Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Loved in life, mourned in silence"

Baptismal Font at St Begh's R.C. Church, Whitehaven
(Joseph Fox & his siblings were baptised in this font)

Private Joseph (Joe) Fox, The Border Regiment served with the 5th, 7th and 4th Regiments between 1939 and 1942. In 1942 Private Fox, who came originally from Whitehaven, was in India with the 4th Battalion when he contracted an undiagnosed fever. He passed away on 5 July 1942 and was laid to rest in Ranchi War Cemetery.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Private Joseph Fox, Border Regiment

Private Joseph Fox served with the Border Regiment during WW2, Service No 3600210. In the spring of 1939, when war with Germany looking increasingly likely, the county Territorial Battalions were doubled in strength. The Territorial Battalion for West Cumberland was 5th Border, and it was to this Battalion that Joe Fox enlisted on 16 May 1939. A summer camp was arranged at Halton near Lancaster for this enlarged 5th Battalion of the Border Regiment. They were still at camp when war was declared on 3 September 1939 and the Battalion was reorganised into two separate Battalions: the 5th and the 7th. Generally speaking, the more experienced men remained with 5th Border and eventually went overseas as a battalion. On the other hand, many of the newer, and therefore less experienced army recruits, were initially assigned to the 7th Border, a 'duplicate battalion' of the 5th.

Although the 7th Battalion never saw overseas service as a unit in WW2, throughout the war it continually supplied men for other battalions or other regiments. By the summer of 1942 Private Joseph Fox was serving in India with the 4th Battalion The Border Regiment, which formed part of the 70th Division. They had been sent there to counteract the Japanese Imperial Forces threatening an invasion of India. At that time there was a lot of sickness among the troops, and regimental records show that Private Joseph Fox died on 5 July 1942 of "Fever NYD" (Not yet diagnosed). His death was not reported in ‘The Whitehaven News’ (the local weekly newspaper for his home area). However, on the anniversary of Private Fox's death in 1943, and for some years afterwards, his family placed a notice in the ‘In Memoriam’ column of 'The Whitehaven News'. One of these, from 1949, has been transcribed below.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, Private Joseph Fox was laid to rest in Ranchi War Cemetery, India (Grave Reference 5.C.1). The cemetery had begun to be used only in June 1942 so Private Fox would have been one of the first to be buried there. The CWGC gives Private Joseph Fox's age as 22, although he was in fact 23 years of age (born 21 January 1919).

In 1947, the then Borough of Whitehaven collected names for a ‘Book of Remembrance’ for those townsfolk who had died in WW2. This was not finally produced until 1953. Although the name of Private Joseph Fox should rightly be listed in this ‘Book of Remembrance’ it is missing. The probable reason is that in 1947 one of his brothers, Tommy Fox died in the William Pit explosion at Whitehaven and so the name of Joseph Fox was never submitted to the council.

Some years later, Private Joseph Fox was missed off the St Begh’s Memorial for Catholics from Whitehaven who died in WW2. The names from this Memorial were collected in the late 1990s, by which time there were no close relatives left in the town to put forward Joseph Fox’s name for inclusion on the church memorial. He is, however, listed in the Border Regiment Book of Remembrance, which can be seen in the Regimental Chapel in Carlisle Cathedral.

Sunday, 11 September, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(2) Family background

Private Joseph Fox was the eldest son of Samuel Fox and Ann Fox (nee Keenan). This is the family background.

In 1918 Samuel Fox ('Sam'), son of Joseph Fox and Jane Fox (née English) was married to Ann Keenan ('Annie'), daughter of Mary Keenan, in a civil wedding. Presumably this was because Sam's family and Annie's family belonged to different Christian denominations (one was a Protestant, one was a Catholic). Notwithstanding these different religious convictions Sam and Annie's eldest son, Joseph, was born in January 1919 and a few days later he was baptised in the Roman Catholic faith (see below).

Sam Fox was a miner and belonged to an extended family from the Newhouses estate: rows of dwellings built in the late 1700s to house the families who worked in Lord Lonsdale's Whitehaven coal mines. After their 1918 marriage, Sam and Annie Fox lived at 44 Back Row, Newhouses.

Then, on 20 May 1920, Sam and Annie Fox had religious wedding, which meant they were married according to the rites of the Roman Catholic faith. The records show that the marriage was one of mixed religion. Father Simon Benedict Finch O.S.B., Parish Priest at St Begh's R.C. Church, Whitehaven, performed the ceremony. The witnesses were William Burney and Sara Ann Burney of 36 Front Row, Newhouses, Whitehaven.

Sam and Annie Fox had three children (all boys). They were all baptised a few days after their birth at St Begh's Church. This would have been in the baptismal font seen in the above photograph.

The three children were as follows:

1. Joseph Fox:
Born 21.01.1919
Baptised 29.01.1919
Sponsor (Godparent): Sara Ann Burney

2. Thomas Fox
Born: 22.09.1922
Baptised: 27.09.1922
Sponsor (Godparent): Sara Elizabeth Emerson

3. William Fox
Born: 06.12.1924
Baptised: 10.12.1924
Sponsor (Godparent): Sara Burney

Many people knew Joseph Fox as 'Joe', Thomas Fox as 'Tommy' and William Fox as either 'Bill' or his nickname of 'Fang'. At that time, very often there were several members of an extended family living in the same community with the same, or similar, first names. Consequently, nicknames were often assigned to identify the particular individual being referred to.

During WW2 Tommy Fox, the second son, worked as a coal miner at the William Pit, Whitehaven. In June 1941 Tommy Fox was working underground at the William Pit when there was an explosion. As a result of this explosion twelve miners lost their lives, with several others being seriously injured. Tommy Fox was one of those who survived the serious injuries he sustained as the result of an explosion. A little over six years later, on 15 August 1947, Tommy Fox was again caught up in yet another explosion at William Pit. It was an even greater tragedy than the one on 3 June 1941. A total of 104 miners lost their lives in the 1947 explosion. Tragically, this time Tommy Fox was one of those who died.

Sunday, 11 September, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(3) Thomas Fox, William Pit miner

Thomas Fox (usually known by his friends as Tommy) worked as a coal miner at William Pit, Whitehaven. Many of those he worked with were his close friends. In 1940 I understand Tommy Fox joined the L.D.V., later to be known as the Home Guard, part of the William Pit Platoon (‘E Company’). Local Home Guard soldiers were entitled to wear the Border Regiment cap badge, although they were not issued with a service number. At the time of writing this article there are few actual records available listing the Home Guard personnel in the Whitehaven area. With mining being a reserved occupation in wartime, Tommy Fox was therefore not called up to the Forces during WW2.

On 3 June 1941, Tommy Fox was working on the afternoon shift at William Pit, Whitehaven with one of his close pals, John Peter Burney the son of John Burney MM and Alice Burney (née Killen). At that time Tommy Fox was 18 years old. It was on this afternoon or ‘Back Shift’ that there was an explosion at William Pit that resulted in 12 deaths and serious injuries to several other miners. One of those who died was Tommy’s pal John P. Burney. Tommy Fox and several others working in the same vicinity at the time were among those seriously injured.

After the explosion, which had happened as the result of spontaneous combustion, John Burney and Tommy Fox had been making their way out of the mine towards safety. But in the confusion they had become separated. At the subsequent inquest about the explosion, Tommy Fox’s testimony and actions were singled out for the highest praise. While he was in hospital recovering from his injuries, Tommy Fox was visited by many of his friends and family, including a number of pals who were serving in the Armed Forces but who were back home on leave.

The Home Guard was ‘stood down’ in 1944. After the war, Tommy Fox continued working at the William Pit. Among those Tommy counted among his close friends at this time were some who had returned home after having served in the Armed Forces. One of these was Richard Cartmell, from the Greenbank estate, who had joined the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment in February 1939, only a few weeks before Tommy’s brother Joe Fox. On Friday 15 August 1947, also on the afternoon shift, there was yet another explosion at the William Pit, this time resulting in 104 deaths, including Tommy Fox and Richard Cartmell.

The 15 August explosion took place at approximately 5.40 pm. With more than 100 men trapped down the pit rescue parties were sent for more or less immediately. From what I have heard, Tommy Fox should have been on the first (morning) shift that day, but had swapped shifts with someone else. However, this was not known when men were volunteers were being sought to form rescue parties at the pit. As Tommy Fox was known to have the knowledge and experience of how to get out of a mine following an explosion, he was one of the first to be sent for to help the rescue parties. It was only when they arrived at Tommy's house did they realise he was actually one of those trapped down the mine.

This time Tommy Fox was not to make it. He was brought out of the mine on 17 August 1947 His brother, Bill ('Fang') Fox had the dreadful task of formally identifying his brother. Tommy Fox was still only 24 years old. He was laid to rest in Whitehaven Cemetery on 21 August 1947 (Grave Reference 6 / N / 41). His funeral ceremony was conducted by Father A. Cyril Wackrill O.S.B., an assistant priest at St Begh's Church.

Sunday, 11 September, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(4) Loved in life, mourned in silence

In August 1949, Joe and Tommy Fox's family placed the following Memoriam in 'The Whitehaven News':

"FOX - In loving memory of our dear sons, Thomas, lost his life in William Pit disaster, August 15, 1947; also his brother Joseph, died in India, July 6, 1942.

We loved them in life,
They are dear to us still,
But, in grief we must bend
To God's holy will.
We suffer and mourn them
In silence unseen,
And dwell on sweet memories
Of days that have been.
Immaculate Mary, pray for them.

Remembered by their loving Father, Mother and Brother, 29 Bowness Road, Greenbank; also Vincent and Mary".

There is no headstone or Memorial Vase marking the grave of Thomas Fox in Whitehaven Cemetery. At one time it is believed there was a memorial vase which now appears to be lost. As referred to above, Joseph Fox's name does not appear in the WW2 'Book of Remembrance' for his home town of Whitehaven. However, Tommy Fox is remembered in the 'Book of Remembrance' of Whitehaven area miners who lost their lives working in the mines. That, at least, is something to be grateful for.

Dedicated to Joe and Tommy Fox:

"Loved in life and mourned in silence" by their family and friends.

Hopefully their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

May all the family rest in peace.


Mr Tony Goddard, Assistant Curator at the Border Regiment and KORBR Museum, Carlisle.

Cumbria County Archives & Library Service, Whitehaven.

Mrs Maud Smith, Parish Secretary, St Begh's R.C. Church, Whitehaven

Mr James Rogan and Mr John McCrickett, Whitehaven (friends of the Fox family).

Sunday, 11 September, 2011  

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