b. 25/10/1889 Charing, Kent. d. 20/03/1963 Oakland, USA.
Frederick George Coppins (1889-1963) was born in Charing, near Ashford, Kent, England, on October 25th, 1889, the son of Joseph Coppins and his wife Sarah. His father was married three times in all. He had three brothers (Joseph, Albert, and Edward) and a sister, Ellen. He joined the Royal West Kent Regiment as a regular in December 1907 for seven years, Reg no 8883 but appears to have emigrated before his service was completed. He departed on the Grampian from Liverpool on 27th March 1912, with a destination of Saint John, Newfoundland, Canada.
He eventually settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his family, and on the outbreak of war in September 1914, he enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles (R Wpg Rif) are a Primary Reserve one-battalion infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces. Nicknamed the "Little Black Devils", they are based at Minto Armouries in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles are part of Land Force Western Area's 38 Canadian Brigade Group.
He served in the same battalion as Corporal Alexander Picton Brereton - also a Victoria Cross recipient - the 8th Battalion (90th Winnipeg Rifles) of the Manitoba Regiment.
Coppins was serving as a corporal in an attack on a German position called Hatchet Wood, near the villages of Warvillers and Vrély, south of the town of Albert, France, on August 9th, 1918. On that day, Corporal Coppins' platoon came unexpectedly under fire of numerous machine-guns. It was not possible to advance or retire and there was no cover. Corporal Coppins, calling on four men to follow him, leapt forward in the face of intense machine-gun fire and rushed straight for the guns. The four men with him were killed and he was wounded, but going on alone, he killed the operator of the first gun and three of the crew and took four prisoners. Despite his wound, he then continued with his platoon to the final objective.
Following the award of the VC, Fred Coppins received his medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 24th October 1918.
In 1919, Coppins enlisted as a Special Constable in Winnipeg at the time of the Winnipeg General Strike, and broke two ribs in a melee. His role in the Strike was remembered by James Dunwoody DSO, DCM who commanded a mixed group of soldiers tasked with dealing with the strikers. He recalled “One incident occurs to me and that was that a man called Coppins - Coporal Coppins, VC who disobeyed my orders by breaking ranks and being hit over the head by a brick bat - turned his horse into the mob at the side and accompanied by another trooper was pulled off his horse and badly beaten up. We managed to rescue him and get him back in the line again. We made our way to the city hall and by that time the trouble was cleared.”
He later moved to Oakland, California, where he worked as a construction foreman for Pacific Gas and Electric. He passed away in the VA Hospital in Livermore, California, at the age of 73 on 20th March 1963. His funeral service was attended by representatives of The Royal Canadian Legion, the Last Post Fund and Canada’s consul general. He was cremated and his ashes interred at the Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, California. His medals were donated to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL WINNIPEG RIFLES MUSEUM, WINNIPEG, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: CHAPEL OF THE CHIMES, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, USA. (CREMATED)
Images of the front and reverse of Frederick Coppins' VC and image of his replica medals courtesy of the Curator of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum