Flight Sergeant Charles WH Cox MM

  • Military Medal medal
  • Africa Star medal
  • Italy Star medal

Charles William Hall Cox was born on 3 Sept 1913 in Cambridgeshire.

He joined the Royal Air Force and became a specialist in the newly invented Radar and served in coastal units during The Battle of Britain.

It was due this skill that he was summoned to the Air Ministry on 1 Feb 1942. Here he met Air Commodore Victor Tait, Director of Radar, who said to Cox "So you've volunteered for a dangerous mission", to which a surprised Cox simply replied, "No Sir". However, Tait persuaded him that he had actually 'volunteered' and told Cox "I can't tell you what it is but you'll have a pretty good chance of survival".

He was then sent to C Company 2nd Parachute Battalion and attended a short parachute course. There then followed intensive training as the mission for which Cox had 'volunteered' was a daring raid on the French coast to seize components of a German Wurzburg radar, codenamed Operation Biting. On 27 Feb 1942, and equipped with a tool bag, Flt Sgt Cox boarded a Whitley bomber and en-route to Bruneval and the drop zone sang operetta to the others on board.

Professor Jones - the renowned physicist and intelligence expert - attempted to protect Cox should he be captured by allowing him to wear army uniform but the army refused and Cox parachuted into occupied France in his RAF blue uniform – complete with shirt and tie – under his parachutists smock. It was considered of paramount importance that Cox not fall into enemy hands and he was given a bodyguard for the operation. Little did Cox know that the bodyguard was actually there to despatch Cox in the event of capture, so secret was a Radar specialists knowledge.

Cox was tasked with the critical job of identifying and removing the parts which were essential to identifying how the radar worked, a task that would normally take hours of methodical work but he was expected to complete in minutes while under heavy German fire.

After landing it was found the majority of tools had been lost or unsuitable, which left Cox with only the screwdriver he had carried with him and then a variety of metal cutters and crowbars to complete the 'delicate work'! With the equipment secured, and under fire, Cox and the party made their way to the beach and after a tense wait were relieved to see the Royal Navy. Cox was seasick on the way home, but later managed a bully beef sandwich before falling asleep in the skipper's bunk of a motor gunboat.

Flight Sergeant Cox was recommended for a Mention in Despatches by the Army but the Royal Air Force recommended him for a Military Medal (MM)

His citation reads:

Cox/Charles William Hall Flight Sergeant 955754 Royal Air Force LG 15/05/1942

This NCO volunteered to carry out a hazardous task in the parachute raid on Bruneval on the night of 27/28 February 1942. The success of the operation on the technical side depended largely on the performance of the duty allotted to him. After being dropped by parachute, Flight Sergeant Cox had only a few minutes to complete a task which had previously been estimated to require half an hour, and during this time he continuously under enemy fire. He displayed great courage, skill and devotion to duty in completing his task in spite of these difficulties, thereby contributing greatly to the successful execution of the raid.

Following a successful return from Bruneval he went into a tailors shop to purchase an MM ribbon for his RAF uniform.  The shop assistant noticed his RAF uniform and remarked on the MM being an Army award so "what had he been up to?".  Cox replied modestly "Not much". He then served in Africa and Italy working with radar units. 

Following the war he started a small electrical shop in Little Church Street, Wisbech where he would use the same screwdriver he used at Bruneval. He married twice and had a son and daughter, before being survived by his second wife. His MM was donated to the Airborne Forces Museum and is on display at Duxford.

Charles Cox died in November 1997 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

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