It was late in the afternoon on May 2nd 1914 and Fred Coxen’s work day was almost over. He was working with other electrician’s rewiring an old building. During their lunch break conversation centered on events taking place over the channel.
Fred was particularly interested because he still had three more years of service in the Royal Field Artillery reserve and if Britten decreed General Mobilization he would be recalled to active duty. Having been married for just two years he would have to leave Lillian and their baby girl Dorothy.
Little did they know that within a month Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be assassinated, which would start the downward slide towards the abyss of war.
With the possibility of returning to active duty, Fred recalled that it was 1905, soon after he turned 18 when he joined the Royal Field Artillery. He was assigned to the 55th Battery and two years later, 1907, he had earned both his third and second class education certificates for composition. He decided to become a RFA signaller and graduated in the 168th Class, School of Signaling, at Aldershot.
He had obtained the rank of bombardier, which can be seen in the 1909 photograph of Fred and another signaller demonstrating the new field telephones during a training exercise.
By 1911 Fred’s six year commitment of active duty was coming to an end and he decided to leave active service to begin his RFA reserve requirement. However, prior to leaving active duty he was awarded his ‘Assistant Signal Instructor’s Certificate’.
Now that he had more time he became an electrician and joined the Electrical Trade Union in Manchester. With a decent paying job he proposed to Lillian Turner and they married in 1912. The newlyweds moved to 93 Rectory Lane, Tooting Bec Common and by 1913 they started their family with the birth of a baby girl.
On the way home from work Fred relived the past eight years and realized how many changes had taken place in his life. But he had no way of knowing that in three months he would be recalled to active duty and over the course of less than a year he would be exposed to so many horrific events that would forever visit him during the night.