Harrow County School for Boys

Tail End Charlie

"I am sure others have spotted the HCS cap in the enclosed cutting [from the Daily Telegraph]," wrote John Brake. "But just in case?"

In fact, no one else had, so thank you, John. The picture (above) was of 14-year old Charles Cooper in 1920 and it was clearly taken outside the School. He is astride the Douglas motor cycle on which he completed the 24-hour reliability trial from London to Lands End, the youngest rider in the world ever to win a motor cycling classic award. As he observed in later life, "As you have to be older than 14 to get a licence nowadays, it's a title I'm not likely to lose!"

The original picture, the medal young Charles won and sundry other of his medals and memorabilia were sold at the RAF Museum at Hendon by Sotheby's in their Automobilia auction. We are indebted to Sotheby's for supplying us with the catalogue for the auction and a copy of the photograph for us to reproduce.

Charles Cooper went on to stake a second claim to fame. The first commissioned rear-gunner in the RAF during the Second World War, he was nick-named "Tail End Charlie" by his crew and that name rapidly became adopted for all rear-gunners in the RAF. Sadly, Charles was blinded by a German bomb which fell outside his billet in 1941.

He went on to become a town councillor in Worthing, Sussex, and at the age of 88 was made a life member of the Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists.

First printed in the Old Gaytonian Magazine, 1998, edited by Colin Dickins.   Photo copyright - Sotheby's.

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