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Creston Valley Goes to War

"John" Cooper

Cooper-Crispin

John Cooper, seated at left.

Cooper Family

Ruth Cooper's class at the school at Morrissey Internment Camp

Cooper Service

John Cooper's service file

The 107th East Kootenay militia was tasked with local defense, patrolling important industrial installations such as smelters, factories, and power stations, and with guarding German and Austrian prisoners at an internment camp at Morrissey, near Fernie, BC. The Cooper family of Wynndel embraced these duties wholeheartedly.

The father, Ashley Cooper, alternated between guard duty at Morrissey camp and the hydro-electric power dam at Bonnington, between Nelson and Castlegar. His son Ashley Chard Bromhead Cooper, known to his family as John or Johnny, served as a guard at Morrissey; younger brother Guy was a fifteen-year-old bugler at the Camp; and sister Ruth taught the school there.

Johnny joined the 230th Forestry Battalion on 18 February 1917 at the age of nineteen - one of the youngest members of the unit. He, like so many others who joined in Creston, served with the 41st Company CFC in France. In the summer of 1918, he transferred to the 47th Battalion Canadian Infantry, anticipating active service on the front lines during that last days of the war. Within a few months of his transfer, he fell ill with influenza which quickly worsened into pneumonia.

A note in Johnny's service file notes that he was placed on the "dangerously ill" list on 27 October 1918, and removed from it four or five days later. These brief notations gloss over just how close a call he had. His granddaughter, Charlotte Smith, told us, "Johnny came down with the flu in France October 1918. They thought he was dead and were taking him out to be buried when he woke up!"