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Memorable Manitobans: Thomas Frederick “Tommy” Cooper (1891-1977)

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Tommy Cooper
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Engineer, inventor, musician, bandmaster.

Born at Birmingham, England on 14 August 1891, son of Owen Cooper and Mercy Seeney, during the First World War he served in France with the Royal Flying Corps. He immigrated to Canada in 1921 and settled at Winnipeg.

In 1923, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force with the rank of Sergeant. He was an instructor at the RCAF’s Technical Training School at Trenton, Ontario and held the rank of Flight-Sergeant by the onset of the Second World War. He organized the Trenton Station and RCAF Central bands before being reassigned to the Repair Depot No. 8 at Winnipeg in April 1941. He advanced from Warrant Officer to Commanding Officer (1944-1946) of the station, reportedly the only RCAF member to rise in rank that far while remaining at the same station.

While working as Chief Engineering Officer with the rank of Squadron Leader, he made his own scooter out of salvaged aircraft parts and a three-quarter horsepower engine, capable of going 150 miles per gallon at a top speed of 25 miles per hour. He organized a 31-piece airwomen’s trumpet band and a mixed 75-piece choir. For his engineering accomplishments in designing and modifying aircraft for the war effort, he was awarded the rank of Officer in the Order of the British Empire (1944). He ended the war with the rank of Wing Commander, retiring in July 1946 after the closure of the Repair Depot.

Returning to civilian life, he was a Band Master with the Royal Canadian Legion, an active member of the Winnipeg Flying Club (Chairmen, Flying Committee), and involved with the Air Cadet program as Chief Instructor (Western Canada) and Commander. He and wife Eileen Hannah ”Lily” Bostable had four children. The family resided at 231 Roseberry Street in St. James before retiring to British Columbia.

He died at White Rock, British Columbia on 22 November 1977.


Death registration, British Columbia Vital Statistics.

“Skilled airmen compose Band,” Ottawa Journal, 12 May 1939, page 4.

“Trenton Band presents concert,” Ottawa Journal, 15 May 1939, page 13.

“Airwomen’s Band will make debut,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 August 1943, page 4.

[Photo caption, “Wonders of the Air Force are shown to Winnipeggers”], Winnipeg Free Press, 20 October 1943, page 3.

“Engineer Officer attests daughter,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 December 1943, page 13.

“King honors 386 Canadians in his birthday Honours List,” Ottawa Journal, 8 June 1944, page 4.

“Church parades at Air Depot,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 December 1944, page 17.

“Lieutenant-Governor will pin decorations on Air Force men,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 February 1945, page 5.

“Wing-Cmdr. T.F. Cooper heads No. 8 Repair Depot,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 1945, page 22.

““Airplane hospital,” 8 R.D. closing soon,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 February 1946, page 5.

“Fine feature booked for opening concert,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 June 1946, page 11.

“Commemoration service Sunday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 November 1946, page 4.

“Reserve fliers at Gimli have largest camp yet,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 July 1949, page 33.

“800 Western Air Cadets fly, play, eat at Gimli,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 July 1950, page 3.

“Mothers pin sons’ wings as Air Cadets graduated,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 November 1951, page 3.

“Flying certificates,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 October 1955, page 25.

“Less danger in air say private pilots,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 June 1961, page 15.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 1977, page 27.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 7 January 2017

Memorable Manitobans

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