Second Lieutenant John Cox (1881-1915)

Second Lieutenant John Cox and The Leicestershire Regiment during the First World War 1914-1918.

Battle of Neuve Chapelle on the Western Front during March 1915
Battle of Neuve Chapelle on the Western Front during March 1915.

1879 John James Cox was born, his father was Mr William Cox of No.2 Grove Street in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

John had two younger brothers, Thomas and William as well as four sisters Caroline, Selina, Elizabeth and Mary.

11th February 1898 John had previously served in the Militia, although he had previously been rejected a being underweight. Now at the age of 18 years old and with a height of 5ft 6 inches, he enlisted in to the regular Army at the Drill Hall which was on the corner of New Buildings and Wood Street in Hinckley. He was given Army number 5233 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of The Leicestershire Regiment as a Private. His time in the Army would see him become qualified as a shoeing smith.

23rd March 1898 Just 10 days after enlistment he was injured playing football at Glen Parva Barracks. The Court of Enquiry came to the conclusion that there was no further action, he had a contusion of the right foot.

11th December 1898 John was sent with the 2nd Battalion to Ireland.

7th February 1900 Johns time in Ireland came to an end on the previous day; the next post would see him sent to a warmer climate in Egypt.

31st March 1900 He was promoted from Private to Lance-Corporal.

21st October 1902 He injured a foot on an iron railing on a bed. The Court of Enquiry concluded that there was no further action to be taken.

14th December 1902 Johns time in Egypt came to an end on the previous day, and John would see himself posted to the Channel Islands.

Between the period of 18th May 1903 to 4th June 1903 His records show that he was treated for a disease.

John had developed and Ulcer which he was given treatment for from 30th August 1904 to 23rd September 1904.

2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment in a trench
2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment in a trench.

15th December 1904 John was demoted from Lance-Corporal back to Private for bad conduct, it may have been due to the demotion that saw him return to England from the Channel Islands and sent to Colchester.

21st September 1906 John was sent to the warm climate of India. India seems to be the making of John, his career in the Army really take off seeing him rise through the ranks.

7th February 1908 John started to redeem himself, he loses the good conduct badge from his demotion 4 years earlier.

7th August 1908 Promotion to Lance-Corporal.

27th October 1910 Promotion to Corporal.

31st March 1911 Promotion to Lance-Sergeant.

19th December 1911 John married Lillian Beatrice Harris at St. John’s Church, Colaba, Mumbai in India.

23rd October 1912 Promotion to Sergeant.

Between 12th July 1913 to 19th July 1913 he was treated for Malaria.

6th February 1914 Johns time in India finally came to an end, he was now back in England. The last time he was in England he was at the rank of a private, he was now a Sergeant.

20th September 1914 John was sent to France to join the 2nd Battalion of The Leicestershire Regiment.

29th October 1914 2nd Battalion seeing its first action in the trenches.

A street in Neuve Chapelle after the battle in March 1915
A street in Neuve Chapelle after the battle in March 1915.

30th November 1914 John got a commission to the rank of Second-Lieutenant.

19th December 1914 A force under Major-General Charles Blackader's command staged a successful attack on the German trenches, though the attack was overshadowed by the beginning of the German attack on Givenchy the following day, through which the 2nd Battalion remained in reserve.

13th March 1915 John would have been fighting alongside the men under him in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, this battle would last for three days.

15th May 1915 The 2nd Battalion were moved 3 miles (5km) South-West from Neuve Chapelle to Festubert, this is where the Battle of Festubert took place for the next 10 days.

21st May 1915 John was wounded in action; he was severely hit in the stomach by shrapnel. Due to the severalty of his injuries he was sent to the 6th Casualty Clearing Station, which was a field hospital not far from the trenches in Merville.

29th May 1915 On Sunday at 8am John died of his wounds at the 6th Casualty Clearing Station, he was 36 years old and had served in the Army for 17 years.

Second-Lieutenant John Cox was buried at the Merville Communal Cemetery, Merville in France which is a regimental cemetery.

Johns field kit was returned to his widow Lillian Beatrice Cox (No.8 Crown Terrace, The Borough, Hinckley) via Cox’s Shipping Agency Ltd, but enquiries by his Lillian for the whereabouts of his sword and revolver were unsuccessful.

6th Casualty Clearing Station, Hotel de Ville, Merville, France.
6th Casualty Clearing Station, Hotel de Ville, Merville, France.

5th June 1915 The Hinckley Times wrote the following article:

We deeply regret to record that 2nd Lieutenant John James Cox, a Hinckley officer belonging to the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, died of wounds in a military hospital in France, 8am, Sunday last. A telegram from Lord Kitchener received by relatives in Hinckley on Monday of the present week announced the sad news. The deceased was struck by shrapnel in the stomach on May 22nd, the injuries were so severe that it was only possible to move him to a field hospital a short distance from the trenches.

Lieutenant Cox who rose from the ranks, had a brilliant career. He saw 18 years’ service in Egypt, India and Ireland and he returned from India in the early part of 1914 proceeding to Ireland as a full Sergeant. He was given a commission as a Second Lieutenant soon after his regiment went to France in September last. He fought in many engagements until the wounds that caused his death. Thirty One years of age, he was a fine type of soldier and climbed the ladder of success by sheer merit. He was popular with his brother officers and his death came as a great shock to all of those around him. He was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Cox of King Street. On December 19th 1911 he married Miss Harris of Hinckley. The remains of the deceased were laid to rest in the regimental cemetery somewhere in France on Monday afternoon last, those present including the Chaplain and officers of the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.

November 1915 Lillian received a payment of £8 10s from the Army.

20th May 1922 The Hinckley War Memorial was unveiled; John James Cox is amongst many other local men that lost their lives during the First World War.