Harold Coups was born in Heaton Mersey in 1884, the son of Elizabeth and William Coups, a cotton dyer. In 1891, six year old Harold was living at 1 Burnage Lane, Heaton Norris, with his parents and siblings Hubert (11), Frank (8), and John (2). Harold's sister Miriam was born in Heaton Norris in 1894.
At some time towards the end of the 1890s, the family moved to Macclesfield where Harold's father took a job as a foreman in the silk industry – at William Whiston & Son in Langley, said to be the largest silk printing, dyeing and finishing company in the country. They lived at 269 Buxton Road in a newly built, red-brick, semi-detached house. William’s younger brother Joseph, who probably moved to Macclesfield around the same time, again to work in the silk industry, lived across the road. Harold was initially employed as an apprentice joiner at the local building firm of John Clayton & Co., and was a fully qualified joiner by 1911, but later became a Clerk of Works at the Calico Printers Association in Oxford Street, Manchester.
Taking a deep interest in sport, particularly golf, as the Times put it, he was captain of the Hurdsfield Golf Club, and in March 1915 was re-elected Captain in his absence. He was also a member of the Whiston’s Lodge of the Freemasons and a singer in the choirs of both the Sunderland Street Wesleyan Chapel and the Philharmonic Male Voice Choir. The Times obituary suggested that By his death, Macclesfield is deprived of one of its most talented vocalists.
Harold, his father and three brothers – Hubert, Frank and John – were all active members of the Hurdsfield Sunday School (now closed, more recently known as Higher Hurdsfield Sunday School). All five taught there, as did Hubert’s wife Elizabeth; Hubert played the organ and Harold became the Scoutmaster of the Sunday School troop.
Harold had been a member of the Territorials since 1908 and when war broke out he was recalled to the 7th Cheshire Regiment in Macclesfield. Harold was attached to the Signalling Section of the Regiment, and was promoted to Sergeant shortly before completing his training at Bedford.
In July 1915 the 7th Cheshire Regiment sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August. On the evening of 8th August, the Battalion arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and the following day landed at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay. Two days later the Battalion was involved in an attack on Turkish positions. Forced to withdraw and dig in, they would hold out until they were relieved on the 27th. Within days of arriving at Gallipoli, Harold was seriously wounded, shot in the head by a sniper. He died from his wounds a week later, aboard hospital ship HMHS Euripides, bound for the nearby island of Lemnos, and it was here he was buried, in the military cemetery of East Mudros.
Another Macclesfield man, Sgt. John Fitchett, serving alongside him, described Harold’s injury in a letter to his wife, written on the 14th of August:
"The worst of this place is the snipers. They seem to be up every tree, and as soon as you show your head there is a ‘ping’ goes and a bullet is whistling through the air. But the boys are getting so used to it they hardly trouble about them. They go to the wells they have found, each man carrying six bottles for water, so as to save so many men going and standing around the well at one time. We lost about 20 men there yesterday. Young Charlie Beck is either killed or wounded, also Harold Coups. Last Monday afternoon he was looking up to see where I was speaking from and a bullet hit him in the head."
Fitchett himself was killed a few days later, dying of his wounds on 19 August.
Harold Coups died on 16 August 1915, aged 30. He was unmarried and left no children. As an obituary in the Macclesfield Times noted, Harold was "exceedingly well known in the town and his demise is regretted by a large circle of friends". The Courier noted that he was "much esteemed by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and his passing will leave a blank in many respects".
Sgt Harold Coups is buried in grave Ref. II. F. 95 in East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos, Greece. Harold’s father asked for the inscription “LATE OF MACCLESFIELD, FORMERLY OF HEATON MERSEY, ENGLAND” to be added to his headstone. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Sgt Harold Coups, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Sgt Harold Coups is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael's Church, Sunderland Street Chapel and Hurdsfield Sunday School war memorials, and Hurdsfield Sunday School and Macclesfield Cricket Club Rolls of Honour.
Elsewhere, Harold is commemorated on the Heaton Mersey war memorial, in Stockport.
The Hurdsfield Sunday School Roll of Honour, on which Harold’s name appears, is particularly interesting. Probably bought ‘off the peg’ early in the war, such Rolls were intended to record the names of men who had voluntarily enlisted, since conscription was not introduced until the beginning of 1916. The initial list appears to have contained a mere twenty-nine names, but as the war dragged on, and more men enlisted (or were subsequently conscripted) their names were added. The eventual total reached one hundred and sixteen. And as men died, their names were highlighted. Harold was one of ten associated with the school who died. His younger brother John, also named on the Roll of Honour as one who served, survived.
As well as these more obvious forms of remembrance, the Sunday School had other memorials to Harold. In 1916 Harold's father donated a large framed photograph of his son in uniform, which no doubt hung for many years in the school room. Two small wooden collection boxes made before the war by Harold, who had once earned his living as a joiner, were later inscribed "In memory of a Much Beloved Teacher." One of these boxes is now held by Macclesfield Museums.
Brother of John Lowe Coups, who served with the Royal Flying Corps, and then the RAF, from February 1918 until his discharge from service in April 1920.
Research by Geoff Archer and Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.