May 27, 1917. Ypres. Belgium.
Edward ‘Ted” Cox, a 34 year old schoolteacher from Roscommon is ordered over the top to rescue a wounded officer near Vandenberghe Farm.
He never returns.
His heroic, but doomed, efforts are recognised after the war when the family of the officer called on Ted’s widow, Lily and her three young children, Una (three), Gerard (four) and Maureen (five) to thank them.
Edward Cox was born in Roscommon on May 17 1883. He was one of 13 children, born to Mary nee Nesbitt and John Cox who were married in around 1879.
Mary died giving birth to her last child who didn’t survive.
Edward, known as Ted, trained, with his brother James, to be a teacher.
They both taught at St Patrick’s School in Oldham, Lancashire. And there, in Blackburn, Ted married Lily Shannon on August 10, 1910.
They lived initially on Consiton Road in Blackburn but moved to a larger house at Whalley Grange when the children were born.
Edward, who was known as Ted, and his brother Jim were both conscripted into the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers after the outbreak of World War I, but both later joined the Dublin Fusiliers
Ted went to the front probably no earlier than autumn of 1916.
What happened three months later, well, we don’t know for sure.
British Army logs at the time, record some of the events in which his regiment, the 2nd Battalion Dublin Fusiliers was involved at the time.
He was a reluctant soldier. Indeed, he was a reluctant teacher, having decided, it seems to study instead to become a dentist.
He had, shortly before leaving for the war, managed to extract a painful tooth for his wife’s sister Kathleen.
He missed his family. And despite the primitive communications of the times, he managed to get letters home from the trenches and we are lucky that a few survive.
In February he had written:
“Darling Lily I’m sorry I couldn’t get my letter posted yesterday as I missed the Post Corporal. The course we’ve been on was simply a musketry course the same as we had at Dollymount, all the men go in their turns, so you see, you had nothing to worry about.
“Little Maureen is a brick to keep at school during the cold days. I do hope she gets no cold. Tell her daddy always thinks of herself, Gerard and Una.
“Now, darling, do keep up heart, don’t worry as I do hope to keep alright and am looking forward to our reunion in the near future.
“Give my fondest love to all at home and oceans of love and kisses to self and our little (this word is obscured in the letter but probably refers to the children.)
“I am glad you are sending me a watch as I am absolutely lost for the time.
“I am, darling Lily,
“Ever your own
When Ted was killed, his three children were babies. The tragedy didn’t end there.
Sadly, their mother too died young. She was just 38 when she passed away on March 10 in 1924.
It was her sister Kathleen, helped by another sister Aggie and her husband Alex, who had also fought in the war, who raised the children.
Despite the horror of the war Ted Cox was a hopeful man.
And we know this from the letter he sent from the trenches to his brother, who was also at the front.
He finished the letter with these words:
“Best wishes Jim. May God protect and keep you.
“I am, dear old Jim,
“Your fond brother Ted.”
It was dated May 26th 1917, the last day of his life.