The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2056) Corporal George Henry Cox, 39th Battalion, First World War

Accession Number PAFU2014/077.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 7 March 2014
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (2056) Corporal George Henry Cox, 39th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

2056 Corporal George Henry Cox, 39th Battalion
KIA 8 June 1917
Photograph: P11171.001

Story delivered 7 March 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal George Henry Cox from the 39th Battalion, who was killed in action in Belgium in the First World War.

George Cox was born in 1888, the oldest of four children to George and Alice Cox of Rolvenden in Kent, England. After attending state school in Kent, George immigrated to Australia in 1911 and worked in Melbourne before moving to South Australia. Immediately before the war, George worked as a grocer's assistant at the Import Company in Adelaide and attended the Wesley Church at Norwood. There he met Clara Rettig, whom he married in July 1915.

George enlisted in the AIF at Keswick Barracks four weeks after getting married and trained at Morphettville Racetrack with the newly formed 43rd Battalion. His qualities as a leader were recognised by his superiors. While in camp, George underwent NCO training and was temporarily given the rank of corporal before the battalion left Adelaide for the training camps in England in August 1916, but reverted back to private when they arrived in camp. It was in England that George received news that his wife had given birth to a daughter, Gertrude.

While training with the 43rd Battalion, George was transferred to the 39th Battalion in the days before it embarked for France. He arrived on the Western Front in November 1916 and spent the following winter in the relatively quiet Houplines sector on the French-Belgian border, where the battalion regularly took patrols of no man's land and raided the German trenches. George's leadership qualities were recognised by his superiors and he was promoted to the rank of corporal.

The 39th Battalion spent the following months rotating in and out of the front line until June, when it played a pivotal role in attacking the German positions at Messines. On 7 June 1917, 19 underground mines were detonated beneath the German trenches, allowing British, New Zealander, and Australian infantry to sweep through and capture the enemy position. Although the attack was a resounding success it was costly in casualties, which included 169 men killed and missing from the 39th Battalion. Among them was Corporal George Cox, who was just 28 years old when he died and never got a chance to meet his baby daughter. He was buried at the Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery, where he rests today. After receiving news of the death of her husband, Clara inserted the following memorial to George in the local newspaper:

His King and country called him,
The call was not in vain;
On Australia's roll of honour,
You will find our loved one's name.

George's name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal George Cox and all Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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