AN old soldier laid to rest in Redditch this week was the oldest of what had been the last three remaining members of the Irish Guards who fought in the Second World War.
John Coupe died aged 99 years and six months and was honoured by a piper, standard bearer and trumpet player provided by the Irish Guards Association at his service at Mount Carmel Church on Monday (August 8).
His coffin was draped with the regimental flag and bore the medals the D-Day veteran won in the war.
His eldest son Andrew said: “His wartime experience and his association with the Irish Guards was something he cherished all his life and as the eldest of just three remaining veterans of the regiment who had fought in the war the association wanted to pay its respects.”
John joined up in 1940 and had a remarkable escape following the D-Day landings.
“He fought across northern France and on this occasion his platoon was ordered to help a field gun that had lost one of its tracks,” said Andrew.
“However, the Germans laid down an artillery barrage and everyone was wiped out except dad and another soldier, who were both wounded. A scout car saw they were in trouble, raced to the rescue and the crew threw them on the bonnet and took them to safety.
“From there they were treated at a field hospital and he should have been shipped home but he arrived at the port too late to catch the hospital ship, which was lucky as it struck a German mine and sank.”
John Coupe was born in Lancashire and caught tetanus when he was 12 years old. It took six months to recover and he never went back to school. An avid reader, he was self-taught and in 1956 passed the civil service exam, moving to Birmingham to administer the civil courts.
From there he rose to advise the top judges in the country on legal matters. Seventeen years ago he and his wife Vera moved to Redditch to be nearer their daughter Maureen. Vera died six months later but the old guardsman continued to live an independent life right up until the day before he died.
“In the last weeks of his life I was trying to think of an epitaph for dad and I came up with ‘what a lovely man’ because it was how everyone seemed to describe him,” said Andrew.
Mr Coupe is survived by Andrew and Maureen, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.