TRIBUTES have been paid to a former soldier and long-serving Remembrance Day parade organiser who has died, aged 86.
Charles Cooper, known as a “Barrack Stanchion” because of his time spent in the Royal Engineers, helped arrange the annual event in Seaham for 32 years.
The pensioner, who served in the Army for 22 years, received a certificate of appreciation from the Royal British Legion in honour of his hard work and dedication.
Born in the East Durham town, Charles moved to Manchester when he was a teenager.
Working in a factory during the day, he turned theatre stage hand, fall-guy and stooge for various acts in the evening.
After a stint as a shot-firer at Bradford Colliery, he joined the Army, serving as a heavy-plant fitter, crane operator and plant instructor.
His military career took him to Germany, North Africa, Cyprus and Gibraltar.
“His favourite posting was Gibraltar, where he went early in his army career,” said Charles’ son Peter. “After the wartime food rationing and restrictions and northern climes, it was a very pleasant change.”
In Cyprus, he was seconded to the department of antiquities, where he used his engineering skills to reposition fallen ancient columns, among other tasks.
His work was praised in “high places” and in national newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph.
“A particularly favourite story of his adventures in North Africa included being ordered to reuse a latrine site, which he disputed, but was overruled by a rather ‘green’ officer, whereupon the said officer found out in a very spectacular fashion why latrine sites were not reused,” said son Paul.
Towards the end of time in the Forces, Charles was stationed at Longmoor, Hampshire, where his unit, 66 Plant squadron, was asked to build an emergency airstrip on a peat bog on the Isle Of Skye.
A supposedly impossible task, the engineers refused to accept defeat and the airstrip has been in use since 1970.
After leaving the military in 1972, Charles and his family settled in Seaham, where he worked for the former electricity board as an administration officer.
He also became a member of the Ancient Order Of Foresters friendly society and a supporter of the Royal British Legion, serving as the town’s poppy co-ordinator and parade marshal.
“Charles will be missed by many friends, but most of all by his loving family,” added daughter Sandra.
Charles, who died on July 21 after a short illness, is survived by wife Norma, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A funeral service was held at Sunderland Crematorium on Tuesday.