Company Sergeant Major Frederick Hailstone (Copeman) MM

Born in 1896 at Whittlesey he was the fifth child of James and Emma Copeman. His father died in 1905 and by 1911 Frederick was working as brickyard labourer. He joined F (Whittlesey) Company in late 1911, for unknown reasons (possibly due to his age) he enlisted under the name Frederick Hailstone and was given the number 1229.

A possible link with the name was a family named Hailstone living across the road from where Fred was living at Claygate, Whittlesey. They had a son named Oliver who was a year younger than Fred. He later followed Fred into the Cambs in 1913 but was sadly killed in 1917 in France while serving with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

Fred was among the early Cambs men who volunteered for overseas service at the outbreak of war. While the battalion was at Romford in August 1914 he was a witness to a tragic accident when one of the F Coy Corporals named Arthur Rawson was accidentally shot and killed. He later was an eyewitness in the investigation into the accident.

By November 1914 Fred had been promoted to Lance Corporal. He went over to France with the battalion on the 14th February 1915 and soon found himself in the thick of the action around St Eloi and Hill 60. By early summer he had been promoted again and was a Sergeant by June. As part of the old Whittlesey Coy he was serving with C Coy and he felt their losses deeply as can be seen in Fig A.

During the fierce fighting and capture of the Schwaben Redoubt on the 14th October 1916 Sgt Fred Hailstone was recognised for his bravery and awarded the Military Medal. Less than one month later during the highly successful attack on St Pierre Divion Sgt. Hailstone was wounded in his left thigh and evacuated back to England.

While recovering from his wounds in the UK he was presented with the Military Medal by the Princess Royal. Once fit enough again for active service Fred was one of a group of NCOs who were selected to be attached as instructors to the Kings African Rifles in East Africa. Once again he proved himself to be a superb NCO and by 1919 had risen to the rank of Company Sergeant Major and was Mentioned in Dispatches for his service.

After returning to the UK Fred was disembodied on the 10th February 1920 and returned to his life in Whittlesey. In 1923 he married Evelyn Abbott at Fletton, Huntingdonshire. They had two sons, James born in 1924 and Frederick in 1925. Fred was very active in the local community and a member of numerous associations including the Cambridgeshire Old Comrades Association. In  1934 he joined the local Special Constabulary and reached the rank of Sergeant. Sadly in 1939 he became ill and died eight months later in 1940, aged 44.

Fred's funeral was held at St Margaret's Church, Fletton. It was well attended by family, colleagues, and friends as well as a large contingent from the Cambs OCA. Those present from the OCA included his old company commander from the old pre-war Whittlesey Coy, Major Staton, and several men who enlisted with Fred in 1911.

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Cambridgeshire Regiment, Military Medal, Mentioned in Dispatches.

Fred after being presented the MM in 1917.

Fig A. Part of a letter sent home by Sgt. Fred Hailstone to his mother in June 1915.

I am pleased to tell you they are letting us come home in turns, and although it may be a week or two before I get off it will come in time. We are back in the trenches again, and last night we blew up the German trench. We mean to pay back what we owe them, and I am sure the Whittlesea boys will pay them back the debt which they owe, for it has not been the same Company since we lost out officers. We shall do our bit for our country, and if those at home could see the boys who are fighting for them they would come and do their bit. When we get home we shall tell them they are cowards for not coming and helping us. It is like hell out here, and all work for us, but we look on the bright side;  we shall get through. I am with Lieut. Smalley's platoon, and I would lay down my life for any man in it. I offered to go and bury our fallen officer, Lieut, Saunders. All the boys in the Whittlesea Company were sorry when we lost them; they died like heroes on the battlefield.

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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