Major Richard C. Cooper
7th (1st British Columbia) Battalion
People’s thoughts are now turning to memorials to perpetuate the memory of our fallen, but unfortunately, their thoughts are turning to stone and iron to perpetuate flesh and blood. That is wrong. It is not worthy of the men who gave their lives that we might be free. I suggest that there is a greater, nobler, finer memorial to be erected to our fallen. I suggest that education is the only possible, adequate method of perpetuating the memory of the “immortals.”
(Cooper, Debates, 10 Mar 1919, 340)
Born in Dublin, Ireland on 31 December 1881, Richard Clive Cooper was a police constable in Rhodesia and South Africa where he was associated with the imperial projects of Cecil Rhodes. After serving in the Matabele War and the Boer War, he immigrated to British Columbia in 1906. Cooper enlisted in Lieutenant Colonel Hart-McHarg’s 7th Battalion in September 1914. He fought at Second Ypres before being recalled to Canada in order to aid training and recruitment efforts.
Disavowing “the cult of the party,” Cooper welcomed the formation of the Conservative—Liberal Union Government in 1917 and was nominated to run in the riding of South Vancouver during the December federal election. Endorsed by the Great War Veterans’ Association as the Win-the-War candidate, Cooper easily secured the seat with a majority of over 4,000 votes. He received 1992 soldier votes compared to 102 for the Liberal.
During the campaign, supporters of his Laurier Liberal opponent, Charles MacDonald, suggested that the major had never even been to France. His wife, Edith Mabel Cooper, responded with a letter to the Vancouver World, affirming that her husband “served in the front line at Ploegstreet, Fleurbaix, second battle of Ypres, Festubert, Givenchy and Messines, and was invalided home from the last named place suffering from shell shock, as his record in Ottawa will show.”
As one of the new soldier-members in Parliament, Cooper came to the defence of General Arthur Currie against the bitter attacks of Sir Sam Hughes. The ex-Militia Minister had accused the Canadian Corps commander of wasting soldiers’ lives during the final hours before the armistice for his own glorification. Disgusted, Cooper declared, “A graver indictment of a man I have never heard; in effect, the indictment is wholesale murder.”
Cooper did not stand for re-election in 1921. He died in Ottawa on 10 March 1940.
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