The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. W E Cox
Walter Edward Cox was born on 2nd April 1912 and joined the RAFVR about April 1939 as an Airman u/t Aircrew. Called up on 1st September 1939, he qualified as an Air Gunner and was serving with 264 Squadron, operating Defiants at Duxford in May 1940.
Cpl. A Lippett* Sgt. RC Turner Sgt. FJ Barker Sgt. SB Johnson* Sgt. LH Hayden Sgt. JF Wise Sgt. GE Lille
Sgt. ER Thorn** P/O FH King LAC HT Fairbrother* P/O Williams* LAC A Fidler* Sgt. WE Cox
* not a Clasp holder
** Thorn was a pilot
Cpl. A Lippett (MIA 31st May 1940)
Sgt. SB Johnson (MIA 31st May 1940)
LAC A Fidler (KIA 31st May 1940)
On 12th May the six Defiants of 'B' Flight moved to Martlesham Heath and the next day took off from there to intercept German troop transports off the Dutch coast. Cox, a LAC as were many of the gunners, was crewed with P/O AM McLeod in L6965. Near Rotterdam the Defiants intercepted Ju87's but were in turn attacked by Me109s and a general combat ensued.
L6965 shot down one Ju87 in flames but after their ammunition ran out their wing tanks were set on fire by Me109s. McLeod was able to crash-land near Zevenbergen, they escaped before the Defiant burned out.
The area had just been overrun by German troops and they made their way between hiding places until they caught up with retreating Dutch troops, these provided motor transport to Antwerp. They were moved on to Ostend and eventually reached Dover aboard the destroyer HMS Whitshed on 17th May.
(See his account of this episode below).
Cox stayed with 264 throughout the Battle and although his subsequent service is currently unknown he was still serving in the RAF in 1953.
On 23rd February 1953 he was aboard Bristol Brigand RH760 of 238 OCU as an instructor to two trainee navigators. On its final approach to Colerne the port engine cut out, the aircraft stalled and subsequently crashed.
The pilot, F/Lt. AAJ Symington, Cox and the two trainees, A/PO D Wilmot and A/PO WB Parker, were all killed.
Cox, then a Master Navigator, is buried in St John the Baptist churchyard, Colerne.
Account by 747745 LAC WE Cox of the loss of Defiant L6965 of 264 Squadron on 12th May 1940 , the pilot P/O AM McLeod.
Approaching the Dutch coast, we were fired upon by AA guns apparently in territory occupied by German forces. Turning to avoid this fire, we continued along the coast slightly inland. The AA fire ceased for a while. But AA fire opened up, also fire from a cruiser just off the coast.
We sighted the enemy bombers and proceeded to attack a formation of three Ju87s. Almost immediately the sky was filled with Me109s which began to attack us. I should think there were about 20 - 30.
I brought down one Ju87 and turned the guns onto another but was unable to see the result although I know I had hit him on the wings. I was warned that two Me109s were under my tail. Apparently Me109s were above us as well for a hail of lead came down on our tail.
The pilot put the plane into a spin and we dropped to 1000 feet and flattened out, I cannot say if our engine was going or not but we were on fire and had to land. We came down 6 kilometres north of Leur (now Etten-Leur) in Holland. Hollanders came out to the machine and after explaining as well as possible we were English, we were taken to a farmhouse and given coffee. Within 5 minutes a German armoured car drew up outside. They had seen the plane come down too. We were hidden in a cellar and although the house was searched, and the cellar, they missed us but occupied the house for 3 hours.
The Hollanders provided us with coats and sandwiches and gave us the 'all clear'. We made for a shed but before we could reach it the Germans returned. However, crawling on our stomachs we managed to reach a ditch and hanging over the bank, up to our knees in water, we remained hidden. We made the barn and walked out of the rear, using the barn as cover. We passed our plane, which was burned out. making for the canal, we had to find a means of crossing. We saw a farm a mile away and took a chance and sat on the bank trying to attract attention by whistling. It was successful and we were rowed across. We were told Leur was 6 kilometres away and after crossing trenches and ditches we reached a Dutch outpost. We were taken under escort to the CO, searched and then fed. Then taken to a military HQ 3 kilometres away. The Dutch officers were in conference and had apparently despaired of success, for the CO had a white flag ready.
News had come through by dispatch riders, all roads south were blocked by tanks and armoured cars of the enemy. The CO had been awaiting orders from the general but they had failed to materialise. In despair the CO asked what he should do and we suggested the reports should be ignored and take a chance of getting through to Antwerp, 50 kilometres away.
We suggested moving at dusk and orders were given to pack. All communications were cut and all roads presumed blocked by the enemy when we made our move. A panic during the afternoon made us decide to move alone, as it would be safer.
After walking 9 kilometres towards the Belgian frontier the Hollanders overtook us and took us along with them to Antwerp, in lorries, private cars and bicycles. Apparently then all information re tanks blocking all roads were false and we reached Antwerp safely. The pilot and myself slept in barracks that night and in the morning we were taken under escort to the British Consulate.
Mr. Fisher attended to us and provided us with cash and a typewritten letter that would get us through any difficulties we were likely to run into. He drove us and two refugees in his car to Ghent and there the British Consulate helped us (Mr. Whipp). He took us to Ostende.
Mr. Whipp was very, very good to us and allowed us to share his cabin aboard a ship that was to convey his family and 750 refugees to England. Going aboard at 3.30pm the boat was supposed to sail at dusk that evening.
But it did not and all aboard had to sleep as best they could that night, nobody was allowed to leave. Soon after dark two terrific explosions quite close was the first indication of our being attacked by German bombers. The boat was also subject to strafing by the plane. However it was not hit but in the morning it was revealed the bombs had dropped about a 100 yards away on the quay side, half of the walling was blown away.
The planes had dropped mines and parachute troops and sniping and machine gun fire continued until 6am. A destroyer had moved in during the night and it was decided to put all the refugees, about 1400, on one boat instead of two of those originally intended to sail.
The sea had to be cleared of mines before we left but we finally moved away from Ostende between 5 and 6 o'clock and landed at 8:30pm on 16th May. incidentally my pilot and myself made our crossing on the destroyer accompanying the refugee ship.
We reported to the Air Ministry on 17th May during the afternoon and returned to Duxford the same evening.
(P/O McLeod was killed on 28th May 1940 NW of Dunkirk in Defiant L7007. His gunner, P/O JE Hatfield of Canada, was also killed).