Cooper family history



Cooper family history
For the grandchildren


A brief family history. Recent history. Describes meeting John Cooper at Feltwell in 1953 and early life together. John was a civilian air traffic controller at Heathrow and became an RAFVR officer with the air training corps. Provides a family history of the Coopers followed by one for the Braines and their time in Uganda and then back in UK including description of events during the war. Follows family history of the Braines/Hudsons/McCalls followed by the Jones and Herusbys.





Sixteen page handwritten document

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March 2005

[underlined] For the grand children. [/underlined]

This is a brief outline of your family history. I have tried to make sure that any suppositions are clearly distinguishable from the truth. Obviously judgements about character are either hear-say or subjective; I hope you can tell which are which. Please excuse the repetitions from previous notes and press-cuttings.

There are photographs of family members back to the late 1800's in a separate album. I have arranged the branches of the family tree and put various personal items in groups according to lineage.

(This paper has been rescued from a Braine photograph album, circa 1914 – the historic touch!)

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[underlined] Recent History. [/underlined]

John Cooper and Frances Braine met at R.A.F. Feltwell and married in 1953. Apart from nearly two years living in a caravan, their married life has been spent, as you know in Sandhurst where Anne & Clare were born.

John's civilian career was as an Air Traffic Controller near London Airport; Frances stayed at home with the family until the early 1970's when she trained as a Primary School Teacher and worked mainly Owlsmoor for twelve years. In his spare time John became an R.A.F.V.R. Officer with the Air Training Corps in Camberley, and then transferred to an Air Experience Flight to fly Chipmunks. He spent any other spare time as an avid butterfly collector.

After retirement he became interested in railway trains, and then, aged nearly 80, became a leading light in the local Big Band Society.

Frances trained as a caseworker for SSAFA.

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[underlined] The Coopers [/underlined]

John (known as Jack) Cooper married Anne Maud Anderson in 1922. They had two sons, John (b 1924) and David (b 1928). David married Patricia Jesty by whom he had three daughters. Nicola, Philippa and Jackie. David and Pat divorced and he later married a much younger divorcee, Dee Duncan and went with her to live in Spain. That marriage failed too. David worked as an Air Traffic Controller for Vickers and suffered from a serious lung complaint, bronchiectasis, which he contracted while doing National Service with the R.A.F. He died aged 69 after many years of ill health which he bore most bravely.

I have not been able to discover much about Annie’s background. She was born in Royston where her mother, Rebecca, lived. Rebecca’s father Reuben worked as a labourer in the area. We believe that Annie may have been illegitimate. [words missing]

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maternal grand-parents but thinks his grand-mother may have been a Mrs Oliver who lived in Bradford. This seems to be confirmed by the entry for 11 th April in Annie’s birthday book and the Death Certificate for June 1962. (Solar was a childish version of Oliver).

Annie, to my knowledge, was very close to a Florence Ward who was married to a market trader in the Barking/Plaistow area. Flo and Annie looked alike but we have been unable to prove any family connection.

Jack was one of four sons and one daughter of Levi Cooper and Susannah Sayer. The family lived in Sheringham and their antecedents came from the surrounding area. Jack’s brother Walter was killed in World War One on the Somme in 1916. Charlie and Albert moved away in adulthood. His sister Susan married a local policeman (surname Sayer. but no relation) and lived with him in Norfolk all her life. She became a very enthusiastic member of the British Legion, having been greatly [indecipherable words]


Levi was, so I believe, a hard drinking [underlined] and [/underlined] hard working builder in the North Norfolk area. Previous members of the Cooper and Sayer family seem to have been casual workers and have proved hard to trace. Jack Cooper was adamant that none was a fisherman although there were many Sheringham Coopers who worked at sea. Jack served as a signaller in the R.F.C. In Mesopotamia in world war one, then joined the General Post Office, was a clerk at Sheringham & head post master in Aylsham. He was recalled to the R.A.F. In world war two and later became post master in Farnborough where he finally settled. He was a keen gardener (chrysanthemum expert) Free Mason and bowls player. Annie was a traditional housewife. Both Jack and Annie were very kind in-laws and grandparents. Annie, in particular was a devoted grandmother.

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[underlined] The Braines. [/underlined]

T.G. Braine (know as George) married Cicely Jones in 1931. They had met on a blind date organised by Elliott (Braine) who had gone to kindergarten in Leytonstone with Cicely and her Sister Gwenfair. The idea was to make up a foursome; Elliott and Gwenfair did not continue the relationship but the other two married in less than six months.

George was on leave from his job as an Ordnance Surveyor in Uganda; Cicely was working unhappily in Barclay's Bank in Lombard Street. Cicely's father Frederick was so shocked that he offered to fund a return fare if she changed her mind, but she didn't.

George and Cicely lived mostly on safari; Cicely quickly became pregnant with Frances and had a very difficult time before and after giving birth. George's terms of service involved two and a half year tours in Uganda and six months home leave. During the [missing words]

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together spent in [indecipherable word], George contracted pneumonia which deteriorated with an abcess on the lung and nearly died. (All this was a result of getting soaked to the skin while sailing, and before penicillin).

After the next tour in Uganda George and Cicely decided to buy a house for Cicely and Frances to live in while he did the last tour on his own. It was considered unhealthy for European children to live for too long in the tropic. As it turned out, World War 2 broke out and owning the cottage in Brent Eleigh was a massive stroke of luck. However, it must have been a very difficult time in the marriage, George on his own in Uganda and Cicely with a small child in a remote village in Suffolk in the middle of a war.

My memories of Brent Eleigh are vague. We kept Dalmatian dogs, a cat call Timmy and, I think rabbits. Cicely had help in the large garden from a man called Fred Orbell. I used to fetch the milk every morning from [words missing].

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exciting, with troop convoys an influx of American airmen, and evacuees (awful). Gwenfair used to come and stay and the Braines visited from time to time. Mother became the telephone contact (number Lavenham 279) for Sergeant Poulson of the Home Guard; occasionally she had to wake him up in the middle of the night. In the early years of the war I went to school in Lavenham and Acton, but after George finally returned in 1941, I went to Fleet House, first in Long Melford and then in Felixstowe.

George was unable to find war work, apart from the Royal Observer Corps, and devoted his time to intensive gardening. We had lovely fruit and vegetables & kept ducks, geese and bees. He worked really hard and so did Cicely, in the house and picking fruit and making jam and filing Kilner jars with the soft fruit. Gradually the labour (although of love) and worries about house maintenance, drove George to leave Brent Eleigh, much to Cicely’s [indecipherable word]

and buy a house in Sudbury.

After 1941, family life from my point of view at least deteriorated considerably. Cicely , many years later said that George had changed after his last tour, and had become quite bad tempered. I believe that their marriage was very happy all the same, but I must have felt jealous, I suppose, of the competition for Cicely's attention. George felt that he had been badly treated financially by the Colonial Service, and also by the Inland Revenue. He seemed to spend hours writing furious letters, and fulminating.

They first moved to a Thirties' house in Stanley Road, Sudbury, divided it into two flats and rented out the lower on to generate some income. This was a very unsuccessful arrangement, so eventually they moved to a new bungalow in Weeting. Very soon after the move, George died aged 63 and Cicely was left isolated in a insalubrious [words missing]

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American service families from R.A.F. Lakenheath.

Meanwhile, I had left school in Felixstowe and then gone to the High School in Sudbury. From there, after a year's Commercial Course in Ipswich I joined the W.R.A.F., married and settled in Sandhurst.

We tried to see as much of Cicely as possible but it was difficult with small children and shift work. She used to come to stay but did not like leaving the garden for too long. Eventually she managed to move to her flat in Beech Hill House and for a few years really enjoyed life. She was greatly saddened by her younger sister Gwenfair's early death, and gradually her own health started to fail. She endured a long and painful physical decline before moving to a Residential home in Sandhurst. She died aged 89.

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[underlined] The Braines / Hudsons / McCalls. [/underlined]

T. (George) was born in 1898 to Thomas Elliott Braine and Janet (Hudson). He was the oldest of five children, Beatrice, twins Elliott & Janet, who was killed as a child in a road accident, and Margaret. Tom was a Trinity House Pilot, a well-paid and prestigious job; the family moved from the East End of London to more respectable Leytonstone. Unfortunately, because his job was dependent on tides and weather, Tom spent much of his time hanging about in the docks; he eventually died comparatively young of complication from syphilis. Before then the family lived comfortably – George and Elliott boarded at Chigwell School and Beatrice and Margaret went to a Masonic School, in North London, I think George enlisted in the R.F.C. But by the end of World War I, his father had died and he felt responsible for his mother and siblings who were very hard-up. His father had wanted him to become a Trinity House Pilot – the profession seemed to pass from father to eldest son -

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cared for her during a series of strokes. After their husbands died, Beatrice and Margaret lived next door to each other in flats in Chalk. Margaret inherited Beatrices' personal treasures and some from their mother, all of which finally came to me, the only grand-child, and hence to my children and, I hope, to you all!

The eldest sons in the Braine family seem to have been Thames Watermen back to the early 1800's. T-George had a cousin, George Duncan Braine who was a Trinity House Pilot and his grand-father George Matthew was one as well; he died of cirrhosis of the liver! There was also a cousin, Robertson, who tried to be an actor, and after a career as a gigolo, according to Margaret, married an older woman who was very rich with money from Cyclax, a cosmetic company. They lived together on the Riviera.

Janet Hudson’s father was a marine engineer, chief, I believe, to the Hudson shipping line; he retired to a very grand looking house in Pewsey. Janet had a brother Willy, and sister Edie, neither of whom married; they lived

near her in Leytonstone. Janet's mother, also Janet (McCall) came from Strone on the Holy Loch. This explains the silver flat ware with the initial M. The McCalls had some connection with the Tennant family which I cannot trace. Janet and Catherine Tennant are mentioned in a poem by Robert Burns and Margaret says Catherine is the lady in the enamel and diamond mourning locket. Although Burns died in 1796 I suppose it is possible as she looks very old in the photograph. Janet Braine (nee Hudson) was inordinately proud of the 'aristocratic' connection.

[underlined] The McCall Silver [/underlined] of Tennant Family on Google.

Towards the end of the 1700's William Tennant was a farmer in Argyle. He had a large family, about ten, one of whom must have been Catherine, in the locket, and one of whom invented a chemical bleach for textiles, which was successful she had a factory in Glasgow, and made a fortune. One of Catherine's children, Margaret, married John McCall and no doubt used some of the family money to buy the silver. Q.E.D.!

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*See his separate memoir.

[underlined] The Jones/Hornsbys. [/underlined]

Cicely, born 1907, was the daughter of Edith Hornsby and Frederick Jones. She had an older brother Hugh and a younger sister Gwenfair. Hugh was clumsy (which annoyed his father) but clever, good looking and a womaniser; he joined the Merchant Navy became a very young captain, and, at the beginning of World War II, was Harbour Master in Rangoon, he escaped to [deleted] Australia [/deleted] India just as the Japanese were arriving*. He left his wife and they were eventually divorced. After a hard war, partly on North Atlantic convoys, and various amorous entanglements he settled in New Zealand with a much younger woman and became a T.V. Presenter. Gwenfair had caught measles as a child and was quite deaf. She became a hairdresser with her own shop in Loughton. During World War II she was conscripted to work in a munitions factory and eventually married (according to Cicely) a ne-er-do-well Irishman; he died young leaving her with two children Brigid and Hugh, whom she supported [missing words]

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very young of Multiple Sclerosis and Hugh emigrated to New Zealand and, I believe, converted to Serious Christianity.

Edith (nee Hornsby) died of throat cancer when her children were adolescents and Frederick soon married again, this made Cicely and Gwenfair very unhappy and they left home.

The Hornsbys lived near Saltburn in Yorkshire. Cicely's grandfather Michael was a farmer and she and her family spent happy summer holidays harvesting. Her cousins seemed to have been very bright and became lawyers and top civil servants. Her uncle Harold died on the Somme; her aunt Nancy was in Russia at the time of the Revolution and escaped with the Russian tea-spoons (with Clare). An other aunt Gertrude was married to an engineer in India called Selby, she died young and Selby became engaged for a short time to Cicely before she met George Braine!

Edith was a student at the Royal College of Music and living in Hampstead when she met Frederick Jones who was [missing words]
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his brother Robert.

Their father Thomas (perhaps nee Johns, not Jones) married to Anne Hildred from Boston, Lincolnshire (but no other details) was a school master in Bury St Edmunds: they had a very large, mostly clever family. Marian, known as Daisy, read Mathematics at Bangor. I believe before women were awarded degrees. She taught at the Welsh Girls' School (now St. David's, Ashford) where her sister Anne became an influential head mistress. Another sister Elsie was a nurse and a brother, Harold, taught English at the University in Uruguay. Frederick worked as an accountant at the head office of Barclay's Bank but hated it. He was called up in World War I, was gassed and lost an eye.

The story goes that Thomas was descended from a Johns family from Cardigan whose ancestor had helped repel the French invasion c1797 and as a reward had been made a Governor of Cardigan gaol. This is unconfirmed, but the Joneses were upright and honest to a degree so seem unlikely [missing words]


“Cooper family history,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,

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