John and Thomas Coupe were brothers, from Bamber Bridge. Their father was Hugh Coupe (b. 1866 in Whittle-Le-Woods), a cotton stripper and grinder by trade. Their mother was Alice Jane Orrell (b. 1867 in Rishton). Hugh and Alice married at Brownedge St Mary’s in 1887 and had 7 children, tragically 5 died and only the two brothers survived. John was born in 1888 and Thomas in 1890. The other children were James (1892-1892), Elizabeth Alice (1894-1894), Joseph (1895-1895), William (1896-1897) and William (1897-1898).
Their father Hugh died on 8 February 1899 and in 1901 Alice Jane Coupe and her two sons were living with Alice Jane’s widowed mother Elizabeth Orrell at 88 School Lane, Bamber Bridge. Aged 13 John had just started work as a part-timer in the mill while his younger brother was still at school. Grandmother Elizabeth Orrell was housekeeping for Alice Jane and the two boys.
On 9 July 1907 John married Emma Ledger (b. 1888 in Bamber Bridge) at Brownedge St Mary’s. They had 4 children: Ruth (b. 1908), Hugh (b. 1910), Thomas (b. 1912), and finally Harold who was born in 1914 but did not live beyond the end of the year.
On 21 May 1908 also at Brownedge, their mother Alice Jane remarried to Henry Mercer (b. 1866 in Preston). Henry had recently been widowed and he had nine children. The following year Alice Jane and Henry had a son they named Joseph Bernard. In 1911 Alice Jane was living with her husband Henry, their son Joseph Bernard and her nine stepchildren in a four roomed cottage at 6 Smith Street, Bamber Bridge.
The 1911 Census shows John, Emma and their children Ruth and Hugh living at 7 Charnley Fold Lane, Bamber Bridge. Thomas was boarding with them. Both John and Thomas worked at Orr’s Mill on School Lane, John as a cotton grinder, Thomas as a weaver.
6 PTE. T. COUPE. L.N.LAN.R.
I am grateful to Janet Davis for information about Thomas’ military career, published here.
When war broke out Thomas went off to enlist. He was posted to the 1/4th Battalion and allocated the service number 6. Unfortunately his service papers do not appear to have survived so there is no further information available. On 2 May 1915 an advance party consisting of 3 Officers and 104 other ranks boarded the SS Rossetti at Southampton bound for Le Havre. Thomas left with the remainder of the Battalion going from Bedford to Folkestone. It was here they boarded the SS Onward and then sailed for Boulogne in the early morning of 4 May 1915. The total strength of the Battalion was now 31 Officers and 1003 non-commissioned officers and men.
Thomas would have taken part in and survived the 1/4th Battalion actions on 15 June 1915 during the Battle of Festubert. The 1/4th Battalion suffered enormous casualties losing 431 men who were killed, wounded or missing. Private Thomas Coupe was killed in action three months later on 11 September 1915.
Extract from Battalion history
On the 27th (July) we left for LA GORGUE Station, where we entrained and arrived at CALAIS at 8 p.m., then on via ABBEVILLE and AMIENS to CORBIE, where we detrained and marched to billets at RIBEMONT. On the 31st (July) we went to MARTINSART being then in Divisional Reserve. Here we remained for a week training.
We relieved the 25th Lancashire Fusiliers on the 6th August in Sector B. A, B and C Companies were in the fire trench; D Company in support at POSTE LESDOS ; Battalion HQ in AVELUY WOOD south of AUTHUILLE. The trenches were cut in the solid chalk hardly any sandbags – and the French had made the dug-outs very comfortable. The barbed wire was thick.
On the morning of September 4th the enemy shelled the trenches at POSTE LESDOS fairly heavily, and one shell burst in the midst of a working party, killing one and wounding five other ranks of D Company, whilst a week later (11th) one Other Rank was killed.
The newspaper article above appeared in the Preston Guardian not long after Thomas was killed.
Service No: 6
Date of Death: 11/09/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: AVELUY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
15576 PTE. J. COUPE. BORDER REGT.
In his youth, John Coupe was a well-known local footballer, playing for Bamber Bridge and Higher Walton, helping the latter club to win the West Lancashire League Championship in 1911-12. By 1914, John and his family had moved to Oswaldtwistle where he worked at Stanhill Mill. He enlisted at Blackburn in the Border Regiment. He was given service number 15576 and posted initially to 6th Battalion. This Battalion was raised in Carlisle as part of Kitchener’s New Army and left for Gallipoli on 1 July 1915, landing at Helles on 20 July. By the time they arrived at Helles, huge losses had already been sustained on both sides and the opposing armies were entrenched and at stalemate. The attrition continued at Suvla Bay in August but losses to the Border Regiment were very light, as they had only 5 men killed in the remainder of the year.
6Bn was withdrawn as part of the evacuation of Allied forces on December 19/20 1915. They went first to Imbros then in January 1916 to Alexandria in Egypt and they were later deployed in the defence of the Suez Canal. In June they were ordered to move to France. They embarked on 3 July and arrived at Flesselles (just to the north of Amiens) on 7 July. However, by this time John Coupe had been transferred to 2Bn. 2Bn Border Regiment came under the orders of 20th Brigade in 7th Division which was engaged in various phases of the Battle of the Somme: the Battle of Albert, in which the Division captured Mametz, the Battle of Bazentin and the attacks on High Wood, the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont. It was at the end of this latter engagement that John Coupe was killed, buried by a shell. He was 28 years old. 2 officers and 12 other ranks from 2Bn were killed during this battle from 3-6 September. Guillemont had been the village which the Germans had fought hardest to defend. Once it fell, on 6 September, the German High Command cancelled the order to defend and refuse to withdraw at all costs and ordered the construction of the Hindenburg Line, effectively conceding that this phase of the War had been lost.
Service No: 15576 (CWGC incorrectly gives 11576)
Date of Death: 06/09/1916
Regiment/Service: Border Regiment, 2nd Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 6 A and 7 C.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL