The COX family – Bombadier COX, George William (1885-1968), Corporal COX, Robert George (1888-1915) and Sapper COX, Thomas Frederick (1894-1967)

Robert George Cox (1855-1927) married Annie Essex (1851-1931) in Annie’s home parish of Avening in Gloucestershire on 19th October 1871.  Robert was a musical instrument maker.  They had seven children: Harry (c1873-) and Elizabeth “Bessie” (c1874-) were born in Malvern and Louisa Kate “Louie” (1879-1950, George William (1885-1968), Robert George (1888-1915), Netta Emily “Nettie” (1891-1967) and Thomas Frederick (1894-1967) were born in Leicester.

In 1878 Robert George and Annie moved to Leicester and jointly established a new musical dealer’s in the Royal Arcade on the High Street – Catlin Cox & Moore.  The business specialised in pianofortes, American organs and “good and cheap” harmoniums, stocking over 100 kinds of instrument.  In 1881 they lived nearby at number 20 Friars Causeway.  However by 1884 Robert George left the partnership and set up his own music dealers business on his own at 63 Belgrave Gate, leaving Catlin & Moore as competitor.

Cox 63 Belgrave Gate
The business premises of Robert Cox, musical dealer 63 Belgrave Gate

The premises had recently become available due to the previous business owner, Obey Henry Selby, going into liquidation.  The family lived above the shop until 1906, when they moved to a separate house at 13 King Street.

Almost everyone in the family played a role in the business: Robert George was the proprietor and also tuned pianos; Harry and George repaired and tuned instruments and Louisa was a sales assistant.

The Cox family continued to live at 13 King Street.  After Robert George died in 1927 the business was renamed R G Cox & Son and was continued by Thomas Frederick.  During the second world war Louie and Nettie moved next door to number 11 and by the time Thomas Frederick died in 1967, he lived alone.  On his death, R G Cox & Son closed.

George William Cox was born in Leicester on 5th December 1885 and baptised at St Martin’s on 9th July 1893 with his siblings Nettie and Robert.  After leaving school he worked in the family business as a music dealer.  He was 5’9” tall.

George attested as a private solider number 724741 on 3rd December 1915 aged 29 whilst still living with his parents and working as a piano tuner.  He served at home in the Royal Garrison Artillery from 3rd March until 25th September 1916, qualifying as a signaller and telephonist whilst based at Woolwich depot.  On 26th September he embarked at Folkestone, arriving at Boulogne later that day.  Within a short time George found himself in trouble – he was confined to barracks for 5 days in November for neglect of duty whilst working as a telephonist.  Nevertheless on 17th June 1917 George was promoted to acting bombardier.  On the 23rd November 1917 George returned to Leicester for a short period of leave – the next day, at the age of 31, he married Ethel Mary Coverdale (1889-1978) at St Peter’s Church.  A licence was granted as George had only limited time on leave.  His brother Thomas witnessed the marriage.  George returned to the Front and was again promoted, to bombardier signaller on 16th March 1918.  A month later on 20th April he was awarded the Military Medal, the equivalent of the Military Cross for men who were not commissioned officers.  By September he had achieved a certificate and in December was appointed as assistant instructor in signalling, with additional pay awarded.  This position did not last long however, as he was demobilised in January 1919 whilst on leave to the UK.

During the war Ethel lived with her parents at 51 Evington Road, but by 1919 Ethel lived at 97 Queens Road, Ashford, presumably to be closer to George and make it possible to see him more often.  George and Ethel remained in Ashford for a year or so after demobilisation and their daughter Ethel Margaret (1919-1994) was born in Ashford in November 1919.  George and Ethel returned to Leicester and George returned to work as a piano tuner.

In 1927 George, Ethel and their daughter Ethel moved into a brand new house at 74 Evesham Road.  Ethel gave birth to another daughter, Sheila (1932-), in 1932.  They remained living at Evesham Road until their deaths – George in 1968 and Ethel ten years later.  George was buried at Gilroes cemetery.

Robert George Cox was born in Leicester in 1888 and baptised at St Martin’s on 9th July 1893 when he was five years old, along with his siblings George and Nettie.  He

At the outbreak of war Robert enlisted at Oakham into the 1/1 Leicestershire Yeomary.  After some training he arrived in France on the 2nd November 1914.  He died on 13th May 1915 having risen to the rank of Corporal.  The regimental war diary records that Robert was with his regiment at Belleward Farm, 700 yards west of the road joining Zonnebeke Road and Ypres Menin Road, occupying some poor quality trenches with few sand bags and no dug outs or other protection from shell fire.  There was heavy shell fire in the early hours, followed by a much more violent bombardment, which destroyed the Yeomanry’s machine guns and blew in a trench.  At 7.30am the enemy attacked and occupied some nearby empty trenches, resulting in the death of all but one of the officers present.  5 officers and 47 men of other ranks were killed during the attack and counter-attack, with a further 39 missing.  The dead and wounded from several trenches were never recovered.  Robert was amongst these.

Robert’s family placed a notice in The Leicester Chronicle on 29th May 1915:

COX.- Killed in action, May 13th, 1915, Corporal R G Cox, Leicestershire Yeomanry, aged 27, son of Mr and Mrs R G Cox, 13, King Street, Leicester.

Robert left £5 11s 7d, his army pay, to Miss Annie Louisa Pye (1880-1947).  Annie was born in Birmingham but in 1911 she was manager of a shop and was visiting Jack Whittles and his family and staff at the Cricket Players Hotel, 9 Churchgate.  Perhaps Robert and Annie were sweethearts or even engaged to be married, though she was much older than he.  In fact Annie married Frederick Tattershall of the RAF, in Birmingham on New Years Day 1919, claiming to be ten years younger than she really was.  In August of that year she received a war annuity of £4 in respect of Robert but there were problems when the military authorities attempted to deliver Robert’s medals.  They were unable to deliver the medals, perhaps because Annie had moved or perhaps she refused to accept them.  Unfortunately no records survive to show whether Robert’s family claimed the medals or whether they were recycled after ten years.

Robert’s name appears on panel 5 at Menin Gate at Ypres, where soldiers whose bodies were never recovered were commemorated.

Thomas Frederick Cox was born in Leicester on 25th October 1894.  Unusually he was not baptised until 5th October 1910, when he was almost sixteen years old.  He was baptised at St Martin’s by Norman Lang, later suffragan Bishop of Leicester.  He described himself as an engineer.  In 1911 Thomas worked for the British United Shoe Machinery Company Ltd in Belgrave.

By March 1918 when Thomas enlisted at Leicester Market Place he was aged 24, 5’10”, extremely slim and worked as a piano tuner.  When examined he was found to have a scar on his right cheek and tachycardia, but not sufficiently to prevent his enlistment.  He joined the Royal Engineers, Railway Troops.  Thomas served at Chatham from 14th March to 17th April 1918, when he transferred to Roads & Quarries.  On 18th April 1918 Thomas landed in France but served there for only a short time, until 16th June.  He returned to England and was discharged as no longer medically fit for service on 17th February 1919.  He had been under medical care due to pain in his back and kidneys and had an x-ray on 9th January.  Thomas successfully claimed a pension of 11 shillings a week for one year, due to 40% disablement caused by a goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland, probably connected to his former fast heart rate), which was aggravated by war service.

After the war Thomas returned to 13 King Street and to the music dealers business at 63 Belgrave Gate where he worked with his father.  On 21st November 1921 Thomas married Edith May Maidment (1896-1966), a machinist for a boot manufacturer, at St Paul’s Church.  The couple lived at 13 King Street with the rest of the Cox family until the end of their lives and it was here that their daughters Joan Peneretta (1922-2006) and Elisabeth (1934-1985) were born.  When Robert George senior died in 1927, Thomas Frederick took the helm at R G Cox & Son and the business continued until his death.

During the second world war Thomas served as an air raid warden, so he must have recovered in health to at least a reasonable extent.

Edith died in 1966 and Thomas Frederick in 1967.

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