Rank: Private 1680
Regiment: 1st/6th Bn Devonshire Regiment
Died: 8 March 1916
Merton Memorial Plaque
Other Memorial: Basra Memorial [Google]
PDF Download: COX Frank
Private Frank Cox, service number 1680, served in the 1st/6th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. He is believed to have been born in Hatherleigh, where he enlisted.
This was a territorial unit (comparable to today’s TA) which was based in Barnstaple as part of Wessex Division. Just before war broke out in August 1914 the units of the Division gathered on Salisbury Plain for their annual summer camp and orders arrived for precautionary measures to be taken.
On 3 August they broke camp and moved to take up positions defending the nation’s ports. The division was mobilised for full-time war service on 5 August and by the 10th had returned to Salisbury Plain to prepare for service overseas.
The Wessex Division was ordered to India to replace British and Indian regular army units who were to be deployed to the Western Front. They sailed from Southampton on the 9th of October, via Malta and Suez, arriving at Karachi on 11 of November and served in 3rd (Lahore) Divisional Area at Lahore.
In January 1916 they joined the independent 36th Brigade, Indian Army for service in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), and landed at Basra on 5 January 1916.
Private Cox is believed to have been killed in action during an attack on the Dujailah Redoubt in Mesopotamia. The Devonshire Regiment’s history states:
“The ground to be crossed was as flat as a billiard table; there was no artillery fire and little covering fire from the brigades in front, while the Devons could not fire for fear of hitting the troops ahead of them. But the men went forward well, never faltering or hesitating, almost as steadily as if on parade, making a series of short rushes in the face of heavy fire.
“When they reached the 28th Brigade’s firing-line, Colonel Radcliffe was told that any further advance would merely mean annihilation. Nevertheless, the leading line, headed by the CO, Captains Dunn-Pattison and Stranger, and Lieutenant Heriz Smith, made a most gallant attempt to carry on the advance, only to be shot down almost to a man. The bulk of the battalion halted along a bank some 400 yards from the Turkish position, which gave little protection.
“Here they were level with the 28th Brigade, and for the remainder of the day hung on under heavy fire, doing their best to co-operate by fire in the belated attempt which General Keary’s brigades made to storm the redoubt.”
Private Cox had at least two brothers who were wounded in the war, one in Mesopotamia, another in France. A local newspaper cutting from the time says: “Mr and Mrs W Cox have received a notification from the War Office that their son Sydney, has been wounded in France. One son was killed and one wounded in Mespopotamia some months ago. Much sympathy is felt for the parents.”
Private Cox is remembered with honour on the memorial in the Church in Merton, and at the Basra Memorial in Iraq, where more than 40,000 men of the Commonwealth forces who have no known grave are commemorated.
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