Mr Frederick George Cooper “James Cooper”
On 6 April 1912 "James Cooper" signed on for the maiden voyage of the Titanic as a trimmer. His local address was 27 Pound Street in Shirley, Southampton and he could expect monthly wages of £5, 10s. His previous ship had been the Olympic.
James Edward Cooper had been born in Southampton on 14 April 1886 and was the son of Henry Cooper (b. 5 November 1857 in Botley), a house painter, and the former Maria Lock (b. circa 1859 in Bishops Waltham), Hampshire natives who had married in 1883.
One of fifteen children, Cooper’s siblings were: Henry (b. 1884), Ellen (b. 1885), Frederick George (b. 1888), Ursula Fanny (b. 1889), Harriett Lilian Annie (b. 1890), Emily Maria (b. 1891), Agnes Florence (b. 1892), Thomas Edward (b. 1894), Sydney (b. 1895), Edith (b. 1896), Frank (b. 1898), Alice Lilian (b. 1899), Alfred Charles (b. 1900) and Elizabeth (b. 1903).
James spent his early life in the Southampton area and by 1911 his parents and siblings lived at 71 Manor Road in Itchen. He had gone to sea at a young age and during the mid-part of the 1910s worked as a trimmer aboard the Walmer Castle, later serving aboard the Balmoral Castle in early 1910, both ships of the Union Castle Line.
He had married in early 1911 to Alice Wilkins (b. 19 July 1890) and in January 1912 the couple welcomed their first child, Winifred. The family did indeed make their home at 27 Pound Street in Shirley, as is shown on the 1912 street directory.
However, the daughter born to James and Alice Cooper was not to be their last; they would go on to have eleven children between then and 1931. James Cooper lived a long life and later left the sea, working as a house painter and living for many years in Portsmouth. He died in 1950.
The real James Cooper almost certainly did sign-on for the maiden voyage of the Titanic and family lore has it that after signing-on, he possibly went ashore to enjoy a few sociable drinks before sailing. He eventually did not join the ship but one other from his family did, taking his place and travelling under his name, his younger brother Frederick.
Frederick George Cooper had been born in Northam, Southampton on 3 February 1888; by 1911 he still lived with his parents at 71 Manor Road in Itchen and was described as an unmarried ship’s trimmer for the Union Castle Line.
Prior to going to sea Cooper had, in January 1909, enlisted with the British Army; he was described as having brown hair, blue eyes and standing at 5’ 5¼” and weighing 138 ½ lbs. He had a 35” waist, 38” chest and size 7 feet. He trained at Netley and remained as a private in the army reserve until his death, his discharge stating:
Frederick Cooper, under the guise of his elder brother James, died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Frederick’s parents benefited from the Titanic Relief Fund; his mother Maria died in March 1927 aged 68 whilst his father died in September 1942 aged 84.
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