Recent Acquisition

With the generous assistance of the The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Mercian Regiment Museum we have recently acquired the medals of Captain (Quartermaster) A. H. Cooper, Worcestershire Regiment, who during the course of the War was wounded besides earning a brace of ‘mentions in despatches’ and his decoration, the only Regimental appointment to the Order of the British Empire for the Middle East.

Arthur Harry Cooper, a native of Smethwick, Staffordshire, was born on 9 September 1901 and enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment in 1920. Commissioned Lieutenant (Quartermaster) on 1 September 1938, he served with the 1st Battalion in Palestine and played key role in preparing the unit for the Second World War, as recalled in Birdwood’s The Worcestershire Regiment, 1922-50:

Wadi Halfa was reached at 0100hrs on 3 September [1939]. Once again a long-suffering Quartermaster [Cooper] was called on to cope with a sudden situation, for information was received that two companies were to be dropped at Atbara and this entailed re-sorting out all the barrack equipment and furniture. Accordingly, on 4th September ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies remained at Atbara under the command of Major Knight. This officer had stayed on to bring on the heavy baggage, which was three days behind; for in the peculiar conditions at the time the Battalion was still in a hybrid state of war preparation on a peace-time scale.’

Serving with acclaim throughout the campaign, Cooper finished it with a wound suffered on 16 March 1941 to go with a brace of ‘mentions’ (London Gazette 15 September 1939 & 1 April 1941, refers) and his M.B.E. – one of only 19 such awards to the Regiment for the Second World War.

Captain Cooper’s medals comprising :  The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, M.B.E. (Military); General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with M.I.D. oak leaf.

M.B.E. London Gazette 14 April 1942. The original recommendation – for an O.B.E. – states:

‘This Officer has been Quartermaster, 1st Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment almost continuously since his force commission as a Quartermaster in August 1938, after 19 years’ service in the ranks. He accompanied the Battalion to Palestine in September 1938, served in that campaign untill the outbreak of the present war, and was Mentioned in Despatches for his valuable services. After the outbreak of war, in addition to his duties as Battalion Quartermaster, he performed the duties of a Camp Adjutant and Quartermaster for over a year at Gebeit (Sudan) and was again Mentioned in Despatches for exceptional zeal and ability. For a short time, he was Staff Captain to the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade at Gallabat (Sudan), but rejoined the Battalion as Quartermaster at Gedarf before it took the field in January 1941.

He served throughout the campaign in East Africa, being present at the actions at Gogni, Tauda, Barentu and Keren, where he was wounded, but rejoined in time for the final battle at Amba Alagi. He has since accompanied the Battalion to Egypt and is serving as Quartermaster at the present time.

Throughout these three years of active service, 2. Lieut. Cooper’s efficiency and devotion to duty have been of the highest order. His knowledge and capability under difficult conditions of supply and replacement of stores has been outstanding, and it is due to his care and qualities that the administration of this Unit has been maintained at the best possible standard at all times.’

Cooper was posted ‘dangerously ill’ on 24 August 1942 whilst in South Africa, but died on 31 August, being buried in the Johannesburg (West Park) Cemetery, South Africa, aged 40.

Hitler's Clock

Hilter's clock

Adolf Hitler’s Clock

Hitler’s Clock – This electric clock was removed from the wall behind Hitler’s desk in his Conference Room, above the door into his ante-room, by Major H. F. Boddington on 26th July 1945. He was an officer of the Worcestershire Regiment, but had worked in  the British Intelligence Service for most of the war. That day he was escorting Winston Churchill and other important people in a tour of the Chancellery, Berlin, which had been captured by the Red Army.

After deciding to ‘liberate’ the clock, Major Boddington gave it to the museum for safe keeping, where it has remained as a popular exhibit.

Gas! A teaching aid for the WI

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

Amongst the curiosities in the collection, we found this box of colourful phials issued during the lead up to World War Two for training ARP wardens, firemen, ambulance men and other civil defence workers. Each test tube contained a very small amount of a different poison gas, including lethal ones such as Phosgene and Chlorine alongside merely unpleasant ones like Mustard Gas. The tubes were passed around so that each worker could have a sniff and learn to recognise all of the different gases that the Germans might drop.

Each gas had different treatments and precautions, and it was important to know which was which. The phials were supposed to contain only a very safe amount of gas, but the label warns that ‘Delicate persons with bad lungs or respiratory weakness must be cautious. The quantity of substance applied is so small that serious casualties cannot occur.’

Evidence that the emergency precautions and training were underway in the county well before the start of hostilities can be found in the minutes of Wilden Women’s Institute, Worcestershire.  The secretary recorded that on 1 Nov 1937:

‘A lecture was given by Mrs Neligan of Droitwich on gas defence work and the action to be taken by civilians in the event of gas attacks.  She illustrated the talk with gas masks and phials of different gases to so that members might become acquainted with their colour and smell’. (1)

Volunteers from the county’s Women’s Institutes contributed a great deal towards the war effort in organising and delivering Civil Defence, food production and public health duties throughout the war. Their records are a mine of information for any researcher into Worcestershire’s Home Front.  The Worcestershire Federation of Women’s Institutes archive is now held by Worcestershire Archives and can be viewed at the Hive.

(1) reference: records of Wilden WI deposited by Worcs Federation of Women’s Institutes, Worcestershire Archives, BA14296/box 7