Thomas Cooper was one of four British citizens tried for treason committed during World War Two. The other cases were John Amery, William Joyce and Walter Purdy.
Thomas Haller Cooper was born in Chiswick, London, on 29 August 1919. His Father, Ashley Cooper, was a self-employed photographer and commercial artist. Thomas’ Father had also served with the British Army in the Boer War. Thomas’ Mother was a German called Anna Maria Simon, who his Father had met while in Berlin attempting to establish a photographic business.
After an extremely difficult pregnancy, which the doctors thought Thomas very lucky to survive, he attended the local primary school in the Hammersmith area of London. After passing his Eleven Plus examination, Thomas gained a place at Latymer Upper School in King Street, Hammersmith.
Thomas Cooper did not acquire any close friends at school and remained a solitary figure. He was very much a Mother’s Boy, who still regarded herself as German (she had acquired British citizenship by marriage with Ashley Cooper). He left school in December 1936 after matriculation, as his parents could not afford to support him through university studies.
Due to the economic situation in the UK during 1937, Thomas Cooper could not find, in his opinion, a suitable job. He eventually became a clerk at the firm of W.J. Bush & Co, Hackney, East London. At this time, he also tried to try and enter the public service with the Metropolitan Police, eventually leading to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). His application was refused, due to having a German Mother. After this rejection, Thomas Cooper also applied to join the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. His requests were again rejected due to his German Mother.
Extremely resentful at being refused suitable (in Cooper’s opinion) employment, Thomas Cooper joined the Hammersmith Branch of the British Union in September 1938. Life other people at the time, Thomas Cooper looked for excuses for his failure to secure suitable work. He found that excuse in the theories offered by the British Union: the international Jewish Conspiracy.
Unable to find employment in the UK, and being a fluent German speaker because of his Mother, Thomas Cooper went to Germany. During early 1939, he contacted the German Academic Exchange Organisation in Russell Square, London. After a short period, Thomas Cooper was offered a place at the RAD (Reichs Arbeits Dienst or German Labour Service) Office in Stuttgart, during the summer months.
Just after the UK declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, Thomas Cooper was arrested for being a British alien in Germany. However, he was released after producing a certificate that his Mother had obtained, classifying him as an ethnic German (a Volksdeutsche).
Through a family friend, Thomas Cooper was offered a opportunity to join the German Army. He eventually accepted. Thomas Cooper was ordered to return on 1 February 1940 at the Berlin Lichtefelde Barracks, the home of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. While at this camp, Thomas Cooper told his superiors that his Father was now serving with British forces, and that he thought it was no longer appropriate to be serving with the SS. After being placed under arrest, Thomas Cooper reconsidered his position. He announced that he had decided to continue serving in the SS.
In July 1940, Cooper was transferred to the 8th Company, 5th Totenkopf (Death’s Head) Infantry Regiment based at Oranienburg to the north of Berlin. His task was to train recruits in indirect fire with machine guns. He remained with this regiment until February 1941. At this time, Cooper had been moved to Plock, near the River Vistula, in Poland. He left the regiment to go to the SS NCO School at Lauenburg in Pomerania, for training which finished in May 1941.
After the course was completed, Thomas Cooper was moved to a subunit based at the Debica training area near Krakow. Cooper’s detachment centred around the security and administration of the training area, which was destined for use by visiting units, whilst the 5th Totenkopf Infantry Regiment (with whom Cooper served between July 1940 and February 1941) had a garrison role.
Thomas Cooper was badly wounded in fighting the Russians during February 1943. He was picked up by his men, and carried back to Schablinov. From there he was evacuated via Narva, Riga and Konigsberg all the way back to Bad Muskau, a small town located near Gorlitz. Due to his injuries, Thomas Cooper was awarded the Wound Badge in Silver, becoming the only Englishman to receive a German Combat decoration.
Thomas Haller Cooper was remanded at Bow Street Magistrates court on 20 December 1945. He was charged under the High Treason Act 1351 (as amended in 1945).
Cooper appeared at the Central Criminal Court on 8 January 1946.
Prosecution: The Attorney-General and Mr. Gerald Howard.
High Treason by adhering to the King’s enemies elsewhere than in the King’s realm to wit in the German realm, contrary to the High Treason Act 1351 (amended 1945)
|Joining German forces and serving with them against the Soviet Union during the 1 February 1940 and 10 June 1943.
|Prepared leaflets for use by the Germans as propaganda for use among British POWs during the 10 June 1943 and 14 June 1943.
|Spread German propaganda among British POWs during the period July 1943 and June 1944.
|Purported to become a naturalised German citizen on 12 August 1943.
|Joined served and assisted with the recruitment for a German unit known as the British Free Corps.
Thomas Haller Cooper was found guilty of counts 1, 3 and 4. Counts 2 and 5 were not proceeded with at his trial.
He was sentenced to death on 11 January 1946. Although his appeal was dismissed on 11 February 1946, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. It was apparently felt that Cooper was not a leader in treason, unlike William Joyce and John Amery.
Thomas Cooper was released from prison in 1953.