Private Charles Edwin Fox

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte C E Fox
12th (Prince of Wales’s Royal) Lancers, Household Cavalry & Cavalry of the Line (inc. Yeomanry & imperial Camel Corps)
GS/16098
Killed in action, 10.4.1917
Age, 21

Charles Edwin Fox was one of the eleven surviving children born to James Charles Fox, a self-employed fishmonger and his wife Emma Elizabeth (nee Bryant). James Charles hailed from Strood in Kent and his wife from London. Their son, Charles was born in the last quarter of 1897; his birth was registered in West Ham, Essex. In 1901 the family lived at 130, Chelmsford Road in Walthamstow and by 1911 they had moved to 18, Ravenswood Road, still in Walthamstow. Charles was at school and in addition to his parents shared his home with four siblings: Winnifred (27), Sarah (19), Richard (17) and Horace (5). At some point after the 1911 Census either Charles alone or the whole family moved to Weybridge as details of his death list Weybridge as his place of residence. The 1921 Surrey Electoral Register records a James and Emma Fox living on Monument Hill; they may well have been Charles’ parents.

He enlisted in Weybridge. He did not receive the 1914-15 Star campaign medal which means that he did not fight against the Germans during those years. Charles joined a cavalry battalion, the 12th (Prince of Wales) Royal Lancers. They were one of the earliest British entrants into the war, arriving at Le Havre on 18 August 1914. The 12th Lancers fought the last mounted action in their long history ten days later. The nature of warfare had changed: cavalry could not compete with barbed wire and machine guns. Thereafter, apart from a few incidences in the later stages of the war fighting was done as dismounted troops with their horses giving them added mobility; there was hope that they would come into their own again once the ‘big breakthrough’ had been achieved. Their arrival in support of infantry was often a boost to morale.

By New Year’s Day 1917 Charles and his comrades were based at Auchy-les-Hesdin, 50 km from Arras, where they remained for the first three months of the year. The winter weather was terrible: heavy snow falls and severe frosts leading to hazardous conditions. The 12th Lancers spent their time attending lectures, riding when possible, engaging in light machine gun practice and, of course, caring for their horses. On 5 April they were ordered to move – they were about to be involved in the Arras Offensive. The Lancers arrived at Arras at 4.30pm on 9 April following a successful infantry attack. However, the attack had stalled so Charles’ unit returned to Wailly (6.4 km SW of Arras), arriving at 3.30am. Men and horses spent what remained of the night in an open field and awoke covered in snow. They remained in camp until 12.30pm on 10 April. Then they moved forward to Wancourt (8 km SE of Arras) through heavy snow, a light German barrage and poor visibility. Their Brigade formed up in front of the old German third line which the infantry had taken that morning. When the snow cleared at about 6pm they were visible to the Germans who shelled them for about fifteen minutes. One officer and twelve men were wounded and Charles and one other man were killed.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Bay 1), one of almost 35,000 Allied servicemen. Huge gains were made during the Arras Offensive but the inability to follow up quickly meant that the ‘big breakthrough’ did not happen.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
Patrick Hopkins Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – The Lancers, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1918, www.ancestry.co.uk

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