Captain C Gordon Cox

{ Ropey }

06 Sep 1922 - 11 May 2005

Cecil Gordon Cox (always known as Gordon – he disliked his first name) was born on the 6 September 1922  in Madras, India, where his father (Alexander Ranken Cox 1878-1939) was Collector (in the ICS). Gordon attended Bedford School in 1937 and completed 6 months Officer Training (OCTU 141) at Aldershot prior to receiving his Commission.

Gordon was granted an emergency commission, as a Second Lieutenant, in the Royal Engineers on the 21 March 1942. [1]

He volunteered for Airborne Forces and was posted to the 1st Parachute Squadron, RE in September 1942. [2]

Gordon was parachute jump trained at RAF Ringway on course 32. This course ran between 15 and 21 October 1942. [3]

He had been promoted to War Substantive Lieutenant on the 1 October 1942. [1]

Gordon went with the 1st Parachute Squadron to North Africa in November 1942, as a Section Commander in ‘C’ Troop. This was part of the 1st Parachute Brigade’s operations to support the Allied landings in Algeria on Operation ‘Torch’. He served throughout the North African campaign and was also on Operation ‘Fustian’, 13/14 July 1943, which was the parachute operation to capture the Primosole Bridge in Sicily. Exactly what happened to his aircraft, C/N: 63 is not clear, but all of the men listed including Lieut. Cox and Capt. Brockington, the ‘C’ Troop Commander, returned.

Sapper Tom Hicks wrote about the fate of C/N 63 in his memoir, Captured at Arnhem. After the aircraft was mistakenly fired on by the Royal Navy, it was separated from its navigator (at that time one navigator was shared by 3 planes). The Dakota then suffered further flak fire from the Germans at Catania airfield.  By now, an engine had caught fire, and the men jumped through sparks and oil. Hicks stated that the aircraft dropped its men miles from the DZ before crashing into the sea. Hicks and Lieutenant Cox eventually rendezvoused with 8 out of 16 of their stick, with four later wandering off with the 3rd Battalion. The remaining four were cut off from the bridge by German reinforcements and spent days hiding in the hills before being collected by the Durham Light Infantry. 

dropped its men miles from the DZ, before crashing into the sea. 

He next took part in Operation ‘Slapstick’ which was the landing by a combined Naval Task Force of Cruisers and the 1st Airborne Division at the Southern Italian port of Taranto in September 1943.

On the 18 October 1943 he flew back to Algiers as Unit Advance Party, for the proposed return to England. [4]

He was promoted to the rank of Temporary Captain on the 15 July 1944, and it is about this time that he took over command of ‘C’ Troop. [1]

On Sunday, 17 September 1944, he took off in a Dakota aircraft of the 61st Troop Carrier Group, USAAF (C/N’s: 132 to 140) from Barkston Heath aerodrome, bound for DZ ‘X’ in Holland. This was part of Operation ‘Market-Garden’, which was to seize crossings over several water-ways across the country, the most Northerly of which was the Main Road Bridge across the Lower Rhine at Arnhem.

Gordon does get a brief mention in the 1st Parachute Squadron War Diary, for Operation ‘Market-Garden’: 17 September 1944 2200 - A Tp reach Bde HQ at ARNHEM Road Bridge.  2nd Para Bn launch 2nd attack on Bridge with ½ B Tp (Capt Livesey) in support with Flame-throwers.  Remarks - ½ C Tp (Capt Cox) still with 3rd Para Bn who are held up.  ½ C Tp (Capt George) laager for night on D.Z.

He is also mentioned in the 3rd Parachute battalion War Diary, 19 September 1944: ‘Dawn to 1000 hours. Progress was satisfactory until the area of the Pontoon Bridge (Order of March – ‘A’ Coy under Lieut Burwash MC, Bn HQ, RE under Capt Cox, ‘B’ Coy under Capt Dorrien-Smith).’

He is then mentioned again, later that same day: The 2 i/c [Major. Bush] reached the Pavilion to find only a mere handful of men there, including Capt Dorrien-Smith (slightly wounded) and Capt Cox.’ 

Records indicate he managed to withdraw across the Rhine at the end of the fighting. Gordon never actually made it to the Arnhem Bridge. Of the 151 who parachuted in, or landed by glider, 10 days previously, 22 had been killed or died of their wounds, and 116 taken prisoner, many of whom were wounded. Only 13 eventually escaped made it back across the Rhine.

He remained with the 1st Parachute Squadron as it was reformed through the rest of 1944 and into early 1945. However, on the 14 January 1945 he was posted out of the Squadron. [5]

After the war in 1946 Gordon matriculated at Jesus College Cambridge to read Mechanical Science. After graduating he joined the Colonial Engineering Services in 1949 and was posted to Nyasaland (Malawi). [1] The London Gazette records that he was released from the Army Reserve List, on the 18 November 1953, and granted the Honorary Rank of Major.

Gordon had 4 siblings:

Edmund Leonard Cox (1913-1995) – Assistant Superintendent in Indian Police.

Vivian Alexander Cox (1915-2009) – worked with Churchill in Admiralty and sailed with him to Washington to set up the Map Room in the White House in 1941. Junior Staff Officer to Admiral Bruce Fraser at sinking of Scharnhorst in Dec 1943 and Japanese surrender in September 1945.

Alice Felicia Cox (1917-1996) 

Yvonne Dulcie Hasell Cox (1925-2015)

He was married on 7 June 1952 in Blantyre, Malawi to Jean Elizabeth Crane. They had no children. In 1962 he was living and working as Commissioner of Works in The Solomon Islands and then Fiji.  Gordon was awarded the OBE in January 1963.

He and Jean moved back to the UK and in 1968 Gordon worked as a Consultant on a new grain terminal in Liverpool.

He retired and lived in Yattendon (Berks) and then South Petherton (Somerset).

Gordon died on 11 May 2005 in South Petherton.


[1] 1st Airborne Division Officers web-site & the London Gazette

[2] 1st Parachute Squadron, RE War Diary. Officers Return. 1943

[3] Parachute Course Report. RAF Ringway. October 1942

[4] 1st Parachute Squadron, RE War Diary. October 1943

[5] 1st Parachute Squadron, RE War Diary. 1944 & 1945

Captured at Arnhem: From Railwayman to Paratrooper, Norman Hicks 

Created by R Hilton, James Thorne (nephew) and members of the Airborne Assault team


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Service History

OS Lt Cecil Gordon Cox

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