Fred Copeman was born in Wangford Union Workhouse in Suffolk, in 1907. His mother and his brother George were also in the workhouse. At the age of nine Copeman was employed on the workhouse farm but eventually he was transferred to a children's home in Beccles.
When Copeman was 14 years old he joined the Navy. Over the next few years he served on the Ganges before moving to the battleship Valiant, where he became the captain's runner. This was followed by service on the ships Stuart, Emperor of India and the Royal Oak.
In September 1931 the National Government led by Ramsay MacDonald announced a reduction in pay for sailors serving in the Royal Navy. The actual reductions were Admiral (7 per cent), Lieutenant Commander (3.7 per cent), Chief Petty Officer (11.8 per cent) and Able Seaman (23 per cent).
Copeman thought this was unfair and helped organize what became known as the Invergordon Mutiny. Copeman was a member of the strike committee that persuaded the sailors on 15 ships of the Atlantic Fleet not to obey orders until the pay cuts were reviewed. The strike lasted for two days and was called off when the wage cuts were withdrawn. As a leader of the revolt, Copeman was victimized, and was forced to leave the Royal Navy.
In November 1931 Copeman joined the Transport and General Workers Union and obtained work as a rigger in the London docks. He also became a member of the Communist Party and was active in the National Unemployed Workers' Movement. Later he joined the Constructional Engineering Union and became President of the Greenwich Branch.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Copeman decided to join the International Brigades in defence of the Popular Front government. On 26th November, 1936, Copeman took to boat train to France. He was wounded at Jarama but he recovered and later became commander of the British Battalion.
Copeman taken ill just before the offensive at Teruel in December 1937. He was suffering from a gangrenous appendix and a splinter from a bullet that had entered the lining of the stomach. After the operation he was sent back to England to recover.
Soon after arriving back in England he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist Party. In November 1938 Copeman was a member of an official delegation to Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union. He was disillusioned by the level of inequality in the Soviet Union and on his return he ceased to be a member of the Communist Party.
In the Second World War Copeman was placed in charge of public shelters in Westminster. He worked closed with Herbert Morrison and in November 1945 was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE). That year also saw him elected as Labour Party councillor in Lewisham.
Copeman's autobiography, Reason in Revolt, was published in 1948. Fred Copeman, who worked as a foreman in at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, died in 1983.