|Date of Birth||February 22, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Henry Coppard (mother), 514 Third Street South, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Car Repairer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||February 27, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||25|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||May 7, 1918|
|Age at Death||28|
|Buried At||St. James Churchyard, Hampton Hill, Middlesex, England|
Private Richard Coppard enlisted in February 1915 and arrived in France a year later. He suffered gas poisoning in March 1918 and died in a hospital in England.
Richard was the oldest son of Henry Coppard and Maria McPherson of Kenora, Ontario. Henry, also known as Harry, was from Rye, Sussex, England and his wife was born in Ontario to Scottish-métis parents. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters. Richard was born in Rat Portage (later called Kenora) on 22 February 1890. Two of his sisters died in 1907, Rosie Jane at age 15 and an infant at age 4 days. His surviving siblings were Samuel (1893), George (1895), William (1897), Maude (1900) and Nellie (1903). As a teenager Richard worked for the Rat Portage Box Factory. When the 1911 census was taken he was 21 years old, living with his family on Sixth Avenue South and working as a planer for the Rat Portage Lumber Company. A short time later he was hired as a car repairer for the Canadian Pacific Railway and he was with them for about four years.
Richard and his brothers George and William all served during the First World War. Richard was the first to sign up, enlisting in Kenora on 27 February 1915 when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. The Kenora men were briefly attached to the 44th Battalion but in mid-March the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was organized and they were transferred to the new unit. The 52nd was based in Port Arthur and in June 1915 the Kenora volunteers were sent there to join the rest of the battalion. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Recruits were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Richard was sent to England with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft in September 1915, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. They embarked on 4 September, leaving from Montreal on the SS Missanabie. After a few months of further training the men were assigned to new units. Richard was transferred to the 4th Battalion which was in the 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. He was sent to France in February 1916 and he joined his new unit in March.
That spring the Canadians were in the Ypres Salient in Belgium, holding the front line between St. Eloi and Hooge, and in June they took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel. The Battle of the Somme began in July and the Canadians were moved to the Somme area starting in late August. Richard was wounded in the arm on 19 September at Courcelette and he spent three weeks out of action. The Somme Offensive ended in November and the Canadian Corps spent the winter in the Lens-Arras area, across from Vimy. In April they took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Richard was given ten days leave in Paris in August then sent to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. He rejoined the 4th Battalion in March 1918. Later that month he was helping to build gun emplacements when he was gassed by a German shell. He stayed with his unit for awhile but after two weeks he was sick enough to be admitted to a hospital. From there he was evacuated to England and sent to King’s Red Cross Hospital in London. By 17 April he was listed as seriously ill and he passed away on 7 May.
From the War Diary of King’s Red Cross Hospital: ‘May 7, 1918: Pte. Coppard R., No. 439105, 4th Battalion, C.E.F. died of V.D.H. at 12:05 a.m.’ (V.D.H. is valvular disease of the heart). A nursing sister at the hospital wrote a very kind letter to Richard’s mother, describing his illness and his funeral. He is buried in St. James Cemetery in Hampton Hill, Middlesex, in a small plot containing 12 Canadian First World War soldiers. On the bottom of his marker is inscribed: ‘How we miss him, oh so sadly aching hearts alone can tell.’
His brothers William Coppard and George Coppard both served and survived the war. Their uncle Charles Miller of Kenora was killed at the Battle of Amiens on 10 August 1918, three months before the Armistice.
While Richard was serving overseas his father died in a railway accident, in August 1916. He was working as a guard at a tunnel near Sioux Lookout when he was struck by a train. Richard’s mother passed away in Kenora in 1936 and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Also buried there are his brothers William (1897-1954) and Samuel (1893-1958), and his sisters Rosie (1892-1907), Maude (1900-1972) and Nellie (1903-1995).
Richard is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral War Memorial plaque.
By Becky Johnson