The AIF Project

Arthur Trevor COPAS

Regimental number3614
Place of birthWollongong, New South Wales
SchoolConvent School, New South Wales
ReligionRoman Catholic
OccupationStorekeeper
AddressWollongong, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation29
Height5' 6.5"
Next of kinMother, Mrs Katherine Copas, Crown Street, Wollongong, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date16 July 1917
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll16 May 1917
Place of enlistmentSydney, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name56th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/73/4
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on 31 October 1917
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll13th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 4 July 1918
Place of death or woundingVaire Wood, near Hamel, France
Age at death30
Age at death from cemetery records30
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
68
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Commemorated in Wollongong General Cemetery, New South Wales. Parents: John (d. 12 July 1905, aged 53; bu. Wollongong General Cemetery) and Catherine (d. 18 December 1937, aged 85; bu. Wollongong General Cemetery) COPAS
Family/military connectionsTwo cousins killed
Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Sydney, 31 October 1917; disembarked Devonport, England, 26 December 1917; marched into 14th Training Bn, Hurdcott, 27 December 1917.

Proceeded overseas to France, 1 April 1918; marched into No 1 Overflow Camp, Calais, 1 April 1918.

Proceeded to unit, 4 April 1918; taken on strength of 13th Bn, in the field, 17 April 1918.

Killed in action, 4 July 1918.

Note on B.103, 'Buried B4479 B4682'.

Letter from Officer i/c Base Records to Miss M. Copas, Crown Street, Wollongong, 25 July 1919: '...Administration requests me to advise you that the Records show his death to have been due to a bullet wound in the back sustained on the morning of 4 July 1918 during an advance on Hamel, France, just after the final objective was taken. The deceased soldier was buried close to the Battalion Headquarters, at a spot about 1,500 yards South West of Hamel.'

Statement by Lieutenant R.M. Jones, Assistant Adjutant, 13th Bn, undated: '[Private Copas] was wounded by a bullet in the back on the morning of 4th July, 1918 after final objective was taken in advance on HAMEL and BOIS de VAIRE. He died whilst being carried to "C" Coy Headquarters and was buried near these Headquarters. The exact Map Location cannot be given but the grave is a few yards to the east of VAIRE WOOD. - Sheet 62D - 1500 yards South West of HAMEL.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Statement, Red Cross File No 0800701G, 3669 Sergeant E.W. MERRITH, 13th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), 2 January 1919: 'In 4th July stunt when acting with Americans at Hamel, our Battalion was moving up to our objective. We had just reached this and were digging in, when Copas was caught by machine gun and hit severely. I saw him after. He died soon after and was buried in front of Vaire Wood. I did not seem him buried, but saw his grave. Marked with a temporary cross.'

Second statement, 3700A Pte R. RYAN, 13th Bn, 20 January 1919: 'At Vaire Wood Hamel. He was killed by machine gun fire on 4th July, killed at once, I saw him buried in an old trench in front of Vaire Wood but there was no mark put up. The firing was so hot it took us all our time to bury him. I helped to bury him[.] I knew him well, came from Australia together.'

Third statement, 3696 Pte H.E. RAE, 13th Bn (patient, 5th Southern General Hospital, Portsmouth, England), 24 January 1919: 'On July 4th we had just hopped off from Hamel on the left of Villers Bretonneux, and we were going towards Vaire Wood when Pte. Copas was hit by a piece of shell. I knelt by him to see if I could help, but he died within 5 minutes. After we had finished, a party went back and buried the dead in Hamel and crosses were put up. I was an eye-witness. Ground was held.' Interviewer's comment: Intelligent and Reliable.

Fourth statement, 3758 Pte R. HUMBERGE, 13th Bn (patient, 4th Australian General Hospital, Randwick, New South Wales), 28 February 1919: 'Informant states that on 4/7/18 the Battalion was in action at Corbie. They hopped over between 4.30 and 5 a.m. About 2 hours later they had got through Vere [sic] Wood and just before they started to dig in, Copas was hit by a shell and killed outright. Informant was 40 or 50 yards away and on hearing the shell come, looked around where he had seen Copas just before and he had disappeared into some long grass. He was seen, however, by another soldier named Tom Jenkins who sand out to Informant "Arthur is hit". Informant sang back "How is he" and Jenkins replied that he was killed. Informant felt sure Copas was buried. Copas was Informant's special mate and was well thought of by the others.'

Fifth statement, 3718 Pte G. SMITH MM, A Company, 13th Bn, 5 March 1919: 'Informant states that Copas was in D. Company. On 4.7.18 the Battalion was in action at Hamel. They hopped over at 4 a.m. About 6.30 a.m., when they had advanced 2000 yards and had taken their objectives and were digging in, Copas was killed outright by a 5.9 shell, which also wounded Corporal Quinn and another chap. Informant was about 400 yards away and say Copas a couple of minutes afterwards. In the meantime some of his mates had gone over to Copas and taken his belongings from him. He was buried with three others on the edge of Vere [sic] Wood, but Informant being on outpost duty was not present. Crosses were made for the graves, and as the ground was held they were no doubt placed in position. According to Informant Copas was one of the whitest men in the Battalion and everybody had a good word for him.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, COPAS Arthur Trevor
Red Cross File No 0800701G

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