Bay Roberts adding new name to war memo­rial

Thomas Co­p­ley was miss­ing on town’s ceno­taph — un­til now

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

Thomas Co­p­ley was a Bay Roberts res­i­dent when he en­listed in the Royal Navy Re­serve on Jan. 5, 1914. How­ever, when Bay Roberts erected its memo­rial, ded­i­cated to First World War veter­ans, Co­p­ley’s name was not in­cluded with the oth­ers.

Co­p­ley lived on what is now known as Coun­try Road, called Coun­try Path at the time of his en­list­ment. About a year af­ter en­list­ing, on March 11, 1915, Co­p­ley died at the age of 24 on the HMS Bayano, which was orig­i­nally a ba­nana boat be­fore be­ing drafted into the Royal Navy as an armed mer­chant aux­il­iary cruiser.

Bay Roberts res­i­dent Gor­don Mercer, Co­p­ley’s great­nephew, orig­i­nally brought Co­p­ley’s name to the town’s at­ten­tion. Mercer said he and his cousin knew about Co­p­ley for quite some time.

“The last time we spoke about him was about five years ago when we were at the Le­gion,” Mercer ex­plained. “My cousin told me ‘I might not be around for much longer, so if any­thing hap­pens to me, get Tom’s name put on the ceno­taph’. I think it was about a week later he died, and that’s when I started the process.”

Mercer’s re­search started with a sim­ple Google search, and soon came upon a fam­ily tree. Through this, Mercer was able to find out his great- great- grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge Co­p­ley, had mar­ried a sec­ond time af­ter Mercer’s great­great- grand­mother passed away. Ge­orge’s sec­ond wife was Jane Har­riet from South River, and Thomas Co­p­ley was the older of their two sons.

With this in­for­ma­tion in hand, Mercer went about search­ing the South River ceme­tery, where he found Co­p­ley’s brother, Ed­ward’s head­stone, with an ad­di­tion by his mother that men­tions Thomas’ loss aboard the Bayano dur­ing the First World War.

Mercer then passed along all the in­for­ma­tion he’d found to Philip Wood, mayor of Bay Roberts, who be­gan his own re­search process.

“He will get the recog­ni­tion that he’s wor­thy of.”

— Mayor Philip Wood

“I got Thomas Co­p­ley’s records, and the in­for­ma­tion I found through my re­search was where he was from, where his next of kin was, and where he en­listed. Thomas Co­p­ley’s records clearly in­di­cate that he signed up in Bay Roberts,” said Wood.

Branch 32 of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion in Bay Roberts voted unan­i­mously to have Co­p­ley’s name added to the war memo­rial, and when Wood brought it to the coun­cil in Tues­day night’s meet­ing, the idea was met with the same en­thu­si­asm.

“I hon­estly don’t know how Co­p­ley’s name was missed,” Wood said, “and the only thing I can think is that it was an hon­est mis­take. Co­p­ley paid the supreme sac­ri­fice, and he will get the recog­ni­tion he’s wor­thy of.”

The Town of Bay Roberts has taken the first steps to­ward in­scrib­ing Co­p­ley’s name into the memo­rial, and Wood wants to make sure it’s done right, with the same amount of re­spect as ev­ery other name on the memo­rial. Wood sus­pects the ad­di­tion to be made be­fore Memo­rial Day on July 1st.

When asked how he felt now that Co­p­ley’s name would be added to memo­rial, Mercer said, “It’s hon­estly such a big sigh of re­lief. Fi­nally, he’s go­ing to be re­mem­bered the way he should be.”

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Bay Roberts Deputy Mayor Wal­ter Yet­man lay­ing a wreath by the ceno­taph dur­ing the 2015 Memo­rial Day cer­e­mony.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Doc­u­ments con­firm­ing Thomas Co­p­ley’s en­list­ment in Bay Roberts.

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