Percy Patrick COONEY

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Percy Patrick COONEY

Driver Percy Patrick Cooney
The Royal Field Artillery

Driver Cooney’s daughter-in-law, Jill Cooney, writes:

I am the daughter-in-law of Percy Patrick and his son, Philip John, and I came to Australia in 1968 after we were married in London. My husband always joked that I’d brought myself back a live souvenir! Percy’s daughter, Ida Missing, still lives in Hatfield.

I cannot think about Percy without very fond memories of a wonderful character. When I was in London I would visit him in Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions and sometimes the three of us would sit and talk till the wee hours of the morning. Percy had a wonderful education (Duke of York Military School). He could quote long reams from Shakespeare or sing mining songs from Kalgoolie (inland West Australia).

Percy grew up in the east of London and as a youngster often played football on the Boleyn Ground (West Ham United Football Club’s ground). He left home at seven years old to attend military school. During his youth he had many jobs including a steward on an ocean liner where he travelled to Australia. Whilst there he played in the "semi-final” of the Australasian Cup at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney in September 1914 where his team beat RMS "Morea” 13-2. Other jobs included working as a labourer on a farm in the West Country and in the coal mines of Tonypandy in Wales.

Later in 1914 he joined the Royal Artillery and became the lead driver of the artillery cannons seeing action in Belgium. His active service ended due to injury when the horse he was riding reared up after a shell had exploded nearby. Percy was trapped under the horse and his metal stirrup deeply pierced his ankle. In 1917 he was returned to England but unfortunately gangrene had set in and he had to have his left foot removed.

Percy spent over two years in hospital undergoing a number of operations and it was whilst he was in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London that he first learned needlepoint. The family can’t recall him talking about his involvement with the Altar Frontal but he can be seen in some images displaying some of his work – Royal Artillery Badge at the centre of the table – he sits in the wheelchair on the right. During a visit to the hospital by Queen Alexandra, Percy was approached by one of Her Majesty’s Equerries who enquired if she could have a particular item of needlepoint, a bulldog straddling the world (the world was padded out which gave it a 3d effect).

He explained that he had promised that particular item to his sister Mabel but that Her Majesty could have any of the other items. The Queen did take another needlepoint and a few days later Percy received a tin of tobacco, £5 and a note from Her Majesty thanking him. In later years on retelling this story his wife was horrified that he had refused The Queen her request, but he was adamant that he had promised it to Mabel.

Unfortunately he spent many years in and out of hospital enduring operations on his left leg which was eventually reduced to a stump. He was fitted with an artificial leg from world renowned limb fitting and amputee rehabilitation Centre at Roehampton.

He married Dorothy (Doff) Minnie Stoneham on December 25 1919 at St Cuthbert’s Church in Kensington and on their marriage certificate it states his occupation as a "Soldier”. They had three children, Terry, Ida and Phil. The family lived mostly in Fulham, London in what was locally known as the War Seal Mansions (Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions built specifically for injured WW1 ex-servicemen and their families – still standing in the same location today).

In the early 1970s, following Doff’s death in 1964, Percy moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire (assisted by the wonderful staff from BLESMA and the British Legion) to be closer to Ida and Terry who both lived there. Percy died in February 1981 aged 92, just a few hours after his son, Terry, who died of a heart attack on the same day. Ida still lives in Hatfield and Phil married an Australian in 1969 and moved to Brisbane where he lives with his family.

Cooney, Driver Percy Patrick - papers 1
Cooney, Driver Percy Patrick 1
Cooney, Driver Percy Patrick 2
Cooney, Driver Percy Patrick 3

Documents courtesy of The Western Front Association