Arthur was the son of an agricultural labourer and became a shepherd. He joined the Royal Berkshires and was assigned to a labour battalion.
Third of six children
Arthur Cooper was born in Charlton-on-Otmoor in 1895/6, according to the 1901 census. He was the third of six children of Job and Ruth Cooper, who had both been born at Murcott within the Charlton parish. Job was a brother of George W Cooper, whose son George is also remembered on the Murcott memorial.
Son of an agricultural labourer
In 1901 Job’s family were living at Beckley on the other side of marshy Otmoor from Murcott, and he was an agricultural labourer. Some of the children are recorded as being baptised at Murcott, and this may have been true of Arthur too. By 1911 Arthur, now 16, had become a shepherd and his mother had died.
Assigned to a labour battalion
After war broke out Arthur became a Private in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. This was a labour battalion, not formed until June 1916, though it is possible that Arthur had joined the army well before that. Such battalions generally consisted of men not quite fit enough for regular service, and provided backup working parties to the troops. Their assignments were often within range of enemy guns.
Cause of death unknown
Arthur’s unit moved to France in July 1916, and his death is recorded just seven months later, on 16 February 1917. He was aged 21 and was buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery. His death seems to have been an isolated one, perhaps due to illness or an accident: this cemetery was not in regular use for war casualties at the time.