The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5/1482) Temporary Corporal Kevin Joseph Cooper, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Korean War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.327
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 23 November 2018
Access Open
Conflict Korea, 1950-1953
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (5/1482) Temporary Corporal Kevin Joseph Cooper, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Korean War.

Speech transcript

5/1482 Temporary Corporal Kevin Joseph Cooper, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 26 July 1953
Story delivered 23 November 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Temporary Corporal Kevin Joseph Cooper.

Kevin Cooper was born on 2 December 1931 in Subiaco, Western Australia, the son of Herbert, a First World War veteran, and Kathleen Cooper. He grew up in Swanbourne, where he attended the local school.

From a young age, Cooper had a love of motorcycles. After leaving school, he completed an apprenticeship as a motor cycle mechanic and bought his own motorcycle as soon as he was able. Cooper also served as a senior cadet with the 11th/44th Battalion.

At the age of 18, with parental consent, Cooper enlisted in the Australian Regular Army on 16 August 1950. After completing his training in late October, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, which was then based at Puckapunyal in Victoria.

In early February 1952 Cooper learnt he was to be a reinforcement for 3RAR in Korea. After flying out of Sydney to Japan, at the end of March Cooper was posted to 1RAR, sailing with his unit to Korea in early April.

1RAR entered the front line in June and early the following month, conducting a company strength daylight raid on a Chinese position on Hill 227. Over the following month, Cooper took part in night time patrols in no man’s land.

On 3 August Cooper was sent to the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade’s junior NCO school to undergo instruction for promotion to corporal. Cooper successfully completed the course in September, he was promoted to lance corporal.

After three weeks leave, Cooper returned to his battalion in late November and spent Christmas in the front line. This was enlivened by the Chinese, who had left cards, propaganda messages, and small gifts for the Australians on their defensive wire.

By early March 1953 1RAR was out of the line waiting to be relieved by 2RAR. Although Cooper had completed his 12 months of service in Korea, he elected to serve for a further eight months and transferred to 2RAR.

On 21 March, Cooper was present at Camp Casey where Brigadier Tom Daly presided over a parade where 1, 2 and 3RAR were together for the first time in the regiment’s history. After the parade, Cooper was taken on strength of 2RAR and was posted to C Company.

After a period of leave Cooper returned to his battalion on 24 April and was promoted to corporal.

In late May 2RAR entered the front line for the first time. Over the next month it was involved in intense patrol activity against the Chinese. In early July 2RAR moved to the Hook, one of the key positions in the Samichon Valley. A recent Chinese offensive had largely destroyed the defensive wire and numerous fighting positions. The Australians had their work cut out repairing the damage. Nightly patrol activity was kept up to keep Chinese patrols away from Australian positions.

On 19 July, United Nations and Chinese negotiators reached an agreement on an armistice. That same day the Chinese launched several attacks in the Samichon Valley, capturing two US Marines outposts near the Australian front line.

The activity pointed towards one more offensive, which began on the evening of 24 July when Chinese infantry attacked US Marines’ positions through their own artillery barrage. The Australians were subjected to heavy shelling and C Company, including Cooper, fought off a Chinese attack.

The following night Cooper was in charge of a seven-man standing patrol forward of the Australian main line. That night, the Chinese again attacked US Marines’ positions and subjected the Australian positions to an artillery bombardment. When Chinese infantry attacked Cooper’s patrol position, he remained in control of the situation and continued to pass back information on enemy mortar fire and troop movements.

In the early hours of 26 July, Cooper was ordered to bring his patrol in and supervised the withdrawal of his men under heavy fire. As he neared the Australian front line a Chinese shell detonated nearby and piece of shrapnel struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

Cooper’s men brought his body in and he was taken to Pusan, where he was laid to rest with full military honours in the United Nations Cemetery. He was 21 years old.

For his bravery and leadership Cooper was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches. Part of his citation reads:

this NCO… previously displayed exceptional initiative and determination with a coolness unusual in a young NCO… in command of a patrol… he was absolutely fearless… his reputation as a leader was admired and is remembered by all ranks of C Company.

Despite his youth, Cooper possessed fine leadership abilities. Combined with his dedication to his mates and his job as an infantryman, he was the embodiment of the Royal Australian Regiment’s motto, “Duty first.”

Cooper’s death had a profound effect on his family, further compounded when his father Herbert died of heart failure three months later.

Cooper’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among the 340 Australians who died as a result of their service during the Korean War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Kevin Joseph Cooper, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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