Great send-off for WWII veteran

Source: Cooney family
Source: Cooney family

Stewart Cooney was born in Dundee, in 1921 and after leaving the school, he trained as a jute weaver before war broke out. He, along with thousands of young men, answered the call to arms, and he joined the Royal Artillery. Carrying the rank of Troop Sergeant Major, Mr. Cooney commanded 90 men and fought in many theatres of war including Syria, Egypt and Monte Cassino, Italy. After the cessation of hostilities, he was stationed in Dortmund until 1952.

On returning to civilian life, he lived with his wife Betty, whom he married in 1943, in Leeds where he was employed in the mills.

Mr. Cooney died aged 95, on the 9th June 2016, at the Colton Lodges Nursing Home in Leeds. He had, to the best of their knowledge, no family and the staff at the nursing home felt that it was not right that he be laid to rest with no-one there to acknowledge his service to his country, so they put out an appeal to people to attend his funeral.

This appeal was answered by over 300 people, including soldiers both serving and past, a biker gang and many others who wanted to show their respect to this man who fought for our freedom.

The Leeds tracing agency, Finder Monkey, managed to trace Mr. Clooney’s sister whom he had not seen for many years. She was living in Manchester, and 84-year-old Helen Walker attended the funeral with her two sons, Scott and Stewart. She was surprised at the number of people that attended and very touched that they had done so. She expressed regret that she had not been able to see her brother before he passed away.

Many people sent flowers, including several poppy wreaths, as a tribute to this man, even though they did not know him and one floral tribute included his old regimental number, 883220. The flowers contained messages of sympathy and support, several of which were very poignant;

“Rest in peace to a man we didn’t know but to whom we owe much.”

“Once a gunner always a gunner stand easy now with love and respect from all ranks who served in 45 field regiment.”

And a poppy wreath with the words, “In honour of our fellow gunner. God bless.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE