Sergeant John James Cox

John James Cox was a Londoner who lived most of his life as a soldier. He was born into the Grenadier Guards at Chelsea Barracks, being the son of Private John Cox of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, and his wife Caroline, on 7 Oct 1874. His baptismal certificate is reproduced below. He was baptised at St Barnabas Church, Pimlico. As was the case with many sons of soldiers, he grew up in a barrack environment, educated at the Duke of York’s School (from the age of 11), and was recruited into the 3rd Battalion at an early age. In October 1888, at the age of 14 he became a drummer in the Corp of Drums. He was also a talented footballer and represented the Army, also playing for Fulham FC for a while. 

The coloured photo shows him as a sergeant wearing the dress tunic of the Grenadiers Corp of Drums. He has medals for the South African War in which the 3rd Battalion served in the 1st Guards Brigade. The Queen’s medal has clasps for BELMONT, MODDER RIVER and DRIEFONTEIN and the King’s medal has clasps for SOUTH AFRICA 1901 and SOUTH AFRICA 1902. He reached the rank of sergeant and can be seen seated on the extreme left of the front row of a group photo of the Corps of Drums 1904. He retired from the Grenadier Guards in October 1909, after being presented with a watch by the Sergeant’s Mess (see below) and the Meritorious Service Medal. He was then appointed Gate Porter at the Bethlem Royal Hospital (the famous Bedlam mental asylum, now the Imperial War Museum). He lived with his wife in the porter’s lodge there. But when war broke out in 1914 he joined the 12th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and was the Sergeant-Drummer, as the Drum-Major used to be called, of their Corp of Drums. He went to the Western Front and was wounded at Loos, causing him to partially lose the use of his arm. 

He and his wife had four children, living at 22 Walden House, Pimlico Road. He loved to walk briskly beside the Grenadier Guards as they marched to the Palace. But for the last 5 years of his life he suffered bad health and had serious operations at Westminster Hospital where he was regarded as ‘something of a marvel’ because of the speed he recovered at such an advanced age. He succumbed to the Great Smog of 1952 and died on 15 Dec 1952 at the age of 78. ‘Drummie’ Cox was buried with military honours at the Grenadier Guards Enclosure, Brompton Cemetery and an obituary was published in the local paper.

We are grateful to Mark Wilcox, grandson of John James Cox, for all the information and photos.

Gate Porter of Bethlem Royal Hospital

This full length photo of John James Cox c1910 shows him in the uniform of the Gate Porter of Bethlem Royal Hospital. His two medals for the South African War have been joined by a third, the Meritorious Service Medal which at this stage had a crimson ribbon (later, crimson with white edges).

Sergeant John James Cox' Birth Certificate

Sergeant John James Cox' Presentation Watch

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by Stephen Luscombe