Lieutenant Noel Wilson COOPER RNVR
Combined Operations Pilotage Party, No. 3 Royal Marine Commando

Date of birth: 24th December 1914
Date of death: 4th March 1943

Killed in action aged 28
Commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial Panel 80 Column 1
He was born at Quilmes, Buenos Aires on the 24th of December 1914, the son of Reginald Cooper, civil engineer, and Aileen Evelyn Laura of Quilmes.

He was educated at St George's College, Quilmes, and at the King's School Canterbury from September 1930 to April 1932, where he was in School House. He gained his 2nd Rugby XV colours.

On leaving King's he returned home to Argentina where he joined a firm of chartered accountants.

He continued to play rugby as a scrum half and was Captain of Buenos Aires Rugby Football Club. In 1936 he was selected to play for Argentina winning his first cap against a Great Britain XV at Buenos Aires on the 16th of August 1936 which Argentina lost by 23 points to nil. He played next against Chile at Playa Ancha, Valparaiso on the 20th of September 1936 which Argentina won by 39 points to nil and was capped for the third and final time also against Chile on the same ground which Argentina won by 31 points to 3. He was also a member of the Buenos Aires Cricket Club.

Following the outbreak of war he decided to return home to join the Navy and on the 12th of July 1940 he arrived at Liverpool docks on board the SS "Highland Patriot".

He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on the 3rd of July 1942. He later joined the Royal Marine Commandos and was posted to HMS Quebec training centre at Inverary.

In 1942 Lieutenant Colonel Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott, a Royal Naval navigation specialist, was charged with raising teams to undertake reconnaissance of landing beaches prior to the invasion of North Africa. They were to take soil samples to see whether the sand would take the weight of tanks, scout enemy defences and check for underwater obstructions. They would also use lights to guide allied landing craft to the beaches. The first operation these new teams were to be used was Operation "Torch", the allied invasion of North Africa.

In August 1942 the team assembled at Fort Blockhouse in Scotland and on the 1st of October 1942 the party left by train for Glasgow where Noel Cooper and two other officers boarded the trawler HMT "Rousay". They sailed on the 3rd of October and joined a convoy which included other trawlers carrying other member of the team as well as their equipment. They arrived at Gibraltar a few days later where they were accommodated on board the submarine depot ship HMS "Maidstone". A period of intense training then followed, in preparation for the operation. The group's leader, Captain Basil Eckert, and Noel Cooper were to be together for the reconnaissance and they were allocated a section of the beach code named "Algiers C Sector". They boarded the submarine HMS "Unrivalled" for the journey to the African coast. After two nights at sea the enemy coast could be seen about twenty miles away and Eckert and Cooper undertook a successful practice launch of their canoe from the submarine. On the 3rd of November 1942 the submarine submerged and watched the coastline through its periscope and, when darkness fell, they moved closer to shore in preparation for their mission. On the 4th of November Cooper and Nigel Wilmott went inshore for a reconnaissance, returning two and a half hours later with the news that they had found an anchorage for Eckhard for the landing. He was to guide the other canoes in on the morning of the invasion while Cooper was allocated the task of guiding landing craft into "Blue" Beach. On the 7th of November Eckhard launched his boats at 7.30pm then paddled to Bordellaise Rock where he had planned to anchor; in the event the surf was too strong to risk landing there but he had managed to anchor in the lee side of the rock by 10.30pm. While he was waiting for the invasion to begin Noel Cooper boarded Motor Launch 273 and headed for the beaches where he joined a wave of landing craft. At 3.30am ML273 struck Bordellaise rock a glancing blow on its way towards the beach but was not damaged. With the invasion having been a success, Eckhard and Cooper set out on the 11th of November to find transport to get their team and equipment back to Gibraltar and they returned there 10 days later.

He was mentioned in despatches for "bravery and skill in the hazardous operations in which the allied forces were landed in North Africa".

On the 27th of February 1943 Noel Cooper left Malta on board HMS "Unrivalled" for Operation "Husky", the invasion of Sicily. The mission for his team was to guide the assault landing craft in to the beaches. The weather was poor when Cooper and his partner, Lieutenant Commander Norman Teacher launched their canoe from the carrier submarine HMS "Unbending" and paddled off into the darkness to make their initial reconnaissance of the area. Cooper returned exhausted and alone. On the 4th of March 1943 Noel Cooper and Captain George Burbidge set out for a further reconnaissance but missed their rendezvous with HMS "United" and were never seen again.

The members of the team who lost their lives Operation "Husky" were:-

Lieutenant Commander Norman Joseph Macdonald Teacher DSO RN
Lieutenant Noel Wilson Cooper RNVR
Captain George Wheelock Burbidge Royal Canadian Engineers
Lieutenant Peter de Chatillon De Cock MBE DSC SANF
Sub Lieutenant Alfred Harvey Crossley SANF

Back