Walter Gordon Cope

Rank Captain
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 06/09/1918
Age 28
Regiment/Service Yorkshire Regiment
Cemetery East Finchley Cemetery and St Marylebone Crematorium

Walter Gordon Cope was the son of Walter Cornelius Cope, a commercial traveller for a hosiery manufacturer, and his wife Fanny Knight (nee Heard). He was born on 21st August 1889 and baptised on the 20th October at St Paul’s Canonbury, Islington. He had two sisters; Edith (1885-1976) and Kate (1887-1961) and was educated at Christ's College, Finchley. He was married to Doris Lucy Shephard by Special License at All Saints, Childs Hill on 15th May 1918.

Walter’s father was a significant Finchley figure. He was one of fourteen councillors serving on Finchley Urban District Council in 1914, and also chairman of the General Purposes Committee. He was a churchwarden of St Paul’s from 1913 to 1923, and in this capacity was, in 1920, one of the signatories of the application to the Bishop of London for permission to install the war memorial plaque and window. In 1926, the new Walter Cope Ward in Finchley Memorial Hospital was named after him.

From December 1912 to October 1914, Walter worked as a warehouseman for Lane Crawford & Co in Hong Kong. Prior to enlisting in the Army, he served with the Hong Kong Volunteer Artillery, being discharged from their service, at his own request. On 16th October 1914, Walter was one of 110 men who climbed aboard the Japanese ship, the SS Suwa Maru, making its maiden voyage from Yokohama to London. Under the commmand of Captain Alan Hilton-Johnson, they were heading to England to join Lord Kitchener's 'New Army' of civilian volunteers. Under Hilton-Johnson's supervision the contingent received the rudiments of military training as they sailed.  

On 25th March 1915 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant (on probation) and his appointment was confirmed on 7th December. On 30th August 1915 he was sent home from Flanders suffering from peristent toothache, serious inflammation of the dental periosteum in the upper and lower jaw and a septic mouth. He was not declared fit again until 24th February 1916, which enabled him to rejoin his regiment three days later in West Hartlepool. Shortly thereafter he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as records indicate that on 25th May 1916 he was in Reading with 3 Reserve Squadron, a training unit. He received his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 4th August 1916 and became a qualified pilot. On 23rd August he joined 42 Squadron, where he flew a B.E.2c, a single-engined two seater bi-plane.

On 25th September 1916, Walter survived a crash which happened just after taking off on a bombing raid. A report on the incident stated that engine revs dropped at 80 feet and he crashed near the aerodrome but that he was OK. On 19th January 1917 he was sent back to England suffering from a joint disease in his right elbow which required immediate and expert treatment. In his report, the medical officer stated that Walter was 'a good officer, hardworking and conscientious'. He was not declared fit again until 3rd July 1917. By this time he had been a Temporary Captain for more than 7 months and this appointment was made permanent on 1st April 1918.

By June 1918 Walter was based at RAF Beaulieu in the New Forest where he was with 103 Squadron training pilots. His personnel records indicate that on 7th July he had contact with a hospital and was then off sick from 12th August, being under the care of the London Hospital in Whitechapel. 

Walter was killed in Hampshire on 5th September 1918, whilst training Flight Cadet Edward Lydale Caldwell, who was also killed in the accident. They were flying AVRO 504 E1849, an obsolete front-line plane that had become a trainer.