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The Airmen's Stories - P/O K H Cox

 

Kenneth Henry Cox, from Kings Norton, Birmingham, was born on 21st March 1916 there. His father, Henry Cox, was an engineer and had married Beatrice May Bobbington at St. Nicolas' Church, also in Kings Norton, on 24th December 1912.

The family embarked on the ss Berrima at London on 2nd October 1924 when Kenneth was eight. They sailed for Melbourne, Australia and it may be presumed that Cox Snr. had been engaged by the Australian motor industry as they did not return till 1931, arriving at London from Brisbane on the ss Barrabool on 25th April.

 

 

Henry Cox appeared on the manifest as 'Salesman for Australian Motors'. Kenneth had attended Trinity Grammar School in Kew, Melbourne while resident in Australia.

He was employed as an instructor at the Midlands Aero Club when he joined the RAFVR about December 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He carried out his service training at 14 E&RFTS Castle Bromwich, going on to 44 E&RFTS at Elmdon on 5th May 1939 for advanced flying.

He was called up on 1st September 1939 and sent to 3 ITW Hastings, leaving there on 2nd February 1940 to complete his training on No. 18 Course at 11 FTS Shawbury, which ran until 29th June 1940.

He was commissioned on 6th July and posted to 5 OTU Aston Down on 6th July 1940. After converting to Spitfires Cox joined 610 Squadron at Biggin Hill on the 28th.

On 8th August he claimed a Me109 damaged, on the 12th two Me109s destroyed, on the 15th another and on the 18th another one destroyed and also probably a Do215 or Do17.

On 28th August 1940 Cox was killed when his Spitfire, P9511, disintegrated over Bower Farm, Stelling Minnis, south of Canterbury.

The cause has been unresolved, not helped by an ambiguous entry in the squadron ORB:

 

September 2020 - the discovery of Cox's logbook and other material has shed more light on the incident and subsequent attempts by his parents to discover what happened.

 

The logbook has a brutal final entry:

 

 

 

The 'Crashed Aircraft Report' is meticulously timed (full transcript below):

 

To: Canterbury 4235 (P.C. CLAYTON)

Crashed Aircraft Report

To: Intelligence Officer, Canterbury Police (4235)

From: P.C. Penfold. Tele' No. Petham 211. 16.20 hours, 28 Aug 40.

"A plane has disintegrated in midair. Parts landing at Stone Street. I am going to the scene. Further report will be made."

To: I.O. Canterbury (P.C. Clayton).

From: P.C. 199. Roberts. Tele' No. Stelling 225. 16.30 hours. 28 Aug 40.

"Reporting British plane blowing up in mid air at Stelling. I am going to the scene. Further report will be made."

To: Canterbury Police.

From: Staff Officer, Lyminge Batt. Home Guard. 16.34 hours. 28 Aug 40.

Reporting British plane crashing at Stelling.

To: Emergency Dept., Canterbury Police.

From: P.C. 199. Roberts. 16.55 hours. 28 Aug 40.

"A Spitfire crashed at Bower Farm, Stelling. Pilot - Pilot Officer Kenneth COX from Biggin Hill killed. Military from Petham guarding body and wreckage. Time of crash...................... 16.25 hours."

To: Emergency Dept., Kirby Lane.

From: Sergeant Baker. 17.28 hours, 28 Aug 40.

"Re message of 16.20 hours. The plane is the same one reported on by P.C. Roberts of Stelling."

Footnote by P.C. 331. Clayton. The time of crash was 16.25 hours. The plane had been in combat and whilst flying at about 2,000 feet in the direction of R.A.F. Station, Hawkinge, suddenly disintegrated in the air. The pilot came down with the main part of the fuselage. There was no fire. Guarded by military until arrival of R.A.F. party from Hawkinge.

It may be of interest to know that two ME.109's and one ME.110 crashed in that locality within the hour - 17.00 and 18.00 hours.

**********************

Cox was 24.

He was cremated at Birmingham Municipal Crematorium and his ashes were scattered at Old Castle Bromwich aerodrome.

 

 

 

 

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In the absence of any communication from 610 Squadron Henry Cox wrote on 9th October 1940 to RAF Hawkinge but 610 Squadron had long gone and the reply directed him to Acklington :

 

 

His letter reached Squadron Leader John Ellis who replied on 5th December 1940 (full transcript below):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

610 Sqdn
Acklington
Northumberland

5/12/40

Dear Mr. Cox,

I regret to say that due to a rather long absence from the Squadron I have only recently seen your letter to the Wing Commander here regarding your son Kenneth.

You say in your letter that you have received no communication from this Squadron regarding the death of your son. I am extremely sorry and surprised to hear this as I personally wrote to you on the 31st August giving details of the circumstances of the death of your son, this letter was given in to the Orderly Room for posting, but unfortunately the Orderly Room received a direct hit that afternoon and very few records or correspondence was saved. I have since questioned the Orderly Room staff about this letter and I am of the opinion that it was destroyed in the bombing. We left Biggin Hill on that same afternoon and it was thus very difficult to check up on what had been destroyed in the Orderly Room.

I regret that I have not been in touch with you since, but I was naturally under the impression that you had received my original letter.

The story however of Kenneth's last flight is as follows:

The Squadron was operating from Hawkinge at the time and on the afternoon of the 28th August we were ordered up to patrol between Dover and Folkestone at 15,000'. I was leading the Squadron and we patrolled immediately below the cloud base which was at 15,000'. After we had been up for twenty minutes fifteen Me.109's were sighted diving through the cloud between Dover and Deal, we immediately turned towards them and engaged them behind Dover. A general dog-fight ensued, some below and some above cloud, the cloud being very thin. I saw Kenneth who was flying in my section engage a Me.109 and I last saw him diving steeply down on the enemy's tail with his guns firing. Directly after this however the enemy aircraft I was chasing pulled up through the cloud and in following I naturally lost sight of your son. No other pilots in the Squadron saw Kenneth shot down or crash so it is difficult to say exactly what happened to him. I can only surmise that another 109 got on his tail while he was firing at the first one or he was shot down in a subsequent dog-fight.

I had only known Kenneth for a short time but he impressed me by his great enthusiasm for flying and fighting and his well above the average skill and experience as a pilot. This was only his second or third encounter with the enemy and it was a great tragedy and loss to the Squadron when your son who so obviously had the makings of a first class fighter pilot lost his life so early on.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing to you on behalf of the whole squadron both Officers and Men my very deepest sympathy in your sad and irreparable loss. But Kenneth died fighting, defending his Country and we are proud to have had him in 610 Squadron.

Regarding your son's personal effects, I have had a letter from the Adjutant at Biggin Hill saying that you personally collected your son's kit from Biggin Hill, the gold wrist watch, Service revolver which he was wearing at the time and any cash he had on him I am afraid were all destroyed in the crash. There are no traces of your son's Zeiss camera or macintosh so I presume that either your son did not have these articles at Biggin or else they were collected by you.

Again I apologise for the unavoidable delay in answering your last letter.

Yours sincerely

J.Ellis. S/Ldr.

OC 610 Sqdn.

**********************

 

The family's distress was compounded by the belief that Kenneth's watch, camera and service revolver must have been stolen at some point though of course this cannot be proved.

The new evidence, discussed with a former Spitfire engineer, has led to the hypothesis that damage to the oxygen tank, pressurised to 1800 lbs. per square inch, may have caused it to explode, resulting in catastrophic damage.

 

**********************

 

Perhaps to reassure themselves that Kenneth did not die in vain, Henry Cox contacted S/Ldr. Ellis in 1941 to seek information on his service, he received this reply (full transcript below):

 

 

 

 

610 Squadron
Westhampnett
Sussex

1/3/41

Dear Mr. Cox,

With reference your letter concerning the number of enemy aircraft your son Kenneth shot down while serving in 610 Squadron. He is officially credited with having destroyed three and probably destroyed two enemy aircraft. The category 'probably destroyed' means that the enemy aircraft was seen to be in serious trouble but was not actually seen to crash. It is pretty certain that the two 'probables' failed to get back and that your son did in fact destroy 5 enemy aircraft in so short a time.

Yours sincerely

J. Ellis. S/Ldr.

 


 

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