On a slope overlooking the city of Gloucester stands the village of Maisemore.
Outside the parish church of St. Giles stands a Celtic Cross war memorial and inside the church there is a lovingly produced roll of honour which features the Belgian flag in the centre alongside the Union Flag and Royal Standard with the flags of France, Russia, Japan and Serbia in the corners. In a way, this demonstrates the centrality of the notion of Britain coming to the aid of `little Belgium’ as a reason for war.
To the memory of Lieutenant C.F.S. Cox and his gallant comrades of Maisemore who fell in the Great War 1914-1918
Clarence Cox himself is shown as St. George, with his face clearly visible in the window.
The reredos screen with two striking carvings was also installed in his memory.
Fortunately the kind gentleman who entered the church to ask if we had any questions directed me towards a comprehensive booklet, Maisemore Men: Lest We Forget, written by Robin Stayt in 2003 from which some of the information below is taken.
Clarence Frederick Stuart Cox was born in Nottingham in 1896, the son of Arthur Cox and Abeth Julia Cave, the former already a widower. In 1910 Arthur died and Abeth remarried John Joseph Cridlan, the owner of the Maisemore Park estate in Gloucestershire. He was a famous agriculturalist, specialising in the breeding of Aberdeen Angus Cattle.
Clarence attended Trent College in Nottingham and spent holidays at Maisemore. In 1914 he was accepted by the University of Sheffield to study a non-degree course. However the war interrupted his studies and he volunteered to join the Sherwoord Foresters in Febraury 1915. He spent some time with reserve and training units before transferring to the 10th Battalion and arrived at the Somme in 1916, shortly after the initial British attack of 1st July. The Battalion was on front line duty at Delville Wood but spent some time at Canroy Camp away from the front line.
Clarence and a fellow officer, Captain Normal Knight, took the opportunity of a break between duties to teach the French children at a nearby school. Knight wrote home that Clarence was hilarious and the children, `grew quite fond of us and were sorry we had to return to the Line.’ (1) However this was a brief respite and the battalion was soon in action at the Battle of Arras in April 1917.
In September 1917 a party of 38 men, including Clarence, comprised a raiding party on enemy lines. They crossed no-man’s land and inflicted many casualties on the enemy, with one prisoner being taken. He happened to be the enemy’s military postman and his postbag contained valuable intelligence information. For this action Clarence, along with two others, was awarded the Military Cross. The Gloucestershire Chronicle ran a detailed report on 19 January 1918: (2)
In late October the battalion moved to support lines in the Wijdendrift sector, where `C’ company used a disused pill-box for its HQ. However on 29 October it was heavily shelled, and a direct hit killed three men instantly, including Clarence.
Two of the privates who served with Clarence wrote to Abeth about her son:
He was always so good to us al were ever (sic) we was in the trenches or out and that is the sort of man for us out here. (2)
Another young man of talent and character cut down before he had a chance to blossom into adulthood.
The theme of Christianity in the First World War is explored in more depth in my book Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War
(1) Robin Stayt, Maisemore Men: Lest We Forget (2003), p.22
(2) Gloucestershire Chronicle, 19 January 1918
(2) Stayt, p.23