McHenry, inspired by the sacrifice of their great-great-grandfather Isaiah Cooper, who was killed in action in 1918.
Our thanks go to Val Worwood and the other members of the Woodside History and Memory Group, who passed on to us Scarlett and Oliver's work and researched the life of Isaiah, who is commemorated on the Holly Hall war memorial.
Isaiah was born in 1879. His father Henry Cooper was born in Brockmoor, Brierley Hill, in 1823 and worked as a labourer at an ironworks. Isaiah's mother, Emma, was born in Oakengates, Shropshire, in 1833.
Both the 1881 and 1891 censuses show the Cooper family living in Blewitt Street, Pensnett. In early 1900 Isaiah married Susan Jane Cooper, born in 1880, at Stourbridge Register Office. The 1901 census shows Isaiah working as a brick-cutter, then aged 22, and living at 16 Brickkiln Street, Harts Hill, Dudley, with his wife Susan and their baby son Isaiah, aged 3 months.
In August 1915, at the age of 36, Isaiah enlisted in the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. Initially his battalion was sent as reinforcements to the Balkans but in 1916 the 4th Worcesters moved to France and in July were involved in the first days of the Battle of the Somme. In August 1916 the battalion moved to Ypres but in October returned to the Somme.
In 1917 the Worcesters were involved in the major battles on the Somme, at Carnoy and Guillimont. April saw the Worcesters fighting at Arras, moving on to Belgium in June where they were involved in the Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele.
In October 1917 Isaiah and his comrades were involved in the Battle of Poelcappelle and in March 1918 they were at Poperinghe, near Ypres, as reserves.
On March 21, 1918, the Germans launched a massive offensive on the Western Front in an effort to defeat the beleaguered French and British before significant American forces could arrive. On March 22, the 4th Worcesters moved to Tourmant Farm and came under intermittent shelling. It is likely that this shelling killed Isaiah on March 24, along with three other members of his battalion. They are buried, side by side, at the Oxford Road Cemetery in Ypres.
96 years after Isaiah's death his great-great-grandchildren were inspired to create their own memorials. Scarlett, aged 8, painted this picture of a red poppy surrounded by marble crosses, and wrote a short verse. Oliver, aged 13, also penned a poem.
Have any other young Bugle readers created a tribute to the Great War? Are your children or grandchildren budding poets? Contact editor@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write in to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.
by Oliver McHenry, aged 13
Poppy fields where we lie,
We didn't have the chance to say goodbye.
Bravery is what we possess,
Down below is where we rest.
Poppies grow row on row,
Underground is where we go.
Through the poppies is where we are,
Other soldiers are afar.
And ever again in the poppy fields,
Other stories will be revealed.