Copling, Andrew (No. 6984669)

Copling, Andrew (Andy)

Fusilier

No. 6984669, 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Died as a result of enemy action on Wednesday 16 April 1941 (aged 16)

Buried:

Dromore Cathedral Churchyard, Dromore, Co. Down (Grave 26)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Brass Plaque in Dromore Cathedral

Dromore and District War Memorial

BIOGRAPHY

Fusilier Andrew Copling (No. 6984669) was one of 13 soldiers serving with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who died as a result of an air raid on Newtownards aerodrome during the night of 15/16 April 1941.

Between 10.45 pm on Easter Tuesday 15 April and 4.30 am on Wednesday 16 April 1941 there was a large-scale German Luftwaffe air raid on the City of Belfast.  Other nearby towns and villages, including Bangor and Newtownards, were also attacked.  Areas of Bangor where bombs fell included Ashley Gardens, Bangor Golf Clubhouse, Baylands, Farnham Road, Hazeldene Gardens and Ranfurly Avenue.  Fires blazed on Scrabo Hill, Newtownards and bombs fell on Green Road, Conlig and Comber Road, Newtownards.  At least 29 people with North Down and Ards connections were killed, including the following 15 civilians.

  • Matilda Grattan together with her daughters Angeline Grattan and Shelagh Grattan who died at 40 Ashley Gardens in Bangor.
  • Margaret Byers Watt who died at 5 Hazeldene Gardens in Bangor.
  • Robert Wright of 32 Baylands, Bangor who died of his injuries in Bangor Hospital.
  • Edith, Henry, Isabella and William Dunwoody; Nancy Simms Gribbin; Thomas Morton; Bessie and Ellen Ogle; William Henry Taggart and Evelyn Tate who all died in Belfast.

That night the aerodrome at Newtownards, which was the Headquarters of 231 Squadron, Royal Air Force was attacked.  The aerodrome was guarded by soldiers of the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, some of whom were too young for front line service and were deployed instead on the home front.  Newtownards aerodrome was attacked with a considerable number of incendiary bombs and some high explosive bombs.  One high explosive bomb that fell on the hutments of ‘A’ Company Headquarters killed 13 men, all of whom served with the 70th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  Most were killed instantly, and the remainder died the following day as a result of their injuries:

  • Fusilier William Bellamy (aged 28)
  • Fusilier Samuel Burke (aged 18)
  • Lance Corporal Alexander Carlisle
  • Fusilier Andrew Copling (aged 16)
  • Fusilier Hugh Fulton (aged 17)
  • Fusilier George Graham
  • Fusilier Daniel Higgins
  • Fusilier Leslie Love (aged 34)
  • Fusilier Samuel McFarland (aged 19)
  • Company Quartermaster Sergeant William McMurray (aged 27)
  • Fusilier Ernest McNeill (aged 17)
  • Warrant Officer Class II Alfred Penfold (aged 36)
  • Fusilier Matthew Wright (aged 18)

The casualties were all taken to Ards District Hospital in Newtownards.

There was another casualty with an Ards connection who died during the night of 15/16 April 1941.  Flight Lieutenant Wilfrid Mark Hamilton Brookes (aged 23) of 231 Squadron who was in Belfast at the time was killed during the air raid.

Andy Copling was born on 22 July 1924 at 17 Shipbuoy Street, Belfast, his mother’s family home.  When signing up for the Army he gave his date of birth as 22 July 1922 (two years older than his true age).  He was the eldest child of Ernest Victor Copling (who was born in London) and Jane Copling (nee McCloy, who was born in Belfast) and they lived at 5 Riverside Terrace, Dromore, Co. Down.  Ernest Victor Copling and Jane McCloy were married on 12 March 1923 in St. John’s Church of Ireland Church, Laganbank, Belfast and they had eight children:

Andrew (Andy)

Ernest (Ernie)

Jean

Violet

Edward (Ted)

Rosetta (Rose)

Robert (Bob)

Andrew (Andy, born in 1945 and named after his brother who died)

Andy Copling was educated at Dromore Primary School (then located in Church Street, Dromore) and, after leaving school, he worked for a short time at McVeigh’s Dairy in Church Street before he joined the Army.  During the Second World War Andy’s father Ernest also served as a soldier.  Ernest was a Sergeant Major who served in France and was involved in the evacuation at Dunkirk. When Ernest Copling was demobilised, he got a job as a chauffeur with John Graham (Building Contractor), Dromore.

Fusilier Andrew Copling (No. 6984669) was buried in Dromore Cathedral Churchyard, Co. Down and he is commemorated on a brass plaque on one of the Cathedral pillars near the lectern.  He is also commemorated on Dromore and District War Memorial.

Andy’s father, Ernest Copling, died on 19 December 1952 and his mother, Jane Copling, died on 30 March 1974.  Both were buried beside their son.  There is an inscription on Fusilier Andrew Copling’s CWGC headstone:

OUR PROUDEST POSSESSIONS

ARE MEMORIES

OF YOUR SMILE