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  • Christina Drummond

Private Arthur Cox, the Machine Gun Corps

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private Arthur Cox, the Machine Gun Corps, was killed in action during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Private Cox had been working on a farm before the outbreak of the Great War. In September of 1914 he enlisted with the Leicestershire Regiment, serving with the 9th Battalion. In June of 1915 he arrived in France, and six months later was transferred to 107th Company, the Machine Gun Corps. The Corps had been formed in October due to the need for more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front, and the 107th Company was formed at Forceville and joined the 107th Brigade, attached to the 36th Ulster Division in December of 1915.

Private Cox saw action on the front lines early in 1916, during the Battle of the Somme (when the Division suffered heavy losses) and during the Battle of Messines in June of 1917. On the day of his death, near Ypres, the company war diary records that eight machine guns were put in position to support an infantry attack on Hill 35; the guns were to open fire thirty minutes after Zero. From the diary: "Zero. Our artillery barrage opened. The infantry immediately went forward following close behind the barrage and were followed by successive waves. Thirty minutes later, as planned: Our guns opened fire & kept up a rate of one belt per gun every five minutes. All guns working and firing splendidly." The Germans launched a series of counter-attacks and the infantry began returning over the ridge from what was a concentrated bombardment by the enemy. The machine gunner’s diary records that three of the guns were knocked out and there were several casualties.

One of those casualties was Private Cox. He had been hit by shrapnel on his left side and his left leg. He was taken by ambulance from the Advanced Dressing Station to an Australian Casualty Clearing Station, but died on the way. He is buried in the Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, on the road from Ypres to Poperinge. His sergeant wrote to his mother: “Arthur was a very good lad and very popular with his chums.”

Arthur, from Langham in Rutland, was 23 years old.

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