Thomas Copeman was born on the 31st August 1894 at Wreningham, Norfolk. He was baptised on the 19th January 1897 at All Saints Church, Wreningham.
His father was Thomas William Copeman who was born in 1862 at Wreningham and died on the 31st August 1919 and was buried at All Saints Churchyard, Wreningham.
His mother was Rosanna Elizabeth Feltham who was born on the 7th February 1863 at Fundenhall, Norfolk. She married his father in 1882 at Wreningham and they had, according to the 1911 census, 13 children who were all born at Wreningham. Sadly, two of them died before the 1911 census.
- Harry Copeman Feltham born in 1882.
- Florence born in 1883.
- Ellen Elizabeth born in 1885.
- (Betsey) Elizabeth born in 1886.
- James born in 1887.
- George born in 1889.
- Charles born in 1890.
- John born in 1892 and died in 1893.
- Dorothy Annie born in 1893.
- John born in 1896.
- William born in 1897.
- Arthur born and believed died in 1898.
During the 1891 census the family were living at Wreningham and Thomas’ father was employed as a Platelayer by the Great Eastern Railway. By the time of the 1901 census the family are recorded as living On Old Moor, Wreningham. Thomas’ father is now employed as a Traction Engine Driver. In the census of 1911, their address is shown simply as Wreningham. Thomas’ father is employed in threshing as a Traction Engine Driver whilst he is shown as an agricultural labourer.
Thomas’ Army Service Record has not survived, and it is unknown when he enlisted, but from other sources it is known that he joined the Territorial Force as Private 1549, later 200060 under reorganisation, of the Long Stratton Company, 1/4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment.
On the outbreak of the War he was mobilised on the 4th August 1914. On the 28th July 1915 he sailed for the Dardanelles as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force landing in Gallipoli on the 9th August 1915. He served there until the 19th December 1915 whereupon the Regiment moved to Alexandria. As can be seen below he quickly made an impact.
Mentioned In Despatches.
Published in the London Gazette Supplement Issue 29455 Page 1199 on the 28th January 1916 was Private 1549 T. Copeman, Norfolk Regiment who was Mentioned in Despatches: “I have the honour to forward the names of the officers and men whose services I wish to bring to your Lordship’s notice in connection with the operations described in my despatch of 11th December 1915.”
Awarded The Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Published in the London Gazette Supplement Issue 29460 Page 1338 on Tuesday 1st February 1916 Private T. Copeman, 1/4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal: “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards for Distinguished Service in the Field.”
Published in the London Gazette Supplement on the 11th March 1916 on page 2748 was the Distinguished Conduct Medal citation for Private 1549 T. Copeman 1/4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment: “For conspicuous gallantry on the 12th August, 1915, at Suvla, Gallipoli when he carried a most important order to a machine gun battery under a heavy fire.”
From the 11th January 1916 he served in Palestine and continued to come to notice.
Mentioned In Despatches Again.
Published in the London Gazette Issue 29664 Page 6947 on the 7th November 1916 was Private 1549 T. Copeman, Norfolk Regiment who was Mentioned in Dispatches: “With reference to the despatch published on the 10th April (London Gazette No. 29541), the following is mentioned for distinguished and gallant services rendered during the period of General Sir Charles Monro’s Command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.”
Awarded The Serbian Cross of Karageorge, Silver Medal.
Published in the London Gazette Issue 29945 Page 1613 on the 13th February 1917 Private 1549 Thomas Copeman, Norfolk awarded the Serbian Cross of Karageorge, Silver Medal. The Following are among the Decorations and medals awarded by the Allied Powers at various dates to the British Forces for distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign. His Majesty the King has given unrestricted permission in all cases to wear the Decorations and medals in question.
The Serbian Soldier’s Order of the Star of Karageorge was Instituted in June 1915 in two divisions, the 1st division Gold Cross or 2nd division Silver Cross. It was awarded for bravery performed by non-commissioned officers and men on the field of battle. The authorities realised that the awards system did not allow for everyone who deserved to be recognised with an Imperial award to receive one and the foreign awards went some way to redress that.
Thomas completed his service in Palestine on the 15th January 1919 and he returned to the UK. He was demobilised on the 8th May 1919 as a Private.
He was awarded the following Medals: Distinguished Conduct Medal, Serbian Cross of Karageorge Silver Medal, 1915 Star, British War and Victory medals. He also had a single wound stripe although it’s not known when or how severely he was wounded.
He was later awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency medal which was presented after 12 years’ service. As you had to be at least 17 years old to join the Territorial Force the earliest he could have enlisted would have been in 1912 suggesting that he remained part of the Territorial Force to at least 1924 in order to qualify for the medal.
Like every other soldier Thomas would have been granted 28 days leave when he was demobilised. He clearly used that time to apply to join the Hertford County Constabulary. Part of that process involved him being medically examined by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters at Hatfield. The following was recorded: I hereby certify that I have examined the above candidate as to his health and bodily strength and consider him fit for the Constabulary of the County. Signed L. Drage Surgeon.
Thomas was Appointed as Constable 50 in the Hertford County Constabulary on the 15th May 1919 earning £3/10/0 per week. His Police Form 3 Record Sheet has survived and recorded his description as follows: Age: 24 9/12 years, Place and Date of Birth: Wreningham 31st August 1894, Height: 5 feet 10 ins., Chest: 36 ½ ins., Complexion: Fresh, Eyes: Brown, Hair: Dark brown, Marks: Nil. He stated that his religion was Church of England and that he could ride a bicycle but could not swim. Prior to his war service he had been employed as a cowman for Mr. F.W. Myhill, Dairy Farm, Hethel, Norfolk. He gave his next of kin as his father Thomas William Copeman of Toprow, Wreningham.
Thomas underwent his Probationary Training at R Division, Police Headquarters. He was in Class 15 with Sergeant 161 Maskell and Constable 280 Sharp as his instructors.
General Order 162 of the 17th July 1919 announced that 15 Recruit Constables having been brought onto the Roster for duty would be transferred from Headquarters to Divisions. PC 50 T. Copeman was posted to A Division at Ware from the 17th July. Each Officer had to be Attested and the Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters the date and place and before whom it was taken.
On the 18th July 1919 Thomas was Attested at Ware before A.H. Rogers J.P. and H.S. Gilbert J.P.
On the 9th November 1919 he passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid.
The Electoral Roll of 1920 lists Thomas Copeman and fellow new recruit PC 172 Stanley Ernest Wood as lodging with the Clare family at 50, Milton Road, Ware.
General Order 103 of the 10th June 1920 informed Thomas that he would receive an increase of pay from £3/10/0 to £3/12/0 per week from the 15th May 1920.
In the 1921 Electoral Roll Thomas Copeman was listed as lodging with the Game family at 11, Gladstone Road, Ware.
General Order 86 of the 25th May 1921 informed Thomas that he would receive an increase of pay from £3/12/0 to £3/14/0 per week from the 15th May 1921.
Thomas married Norah Belinda North on the 18th June 1921 in the Congregational Church and Lecture Hall, Clarendon Road, Watford. Thomas, a bachelor Police Constable gave his address as 11, Clarendon Road, Watford. He stated his father was Thomas William Copeman, who had been a farm labourer but was now deceased. Norah gave her address as 17, Hatfield Road, Watford and stated her father was Frederick North a retired Die Stamper. She was born on the 5th January 1895 at Kings Langley. During the 1911 census she was living with her widowed father at 17, Hatfield Road, Watford and was employed as a laundress. She and Thomas had two children who were both born in Ware:
- Eileen Marjorie born in 1923.
- Joan born in 1925.
General Order 36 of the 12th March 1922 instructed Thomas that from the 16th March 1922 he would occupy the new Council Cottage at 22, Croft Road, Ware. In the 1922 to 1925 Electoral Rolls Thomas and Norah Copeman are recorded as living at 22, Croft Road, Ware.
General Order 69 of the 2nd June 1922, General Order 102 of the 25th May 1923 and General Order 103 of the 30th June 1924 informed Thomas that he would receive an increase of pay from £3/14/0 to £3/16/0 per week from the 15th May 1922, from £3/16/0 to £3/18/0 per week from the 15th May 1923 and from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 from the 15th May 1924, respectively.
A Minor Blemish.
On the 30th April 1925 Thomas was cautioned by the Chief Constable after he failed to apprehend a Frederick Charles Phillip after being instructed to do so.
General Order 89 of the 7th June 1925 instructed Thomas that from the 19th June 1925 he was being transferred from A Division at Ware to E Division at Knebworth.
In the 1926 to 1930 Electoral Rolls Thomas and Norah Copeman are recorded as living at 1, Westland Road, Knebworth.
General Order 104 of the 21st July 1925 and General Order 88 of the 28th June 1926 informed Thomas that he would receive an increase of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from the 15th May 1925, from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week from the 15th May 1926, respectively.
A Royal Visit – Mutual Aid To Luton Borough Police.
General Order 156 of 14th November 1926 announced orders for an Inspector, two Sergeants and 18 Constables with regard to the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales to Luton on the 17th November 1926. Thomas was listed as one of those detailed to attend. In command of the Hertfordshire contingent was Inspector G.T. Sharp of R Division who would act under orders as laid down by the Chief Constable of the Borough of Luton. The detachment was instructed to report at the Borough Police Station Luton at 9 a.m. The men were ordered to take the following dress and equipment: Great Coats 1925 issue, Cloth jackets 1926 issue, Dress trousers 1926 issue, Cloth helmets 1926 issue, Whistle and chain, Handcuffs, Pocket Book, Truncheon, Black woollen gloves and Capes.
Thomas’ Police Service Record shows that on the 15th May 1927 his pay was increased to £4/6/0 per week, from the 15th May 1928 it rose to £4/8/0 per week and from the 15th May 1929 to £4/10/0 per week.
Qualified For Promotion To Sergeant.
Thomas’ Police Service Record also shows that General Order 32 of 1932 announced that on the 19th March 1932 he qualified by passing the exam for promotion to Sergeant. He was never actually promoted due almost certainly to the fact there were always more candidates then vacancies.
His Service Record also shows that on the 14th May 1936 he was transferred from E Division at Knebworth to D Division at Boxmoor.
On the 15th May 1936 Thomas was awarded his First Special pay increase to £4/12/6 per week.
In the 1939 Register Police Constable Thomas Copeman and family are listed as living at 145, Bury Road, Hemel Hempstead.
General Order 298 of 1940 announced that Thomas had been Commended as follows: By Sir Walter Halsey, Bart. J.P. at Hemel Hempstead Juvenile Court on 18th September 1940 for his action in arresting Sidney J. Felmingham, R. Turner and Robert Clark for shopbreaking. Endorsed by the Chief Constable.
On the 15th May 1941 Thomas was awarded his Second Special pay increase to £4/15/0 per week.
On the 1st April 1945, as part of a National pay award, Thomas received an increase in his pay to £6/3/0 per week.
Thomas retired on pension as a Constable on the 20th May 1945 after 26 years’ service.
Thomas Copeman a retired Police Officer aged 74 years of 94, Kingsland Road, Hemel Hempstead died at 7.25 p.m. on Friday 22nd November 1968 at West Herts Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. His funeral was held at 11 a.m. on Thursday 28th November 1968 at Garston Crematorium.
Norah Belinda Copeman of 94, Kingsland Road, Hemel Hempstead died on the 14th January 1983 at Orwell House, 22, Station Street, Swaffham.