A PERMANENT reminder to the heroic actions of a young soldier who battled through heavy gunfire to single-handedly capture 45 German soldiers holed up in a concrete blockhouse has been unveiled.

Sergeant Edward Cooper, known as Ted to his friends, received the Victoria Cross from King George V in 1917 as a 21-year-old for his bravery in the face of the enemy 100 years ago.

As a sergeant in the King’s Royal Rifle Regiment he earned his place in history when he charged towards the enemy after telling his comrades to hit the ground and fire at the blockhouse – as he reached the building he fired his pistol through a slot and convinced the German soldiers that they were surrounded.

His quick-thinking and courageous actions saved countless lives of his comrades as well as those of the surrendering German soldiers.

To mark the centenary of his bravery in the mud-filled trenches of the bloody battle of Langemark in Flanders, a plaque honouring his actions was unveiled next to the Cenotaph on Stockton High Street.

Yesterday, scores of family attended an emotional tribute to his bravery while standard bearers from regiments around the region were on hand to give him the military honour he deserved.

Ted Cooper, Sgt Cooper’s first grandchild, was delighted that so many turned out to remember his grandfather.

“The respect that people have shown for him has been overwhelming,” he said. “It is so good to know that people still remember his actions and all think so highly of him.”

Liz Bell, another one of his eight grandchildren, added: “He was such a lovely man, he was humble and down to earth. In reality, he was an ordinary man who was in an extra-ordinary position and he acted as a true leader of men when his commanding officer was killed.

“He took the decision to confront the enemy but his Christian faith meant he was not prepared to kill the enemy all ‘willy-nilly’.”

And his great-grandson Sergeant Neil Cooper, who is serving in the army, said: “I’m so proud of the achievements of my great-grandfather - it was amazing to see so many people turn up on a Wednesday afternoon to pay their respects to a man’s bravery a century ago.

“The entire family is so proud of him.”

The citation read: “For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sgt Cooper, with four men, immediate rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on.

“About 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, immediately he rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered.

“Seven machine guns and 45 prisoners were captured. By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives.”

Following the dedication and unveiling of the commemorative memorial stone, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon, and the Vice Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Peter Scrope, joined the Mayor of Stockton, Councillor Maurice Perry, military representatives, and Sgt Cooper’s family and friends in laying wreaths.

The Mayor of Stockton, Cllr Perry, said: “It was a real privilege to have been present for the service to dedicate a memorial stone to honour one of the Borough’s most courageous men.

“It is only right that his memory is being commemorated in such a way befitting a war hero who sacrificed so much for his country.”

Sgt Cooper, who was born in Thornaby, was presented with this medal by King George V, but his heroism didn’t stop there. In 1918, now a Lieutenant, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire, the highest award given by France to non-nationals for ‘gallantry beyond the call of duty’.

After the war, he returned to Stockton and married Iris. The couple had three sons, eight grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. He became manager at the Co-Op in Stockton, but the family lived in Thornaby until his retirement.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, he was commissioned as a Major, taking command of the Home Guard Unit at Thornaby. In peacetime, Sgt Cooper served as president of the Thornaby British Legion and was instrumental in the repair and rededication of the town’s war memorial.