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CHRISTOPHER COX: The story of Kings Langley’s greatest ever war hero

 Published on: 17th March 2024   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

In November 2009, Kings Langley was twinned with a small commune named Achiet-le-Grand, located in the north of France.

You may be wondering what this small farming hamlet and our own village have in common. The answer is down to the bravery and courage of one man, who has entwined these two places forever in history. His name was Christopher Augustus Cox.

Christopher was born in Kings Langley on Christmas Day 1889, and up until the age of 24, he lived a relatively unremarkable life, working as a farm labourer.

In 1912, he married Maud Swan and the couple had one son together.

Everything changed when the First World War broke out in July 1914. Despite having a young child and wife at home, Christopher volunteered for duty that September, becoming one of the many men who answered Lord Kitchener’s call to arms.

Christopher joined the 7th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment as a private and stretcher bearer, and arrived in France in July 1915. He saw two years of action and was wounded on the opening day of the infamous Battle of the Somme. It was also during this time that he did something utterly extraordinary.

On March 13, 1917, in a battlefield close to Achiet-le-Grand, Christopher and his battalion were on the attack when they were suddenly hit with heavy artillery and machine gun fire, forcing everyone to take cover in shell holes.

As a stretcher bearer, Christopher, with no regard for his own safety, went out into the hail of bullets and bombs and did his duty, single-handedly rescuing and saving the lives of four wounded men.

When he had finished collecting the injured from his own battalion, he then aided in bringing in the wounded from the adjoining group. He continued his work for the next two days.

Christopher was awarded the Victoria Cross – regarded as the highest honour in the British honours system – for this outstanding act of valour and courage.

He was presented with his medal by King George V on July 21, 1917, having been sent back to England after he was seriously wounded in his foot in May. For the remainder of the war, he helped train new recruits.

After the war ended, Christopher refused the offer of a commission, preferring instead to return to his home in Kings Langley and work as a builder. He was later employed at the nearby Ovaltine factory.

Christopher would go on to have a happy life, with his family expanding to include eight children and 14 grandchildren. During the Second World War, he joined the area’s Home Guard. He died at the age of 69 on March 28, 1959.

Christopher is buried in the grounds of Kings Langley Cemetery and there are memorials to him in both his home village and in the French commune where he performed his incredible acts of bravery.

In 2009, Kings Langley and Achiet-le-Grand were twinned in Christopher’s honour, and in 2017, the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association funded the restoration of a plaque dedicated to him.

Photo Credits: VCGC Association/No Swan No Fine

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