Rank: Major Service

No: 55996

Date of Death: 01/11/1944

Age: 31

Regiment/Service: Royal Artillery G.S.O.2. R.A. Combined Operations Panel Reference Panel 1. Memorial GROESBEEK MEMORIAL

Additional Information:

Son of J. C. Ogston Couper and Agnes Ida Couper, of Logie, Pitcaple, Aberdeenshire.

·         David was born at Craigiebuckler on 2 March 1913, very soon after the death of his father. As a result of this, it seems that he grew up very much in the company of his Milne relatives and particularly his mother's brother, our Uncle Barclay (Milne). The numerous photographs of his childhood show that he enjoyed an outdoor life, shooting, fishing and riding. He excelled at sport during his school and university days (Harrow (Durie's House) and then Cambridge (Trinity Hall - he read Engineering).

Other members of the family had served in the Royal Artillery, so it was natural that he too was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He was posted to India with the 62/3rd Field Brigade, RA. In India he continued his enjoyment of shooting. At one time he is said to have reared three tiger cubs. He was stationed in the Western Ghats between 1935-38, based at Poona in Maharashtra State. His photo album shows that he visited Singhar, Shiogar and Karla in 1936, Melghat, Tapti, Khadicharasla for swimming, and Ahmadnager Fort.

During a period of leave in Scotland in 1937 he was deer stalking in Caochan Dauish, Bynach, Gealcharn, and Caomunin. He also went fox hunting with a hunt in South Notts.

David's photo album (in the possession of Duncan Lloyd) is dominated by equestrian pastimes, polo, show jumping and steeple chasing. In 1938 he kept 6 horses.

In 1939 he visited my mother and father in Bulawayo. He sailed via the Seychelles, Mombassa and Dar es Salaam. There are extensive pictures of this visit, showing him to have toured the country.

The following is a summary of David's military career:

02/07/33 Commissioned as Territorial Army 2nd Lieutenant

03/09/33 Commissioned as Royal artillery 2nd lieutenant

18/12/34 Posted to 3rd Field Brigade

23/03/35 Posted to 62/3 Field Brigade

03/09/39 Appointed Adjutant

02/02/41 Promoted to Captain

05/04/41 Left Quetta

28/05/41 Embarked at a port in India - disembarked overseas

04/08/41 Staff College Course in India

29/11/41 Posted to 14th Indian Divison

15/01/42 Acting Major of Indian Division

25/11/42 General Staff Officer 2 of 14th Indian Division

28/06/43 Posted to Headquarters Indian Division

12/08/43 Posted to Headquarters Royal Artillery as General Staff Officer 2, 33 Corps

08/07/44 Embarked for United Kingdom

25/09/44 Posted Amphibious Warfare Company Headquarters

25/09/44 Retains rank of Temporary Major

26/10/44 Embarked for North West Eauope

01/11/44 Missing in action, presumed killed in action, off Walcheren

Duncan Lloyd has dug up a great deal of information about the action in which David was killed. It seems also that he was involved in the Habbaniya Operation in Iraq in 1941. In this operation, the British forces in the country were beseiged by a rebel Iraqui force following a political rebellion in which a usurper had seized power and was now negotiating with Germany. Despite being heavily outnumbered, being surrounded on three sides, and having a very unfavourable position in a peace time military camp, the British Forces (mainly RAF but with other elements) completely routed the Iraquis, then went on to capture Fallujah and Baghdad, and destroyed the German Air Force elements in the country. Apart from this we know only that he was involved in action against the Japanese in Burma.

Duncan has David's medals which indicate that he was Mentioned in Dispatches. Unfortunately the exact details of this arer not known.

I never knew my Uncle David. However, I have in my possession a letter that he wrote to me from Burma, during the War, in which he describes an incident when some Japanese soldiers were ambushed by an elephant. The letter is illustrated with one his beautifully executed drawings. He was always a keen sketcher, and we used to have a number of small watercolours by him of deer in the Highlands. I have no idea what happened to these, but I still have a watercolour of a fine 1920s car obviously done when he was still a child.

As I have told elsewhere, I think that Uncle David became the focus of family attention and interest, not least among the Milnes, my grandmother's brother and his family. This was understandable, and Uncle Barclay had no son himself. David seems to have been all that a boy from an upper middle class Scottish family was expected to be. He excelled at sports, including the field sports that were so much a part of this family. I have a large photograph album of him in School and University teams. He was at Harrow and then Cambridge. From there he went into the Royal Artillery as a regular soldier, ending his career as a Captain.

I know very little of his way of life as an adult. My nephew, Duncan Lloyd, has collected a considerable amount of information about the military aspects of his career, including his death during the Walcheren landings in 1944 when the vessel he was on received a direct hit from a German shell. But this still tells us rather little about what sort of person he was, his friendships and interests in life.


The only other things I have from him are two oriental rugs. He served in India and the North West Frontier, and evidently acquired a number of rugs then. Unfortunately, no one else in the family seems to have been interested in these things, and most of them were very badly treated. The two I have include a Kyzil Ayak nomadic portiere, a very fine piece similar to those illustrated in some of the best books on oriental carpets. There was another of these once but in some way it was completely destroyed and ended up as rags in an outhouse in Rhodesia. But these rugs show that David was interested in the finer things of life. 

(Thanks to Ewen Greenfield to this information)