Saturday 11 March 2023

Casualties - don't simply trust newspapers

A recent post on eBay selling a QSA to Pte 6374 J Cooper, 1st bn Oxfordshire Light Infantry has again highlighted the need to double check a source.

The seller had found a newspaper report listing Pte Cooper has having died at Bloemfontein on 8th December, 1900. The seller notes, "I have been unable to find out any further information on him."

As the compiler of the most correct casualty roll for the war I had to check this out. There is no record on The Register for Pte 6374 J Cooper, 1st bn Oxfordshire Light Infantry. Just to be sure, I re-checked the official casualty roll, the medal roll, Soldier's Effects, Bloemfontein Memorial Wall, no mention of Pte Cooper.

I looked in detail at the news paper report from the Reading Mercury, 15th December, 1900:

There are four names shown, one is false. Pte 5960 W Bennett did not die from disease either, he lived to collect a King's South Africa medal (unfortunately he was killed in 1915). I did a further check on the names inscribed on the memorial wall at Heilbron, Stopp and Merry are mentioned but Bennett is not.

It is possible Pte Cooper's death was misreported, but there is no evidence he lived into 1901 or 1902 - he did not receive clasps for these years, or a King's South Africa medal.

I have not come across very many examples like this, which is good, but all the same the news must have been distressing to family and friends of the soldiers concerned. 

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