Highly Decorated and Very Lucky – World War Two pilot dies just short of 101st Birthday

An extraordinary Spitfire pilot who supported the troops on D-Day has died only 11 days before living into his second century.

Tony Copper thwarted death repeatedly surviving five forced landings, two of them due to fire, two of them at night and one after being hit by enemy ground fire.

As flight commander of 64 Squadron, he often led his unit on frontline operations, continuously harassing Nazi forces.

He headed two missions on June 6, 1944, giving critical fighter cover over Omaha and Utah beaches in support of Allied soldiers.  Cooper was also involved in the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in 1944 when Allied forces attempted to capture Arnhem in Holland.

Tony returned to his birthplace, the town of Lowestoft, Suffolk, at the close of the war in 1945 to work, as four generations did before him, in the family’s wholesale business, W.B. Cooper Ltd.

He remained active into his late 90’s going to the gym to remain fit, swimming and driving his speedy BMW sports car.

A dedicated family man, Cooper is survived by two children, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He passed away January 26, at Ritson Lodge Care Home in Hopton-on-Sea.

Cooper’s partner of two decades, Doris Day, said he was both a true gentlemen.  He meant a great deal to many people, since he always looked out for others and cared for them.

Born on February 6, 1916, Cooper started pilot training at age 21 in the RAF Volunteers Reserve at Luton.  He was transferred to Canada where he met Pearl, his future wife, in 1940 while taking a flying instructor’s course.

Cooper received France’s highest award, the Legion d’honneur medal in 2015 for assisting in France’s liberation from Nazi Germany.

Barry Scaplehorn, president of Lowestoft Rotary Club, said he was a perfect gentleman both in mind and in the flesh.  Everyone was treated with respect by him.  He will be missed by Lowestoft and the Rotary Club.

Cooper’s daughter, Alison Bond, 66, said her father had great enthusiasm for life and was huge fun to be around.

When she was at school, he would come to pick her up, and because Cooper was so outgoing everyone would want to talk to him, Mirror reported.

His funeral takes place February 24 at 1:30 pm in St. Mark’s Church, Oulton Broad.

Ian Harvey

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