Colonel Charles Edward Fraser Copeman CMG, DL, JP, TD.

Born in 1867 Charles Copeman was the 5th son of the late Canon Copeman of Norwich. He was educated at Norwich School then Selwyn (1886) and King’s (1906) College, Cambridge. He joined the then 3rd Volunteer Battalion Suffolk Regiment as a Captain in 1897 and when this battalion became the 1st Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment he was ‘E’ (Wisbech) Coy Commander. In 1911 he was promoted to Major and assumed command of the Headquarters section of the Battalion. On the 14th October 1914 he was gazetted Lieutenant Colonel and assumed command of the 1st Battalion.

On the 14th February the Battalion embarked for France and Colonel Copeman was to command it through its first encounters with the enemy; in particular the repulse of a German attack at St. Eloi in March, and the German bombardment of Ypres in the latter part of April.

He wrote home about St Eloi. We were in the thick of the great fight last Sunday, and I am proud to tell you that the Regiment did very well, so the General told me. It was an unexpected attack, and we were hurled into it, in the midst of terrific shell and rifle fire which lasted from 4.30 on Sunday to about 5 o’clock on Monday morning.

I thought it impossible we could escape without terrible losses, as it is they are bad enough, two officers killed, two sergeants reported missing (but I fear killed), six men killed, 20 wounded and three missing.

Bad and sad enough indeed for a first start, but had you been there you would have wondered it was not ten times more.

I don’t want a similar experience just yet. Two men are temporarily deranged, but will doubtless recover at home. The Regiment is now resting for six days about five miles from the firing line.

The damp trenches didn’t suit Copeman, who had a history of sciatica, and he was invalided home in May. He was seconded to, and given command of the 62nd Provisional Battalion (later renamed 9th Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment) and promoted to full Colonel on the 17th October 1918. His successful military career was recognised by the award of Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in June 1917, the only such award to the Cambridgeshire Regiment, being Mentioned in Despatches in July 1917 and the award of the Territorial Decoration.

Living in Wisbech, Copeman was a solicitor and partner in the firm Metclafe, Copeman and Pettefar; which still exists today with three practices. He was also the Steward of the Manors of Beaupre, in Pampisford, Clerk of the Peace for the Isle of Ely (for 28 years) and Under Sheriff for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. He was a Director of Wisbech Hotels Ltd, Wisbech Electric Light Company and Eagle and Star Insurance Company Ltd (East Anglian Board). Moving to Sussex later in life he died there in April 1949 at the age of 81.

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Copeman at the 1914 annual camp.

Copeman just before the 1/1st went to France.

This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark  100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.


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