John Cox (1889-1962)
Born in Cradley, the son of Henry Beasley Cox and Leah Parsons, John Cox married Amy Timmington in 1909 at St Lukes, Cradley Heath. At that time he was a ‘fitter’.
The Great War
John Cox took to war with him a small Book of ‘Common Prayer and Hymns A&M’ (Ancient and Modern). On the inside cover the address in ink following the name of J. Cox is No 17 New Road, Overend, Cradley, Nr Cradley Hth, Staffs (his parents’ home). A presumably previous address in pencil is almost illegible but may be Newtown Street. On enlistment at Wolverhampton in August 1914 he was living with his own growing family at 167, Spring Lane, Cradley.
On the next page - ‘No 52, Driver J. Cox, D Subsection, 6th Staffordshire Battry, R.F.A. (ie Royal Field Artillery). The ‘52’ has been crossed out and replaced by ‘290’, and ‘Driver’ becomes ‘Signaler’. After this ‘3rd North Midland Brigade’. This change of role is demonstrated by the morse code and associated phrases which cover the rest of the two pages. On the third page appears ‘P. 3rd I have trodden the Paths’. On the next page appears - No. 290, his name and regimental details as above and ‘At March 2nd 1914’. It is possible to read an address in pencil, which has almost been rubbed out – 15 Newtown Street, Old Hill, Staffs.
At the back of the book there are four more pages of notes in pencil on Morse Code and signaling abbreviations such as C.X. - Centre Section, E.L – Elevation, FIRE, etc.
It seems likely that the average signaler didn’t have a great deal of writing paper available and used what was to hand and would be easy to keep safe.
However, there are still in existence photographic postcards. One is marked 1914 and says ‘Regular Forces S. Staffs Regt. There are 9 soldiers and 2 civilians posed for the photograph in a tented camp area, with men standing around in the background.
One photograph of posed troops outside a barracks has printed on it ‘T H Burnett, 21 Bright Street, Middlesborough’.
A photographic Carte Postale – (French) with 1919 written on it says on the back ‘Fresroy Le Grand’ and ‘Ice + Snow’. Fresroy is in Picardie, France. Four troops standing in snow lean on a wall. From what we have of his army records, it seems unlikely John Cox is in this later photograph.
One postcard is of a hospital ward with a banner hanging down with the words ‘Well Done Australia 1914-15’ and an Australian flag in the background.
Another postcard (with Ken Cox’s family) shows a large group of men (some of whom appeared in the ward photograph in the same clothing (obviously an informal ‘uniform’) outside – presumably in the hospital grounds.
Note: - The artillery was always targeted in enemy attacks, and gas was used. 50% of soldiers suffered from shell shock.
Our local WW1 expert says:- John Cox was sent to the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) with the 7th South Staffordshire Regiment. His Medal Index Card gives the date of July 2nd 1915 and the place France which means he could have been initially with some other unit, as the 7th South Staffs sailed for Gallipoli on July 1st 1915, arriving there on July 18th 1915. They could have stopped off in France but it seems unlikely. It’s possible John was with another South Staffs battalion in France before being posted to the 7th. They remained in Gallipoli until December 19th 1915 when they were evacuated and went to Egypt and remained here until they were sent to France in July 1916.
Email from VB to Terry Evans. “I've been searching through some old documents and found on the rear of a copy of my mother's birth certificate the words in pencil on one corner -
No 9945 Pte J Cox D Company 7th Services Battalion S Staffordshire Regt
That side of the document has a copy of a schedule connected with the Factory & Workshops Act 1901 and is about elementary education for my mother. It's dated 20th August 1914.
The picture of my grandad alone in uniform has the name of a photographic company and road in Grantham on it, where according to google, the 7th went for training.
It all ties in with the newspaper cutting you so kindly let me have and what you passed on about him being in the Dardanelles. (see image on the right)
Amazing what you find when you're looking for something else!”
It’s believed John was injured at Gallipoli (where Australian troops also fought).
Amy Cox tells me that in 1917 she was taken as a babe in arms by her mother, by train, to visit her father in Newcastle where he was being treated for shell shock – he also suffered mustard gassing at some time. Amy was obviously too young and dependent on her mother for feeding to be left behind. Maybe this is the source of the hospital photo. It’s unlikely that John was being treated at that time as a direct result of injuries received in the Dardanelles. Amy Cox says her father also served on the Somme.
As part of rehabilitation he embroidered the Staffordshire knot, symbol of his regiment. This was framed so that it could be hung on the wall and is remembered by his family as being at No 62 Furlong Lane.
There is also a photograph of Ethel Cox with her father John (in uniform), her mother and baby brother Bill (William Henry). The date is marked as 1916. The card is printed W. Pardoe, High St., Lye. Written on it are the words A Cox, 27 Furlong Lane, Overend, and further down Cradley Heath. The photograph has been repaired on the back with the adhesive seal part of envelopes. I believe this was kept with the hymn book and was probably taken by him to war.
A brief love letter from John to Amy, is in the possession of son Arthur Cox. This is on the back of yet another postcard which is dated 1909 (they married late that year). The picture is of a group of soldiers, and from the words on the reverse it is obvious that John is one of the men. It seems that he was in the Territorial Army, as research shows that the 3rd North Midland Brigade mentioned above was a territorial unit.
In August 1914 they were living in Spring Lane, Overend, according to a document obtained necessary for the ‘elementary education’ of Ethel Cox. During WW1 Amy Cox worked nights at the Dunlop factory in Birmingham.
After the war John Cox worked for Charles Willetts’ firm in Overend. He played in the XLCR band (as did his brother Harry), led Remembrance Day parades, and kept his drum kit in the front parlour of the house ‘down the hole’ under the newspaper shop in Overend. In 1934 this was listed as 113 New Road, Overend on Ethel Cox’s marriage certificate and her father John’s profession is ‘engineer’s turner’. Later on before WW2 the family moved to a larger 4 bedroom council house in Caslon Road, and then 62 Furlong Lane, by the spring, was bought. There were 11 surviving children.
John Cox’s eyesight was so badly affected by the gas in WW1 that he always had to wear glasses. If he put them down, for example to wash his face and they were moved, he would not have been able to find them again. If a member of the family passed by him in the street at a certain angle of vision, he would not have been able to recognize them. He added another pair of glasses for reading.
However, he was still valued for his skills and was even asked to help with a machine at Somers’ works in Halesowen.
John Cox never spoke about the war. He entrusted his medals to his youngest son, Kenneth (Ken). They are the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal, plus the bar which show his medal holding and could be worn in their place. There is also a short cane, with a silver head worded North Staffordshire and John Cox’s full ‘housewife roll’ with cut throat razor, brush etc all bearing his full army Number – 10371. Everything is in excellent condition. According to letters kept with these items, in 1938 John Cox became interested in joining his regiment’s Old Comrades Association (a badge bears the words S. Staffordshire, Egypt, and Old Comrades Association). There are letters from the person who ran the association, based in Lichfield, acknowledging that he was entitled to join, having seen a copy of his war record on 2 pages, which are also present. These give personal details and state that his record was ‘very good’.
Ken Cox also remembered seeing a bayonet and set of spurs which were also kept at 62 Furlong Lane, in the room off the staircase from the kitchen.
During WW2 John Cox served in the Home Guard (it’s said he tried to join the Army).
By Valerie Bloomer
John Cox War Record A
John Cox War Record B
John Cox County Express Article