Private 13908 Christopher Augustus COX, V.C.
VC Citation from the London Gazette, 11th May
Augustus Cox No. 13908 For most conspicuous bravery and continuous
devotion to duty when acting as a stretcher bearer. During the attack
of his Battalion the front wave was checked by the severity of enemy
artillery and machine gun fire and the whole line had to take cover
in shell holes to avoid annihilation. Private Cox, utterly regardless
of personal safety went out over fire swept ground and single handedly
rescued four men. Having collected the wounded of his own battalion,
he then assisted to bring in the wounded of the adjoining battalion.
On the 2 subsequent days he carried out similar rescue work with
the same disregard to his own personal safety. He has on all occasions
displayed the same high example of unselfishness and valour."
Christopher Augustus Cox was born Christmas Day 1889 in Kings Langley.
In 1912 he married Maud Swan with whom he eventually had eight children.
Christopher enlisted into the army weeks after war broke out and
became a Private and Stretcher Bearer in the 7th battalion of the
Bedfordshire Regiment. He landed in France with the battalion in
July 1915 and was wounded in the leg on the 1st July 1916 when the
7th battalion stormed not only the first two German trench lines
but also took the Pommiers redoubt. Christopher was back with the
battalion in time for the storming of Thiepval
and the Schwaben Redoubt in September 1916 and served through
the winter of 1916 / 1917.
He survived the assault on the Miraumont trench system
in February 1917 during the Ancre operations and won his Victoria
Cross in March 1917 when his battalion was one of those who pursued
the Germans as they fell back onto the formidable Hindenburg Line
defences. The 54th brigade moved into the Loupart Line on the 13th
March with Christopher and the 7th Bedfords being south of Achiet-le-Grand.
Although the Germans were withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line they
fought a controlled rearguard action and held Achiet-le-Grand and
Bihucourt villages strongly. The 54th Brigade had to advance 2 miles
over open ground which took five days and cost many casualties.
It was during that advance that Christopher Cox earned the right
to join the small band of hero's who were awarded the coveted Victoria
A map of the final phase
of the assault
The 13th March saw him carrying several wounded Bedfords
back to the dressing stations through a horrendous barrage and sustained
machine gun fire. On arrival at the station each time he did not
hesitate to turn around and return to the battlefield in search
of more wounded men.
On the 14th, his company were in the rear but the
stretcher bearers were called on for assistance. Having advanced
straight through the barrage across open ground to the line of shell
holes the advance had dug in around, he set about moving blatantly
from hole to hole dressing all the wounds he could find. After he
had covered all he could find he started carrying the most badly
hurt men back on his back as there were no stretchers available.
The first 200 yards were covered under intensive, aimed machine
gun fire but he dashed across the open, completely ignoring the
fire as he went. Onlookers were amazed to see him return unhurt
some time later, when he went back with a second man. This continued
all day and into the night.
From his actions on the 15th Second Lieutenant Chapman
is quoted as saying 'I saw him wandering
about in front of hill 130 in the front wave attending to the wounded.
He showed absolutely contempt of the volume of machine gun fire
and heavy bombardment, although M.G. opened on single targets. I
previously saw him carry back a man on his back on three different
occasions, and on withdrawing my Company I found he had similarly
treated six others, two of whom were wounded a second time while
he was carrying them.'
He also ferried machine gun supplies to where they
were needed the most when he returned to the battlefield having
dropped a wounded man off. Whilst carrying one man on his back,
the wounded man was hit again but Christopher carried on despite
knowing he was being targeted by the efficient German gunners. At
one point in the day Second Lieutenant Dealler saw him moving through
a hail of machine gun fire being aimed at him, completely ignoring
it as he did so. He arrived back with the Officer and, having listed
what work he had been busy doing, asked for any direction as to
the next location of any wounded men. With no immediate reply being
forthcoming, Christopher advanced back into the fire on his own
initiative and disappeared over the brow of a hill, completely disregarding
the attention of the German gunners who had so few targets to fire
at. Once he had found all the wounded Bedfords he could, Christopher
turned his attention to the Middlesex men who were next to them
in the advance. Second Lieutenant Dealler added "He
did not rejoin the Company till about 12 hours after and although
a very powerful man, whom I have never seen tired before, he was
The 16th saw him ferrying the wounded back from the
most advanced point through a hail of machine gun and artillery
fire, transferring ammunition across the battlefield and marking
out gaps in the enemy wire with tape in full view of the enemy gunners.
When the advance was finished and the battalion was hurriedly digging
in beneath an intense barrage, Christopher was one of the few men
who could be seen above ground where he was busily carrying on moving
the wounded back to the aid stations to the rear.
The 17th saw him advance to help the company in front
of his own as all their stretched bearers had fallen. On passing
through the gaps in the enemy wire whilst looking for wounded men
he paused to mark the passages that allowed following waves to move
quickly through them later on.
All told Private Cox must have moved around 20 men
from where the fell wounded back to the dressing stations despite
intense fire and barrages. With so little movement taking place
above ground he was constantly a target for any German observer
with a gun yet ignored the obvious danger and repeated the action
time and time again. In addition, the number of men he must have
dressed as they lay wounded in shell holes is another matter entirely
and must surely measure somewhere between 40 and 60.
As the recommendations were moved back through the
chain of command Christopher went about his daily business of being
in the battalion. Six weeks later the 18th Division assaulted German
positions around Cherisy during the Battle of Arras and the battalion
were attacking south of the village. They advanced on the heels
of the British bombardment only to find the wire uncut, after which
the front waves had no option but to dig in and shelter from the
crossfire and artillery barrage that rained down on them that day.
It was during the advance that Private Cox was wounded twice in
the foot and was helped off the battlefield by one of his mates.
After an operation to remove the bullets he was invalided back to
Blighty, to the Queen Mary Military Hospital in Blackburn.
Christopher Cox was presented with the VC by
the King on 21st July 1917 at Buckingham Palace. His was one of
32 VCs presented that day. The photograph below shows him with Maud
on returning to Kings Langley after the presentation ceremony.
Christopher and Maud Cox,
Taken after receiving his Victoria Cross
Private Cox was unable to return to the front again
after receiving his third wound as he did not regain full fitness
afterwards. Instead he helped to train the new recruits rather than
being idle and of no use to his country and comrades.
Christopher Cox was a very unassuming man who did
not appreciate the fuss that surrounded his award. In an interview
after it was presented he simply said "I
was only doing what any British soldier would have done".
On his return to Kings Langley, Christopher gave a speech at his
local hall but remarked that he would rather be in the trenches
than give a speech to a group of people. Private Cox was offered
a Commission as well as a house but refused both, saying he would
not accept a penny for his fallen comrades. After the war he returned
to live in Kings Langley and loved to spend time in his garden.
He worked for a few years for a builder, then worked for another
32 years as a Maintenance Labourer at the Ovaltine Factory.
During the Second World War he served in the Home
Guard and again showed his courage by entering the bombed-out Griffin
Pub to search for the publican in the ruins. Unfortunately Ted Carter
was already dead, the only civilian killed in Kings Langley during
After the war he was back at work in the factory
when, in 1954 aged 64, he fell off the factory roof. This unavoidable
fall put him in hospital on and off for the rest of his life.
Christopher Cox, V.C. died 28th April 1959 aged 69,
the father of eight children.
In 2006 Mr Philippe Drouin of the Somme
Rembrance Association started to organise a plaque that
was to be laid at a remembrance ceremony to mark Christopher's V.C.
as well as to honour those who fell whilst liberating his home village
of Achiet le Grand. On the 17th March 2007 the unveiling of a plaque
of remembrance to Christopher's V.C. and those who fell at Achiet
le Grand was witnessed and saw a well attended ceremony. The photo's
below are a few from the event, showing (from left to right) the
reading of the names of those who fell, laying of the wreaths, the
plaque itself and a lovely representation of the Old Guard standing
next to the New Guard. Later this year another ceremony is planned
in Christopher's home town of King's Langley.
Christopher's grandson, Steve Cox, has a website
which also includes transcripts of the original recommendations
from several Officers and NCO's who were witness to his bravery.
Mary Hallett has also written a biography on Christopher
Cox, V.C. called 'Without Hesitation'
that can be purchased from Amazon and other such outlets.
The reading of the names of the fallen and
laying of the wreaths
The plaque and the old and new guards