The date is August 1914. The British Expeditionary Force is in France and You're in the Royal Field Artillery. You're riding alongside one of the battery's gun limbers on its way to the assigned position on the east side of Mons, Belgium. This begins your journey into the Hell they called World War One. To purchase this historical memoir go to https://createspace.com/3649268

Monday, May 13, 2013

Soldiers names in the journal

I compiled a list of names of soldiers mentioned in my grandfather's journal - perhaps it might help those searching for relatives.

Lieutenant Marshall – wounded
Colonel Sharpe
General Finley – killed in action
Lieutenant Richie
Grogan – telephonest died of wounds
Smith - telephonest
Mr. Wood – young officer kia 8 days after arriving
Mr. Donahue –
Major Baird
Major Madocks – wounded Sept 14, 1914 kia
Taylor & Farmer – wounded Nov 21, 1914
George Hodge – Corporal killed in action
Bruce – Gordon Highlanders
Major Johnson – killed in action
Collins – main character within the journal
George Millington – major character in journal and survived
                                the war and retired as Sergeant Major
Percy / George Bramwell – killed in action
Hayman – killed in action
Frank W Taylor – corporal reported wounded 8/12/14 kia

Saturday, May 11, 2013

After The Journal Ends

Fred Coxen's military career after the last journal entry

The last journal entry was on May 6th, 1915. I wondered what could have happened to alter his regiment of recording his daily experiences, perhaps the answer might be among his numerous military documents, which may contain bits of information necessary for reassembling the one-hundred year old puzzle.
   After May 6th, the first recorded event impacting Fred was his field promotion to 2nd Lieutenant, which took place on August 21st, 1915. Although significant, it does not articulate what happened during the three months between his last entry and his promotion; questions without answers.  
   Within the box of documents, I found and opened Fred’s “Officer’s Record of Services – Army book 439”. Studying its contents, I found a notation on the pages titled, “Service”, stating he left France on September 1, 1915 and return to England.  Under the column marked “At Home”, he had written, (AA[1] Drilling), September 2, 1915 to November 27, 1917. I then realized there must be complexities within his simple statement “AA drilling”, which were not obvious. Reviewing other military communiqués, I discovered that the Royal Field Artillery sent Fred to the Mersey Defence District on May 13, 1916. He was to perform inspections on the Anti-Aircraft Gun Detachments in Liverpool.  I questioned, what transpired in the eight months prior to his deployment to the Mersey Defence District? One plausible explanation would be that he was being trained on anti-aircraft guns, which would be logical, considering his previous experience had been with field artillery. Anti-aircraft training would also offer credence to his qualifications for inspecting the AA batteries.
   An RFA dispatch to the Mersey Defence District, questioned why the inspection was taking longer than expected, and requested that they be informed if Fred wasn’t going to return. In the bottom section of the same document, the Mersey Defence District, recommended that 2nd Lieutenant F. Coxen be considered for appointment to Adjutant and Quartermaster, along with the temporary rank of Captain – until a replacement could be found.  Fred remained with the Defense District until November 30, 1916, at which time he returned to the RFA.  
   I discovered a great deal of military correspondence regarding Fred’s request for additional duty pay, for the period he held the temporary rank of Captain. His claim was eventually settled, as stated in the letter written by the Major commanding Liverpool A. A. Defences. The communiqué also presented insight to Fred’s next assignment, “Captain Coxen was recommended for the appointment to Adjutant in May last, and carried out the duties whilst the Establishment was under consideration and issued, and until relieved, 30th November 1916, on assuming command of the 47th A.A. Company, R.G.A.  However, I found no further details validating his command of the 47th AA Company.
   Referring back to his service record, I noticed that he remained in England until November 11, 1917. Then on November 28, 1917 he was redeployed to France and assigned to an AA Battery.  Prior to his departure, Fred posed for a photograph wearing his captain’s uniform, which he would not wear again for two years.  Upon his arrival in France he reverted back to his rank of 2nd Lieutenant and assigned an AA Battery.
   Rummaging through the box of documents, I noticed a small piece of brown paper with a hand written message. In the upper left-hand corner, the paper was stamped, “N ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY” and directly below it was Fred’s signature “F Coxen RFA” “N” Battery. The handwritten message congratulated Fred for the downing of a bird (aeroplane), however headquarters couldn’t verify if was downed solely by N-battery, or a section of Q-battery, so they divided the kill between the two batteries.  N-battery was part of the HQ, 3rd Army group, which according to sources on the “Great War Forum” was assigned to defend Paris. The fact that the paper was a congratulatory note from headquarters, and sent to Fred, indicates that Fred was “N” Battery’s commander.
   Referring back to his service record, Fred remained in France until May 18, 1918, at which time he returned to England.
   A military record shows in November of 1918 he was seconded for service with the newly formed Royal Air Force, and assigned to the 253 Squadron, R.A.F. Bembridge. He is listed as an Observer Officer and was placed in charge of the payroll department. I have no doubt that Fred was sent to the RAF because of his prior payroll experience while Adjutant of the Mersey Defence District.
   I discovered a communiqué from, Captain D. Durston, Officer Commanding 74th Wing RAF Calshot, recommending Fred for a promotion to the temporary rank of Lieutenant, while another memo referenced that Fred was promoted to the permanent rank of Lieutenant – retroactive to July 1, 1917.    
   While operating the payroll department for the Royal Air Force, the Royal Field Artillery sent a message requesting Fred’s return to his RFA unit forthwith. Within the same communiqué, the Royal Air Force requested he remain with them for an additional two weeks, reasoning that their heavy work load, and complicated payroll system required his skills until a new person could be trained. Then on August 7, 1919 the Officer Commanding, R.A.F. Navigation School, Calshot, drafted a letter cancelling Fred’s orders to report to his RFA unit. 
   I wonder if during his time with the RAF he learned to fly. I found nothing within his records indicating that he did receive flight training, however, I have a photograph showing Fred in an aviator’s uniform. Posting this photo on the “Great War Forum”, a member of the forum posted the following:

It's a standard RAF issue Sidcot Suit (from the inventor, Australian RNAS aviator Flight Sub Lieutenant Sidney Cotton) made from proofed khaki twill over a rubberised muslin inter-lining and a mohair liner.  However, he may not have been going to fly in the immediate future, as he's wearing ordinary shoes, rather than an airman's fur-lined 'fug' boots, though sometimes airmen flew without the boots if the flight was to be short and/or at low level.

I hope this helps you.[2]

While attached to the Royal Air Force, he wore the uniform of an officer and through the sharp eyes of another GWR member, he identified that Fred was an “Observer” and would have worn a flying uniform like the one in the photograph.


Is he 39776 Bombardier later Captain Frederick Coxen? If so the rear of his Medal Index Card advises he was at RAF Navigator's School (24 July 1919) and he also has a post war address of 253 Squadron at Benbridge (Isle of Wight). He will almost certainly have full service papers. If he discharged prior to 1922 they will be at the NA, post 1922 the records are still with the RAF. This tells you more: http://www.nationala...yalairforce.htm. I see your other posts on the forum about him. In the one by himself he is wearing at RAF Observer's Half Wing. This is consistent him being trained as a Navigator. He would have worn a suit similar to that shown here when flying, though not necessarily a pilot.  Rgds Tim D [3]

There is also family lore that the picture of him in his RFA captain’s uniform, which was taken in 1917, along with a photograph of his wife, were each placed in picture frames made from the wooden propeller of a plane he flew – that is the rumor and I have the frames with the photographs.
   Among his personal items was a photograph of seaplane, the N9111, also known as a Short 184. It is unknown if he flew or was a navigator on this type of aircraft, whatever the case, it is an interesting photograph.
  His official military record shows that he transferred back to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers as Captain on the 26th of February 1920, at which time he left the service and returned to his civilian occupation of electrician.
   The exact reason he ended his journal on May 6th, 1915 will remain unknown.

[1] AA: stands for anti-aircraft

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Controversy over the story of the crucifixion of a Canadian soldier during WWI

I didn't realize that there was a controversy over the story of a Canadian soldier being crucified by the Germans during the Second Battle of Ypres. This came to my attention when a historian reviewed my book, "The Great Promise". She questioned the journal entry because the no one could verify if it was rummer or factual. The following is a direct quote from my grandfather's journal:

At daylight we were at it again, the first thing that met my gaze was a shell dropped just the other side of the hedge, among what was left of a Canadian Battery Wagon Line, (most of the men had been killed when the Germans broke through the previous week they bayoneted them whilst they slept. Hung the Ferrier to a tree, and crucified a Sergeant of the Canadian Scottish to a barn door with bayonets. This wagon line had about a dozen horses left of 200 – the guns were captured by the enemy, but were afterwards regained by a magnificent charge by the Canadian infantry. These are fine fellows and splendid fighters and hated the cursed Germans like fury for their murderous ways of waging war. A couple of days previous the Canadian Scottish were ordered to retire, but refused to do so. [They] charged the enemy on their own, it was a mad thing to do and they lost over 500 men, but captured some trenches and captured 100 prisoners or more, not one of these prisoners were brought down. We were fighting as they – no quarter and the Canadians gave none. Just in rear of our guns, there was a Prussian Guardsman ( a fine fellow, fully 6’ 3” in height and big with it) pinned to a tree with a bayonet and a post card stuck on his forehead with the words, “Canada does not forget”. The by word of the Canadians were, “will give’em   crucify”. The happenings around of this period would fill a book with horrors of this description, and of the splendid fighting of the Canadians and the Indian troops who were with us.