COX Robert

Robert COX 1919 – 1977

Family Details

Robert Cox was born 30 November 1919,[1] the son of John Wandless and Mabel Cox and brother to Doris, Douglas, Donald, Alice, Hilda, Jean, Verna and Jack. [2] In 1941, Robert married Doreen Anderson[3] and they had a daughter, Glynis, was born 10 January 1944.[4]

Service Details

 The service details of Robert Cox have not been researched.  All that is known from family sources is that he joined up at 17 years old, prior to the outbreak of WW2.  During the war, Robert served as CH/X1885 Corporal Robert Cox, 42 (Royal Marine) Commando.  In 1940, the commandos were initially raised from volunteers from the army which formed Independent Companies.  At this time these early commandos were all Army Commandos [12 Army Commando units]. In February 1942, the first Royal Marine Commando unit was raised.[5] Since he was a member of the RM commandos, it is assumed that he was already serving with the Marines when they asked for volunteers.

Summary of 42 [Royal Marine] Commando

42 [Royal Marine] Commando was raised in August 1943 under the command of Colonel R.C. de M. Leathes from the 1st Royal Marine Battalion as part of the expansion of the commandos when a further 6 RM Commando units were formed.  They were assigned to the 3rd Special Service Brigade and served in India and Burma between 1943 and 1945 including operations in Arakan and Assam.  It took part in the 3rd Arakan Campaign and carried out a series of amphibious landings down the Burmese coastline including landings at Myebon and the Battle of Hill 170.  It then returned to India to prepare for Operation Zipper, the invasion of British Malaya.  The war ended before the operation began and the command was diverted to reoccupy Hong Kong.[6]

A more detailed account is provided below: [7]

  • 1 August 1943: Formed as No. 42 Royal Marine Commando, Royal Marines.
  • 5 October: The unit attended the Commando Basic Training Centre at Achnacarry, Scotland.[8]
  • 11 November: To Gourock.
  • 15 November: Embarked HMT Ranchi for the Far East, accompanied by No.1 Commando and 75 Nursing Sisters. The ship was attacked by enemy aircraft from Rhodes and the ship was diverted to Alexandria for repairs.  Christmas was spent at Sidi Bishr, Egypt.  They then travelled from Port Tewfik to Bombay on board the ships Scynthia and City of London, arriving in Bombay 20 January 1944.  From there, onward by train to Kedgaon, then by road to Belgaum – Castle Rock for training.  Onto Cocanada then Nilaveli Camp, Trincomalee, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] before heading to Burma.
  • 3 October 1944: Embarked HMT Nevasa for Calcutta then proceeded by rail and river steamer to a transit camp in Chittagong where they remained for a week. Then onto Teknaf via LCI [Landing Craft Infantry] to relieve the 1st Ox and Bucks in the line at Maungdaw.
  • 2 January 1945: Embarked ships Napier and Nepal for Akyab.
  • 3 January: Unopposed landing with No.5 and 42 Commando being the first ashore.
  • 12 January: Embarked HM Indian ships Jumna and Narbada for the assault on the Myebon peninsula. From Myebon, the commando moved by LCA and LCM to Kangaw.
  • 31 January: The Battle for Hill 170.

The South East Asia Theatre of War

The war in Burma against the Japanese is still a half-forgotten war.  The men of the 14th Army refer to themselves as “The Forgotten Army”.  Their war was fought in the jungle, in demanding and unfamiliar terrain, a long way from home, against the savage, fanatical Japanese foe.  Nos. 5 and 44 [RM] Commandos arrived first and soon saw action in the Arakan, on the western coast of Burma, south of what is now called Bangladesh.  Nos 5 and 44 withdrew to Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] and were joined by Nos.1 and 42 Commandos.  The Brigade planned a series of raids along the west coast of Burma which began with a raid by a troop of 42[RM] Commando on Elizabeth Island in November 1944.[9]

November 1944: Action at Mayu Peninsula [10]

 9 November:  A small brigade HQ, 1 and 42 Commandoes came under the command of the 25th Indian Division and took over a section of the line south of Maungdaw.  Extensive patrolling operations were carried out.  During this period 2 raids were carried out, one on Elizabeth Island by 42 [RM] Commando and one on Ramree Island by 5 Commando.  The Elizabeth Island raid led to 10 Japanese killed for the loss of 1 Marine captured.  Colonel Peter Young commanded the operation:

“What casualties were inflicted, I can’t say, but the Marines returned without a prisoner and the withdrawal was complicated by the Eureka[11] breaking down…A gallant Indian seaman cleared the weed from the propeller and the craft came to life again.  Even so, we had to swim for it and it says much for the discipline of those Marines that not one of them lost his weapon.”

During the remainder of the month 1 and 42 carried out several more small patrols and raids along the coastal plain, while the 14th Army gradually jostled the Japanese south until by mid-December, they were in full retreat.[12]   Eight recce raids were also planned by the Brigade and carried out by the Special Boat Service who were under command at the time.  As a result of these operations, the following ranks in the Brigade were decorated:

  • 92411 Captain John Garner-Jones, 1 Commando awarded MC
  • 5884633 Gunner E.W. Rabbitt, 1 Commando awarded MM
  • 3133581 L/Sergeant J. Crowe, 1 Commando awarded MM
  • 6286823 Private L.C.R. Olver, 1 Commando awarded MM
  • Ex3182 Corporal Albert Smith, 42 Commando awarded Certificate of Gallantry
  • Ch/X 1885 Corporal Robert Cox, 42 Commando awarded Certificate of Gallantry

I have been unable to view the unit’s war diary which may give an account of the operation.  The following is family information:[13]

I spoke to my eldest brother yesterday.  He gave me some info on Uncle Robert when he was in the RM Commandos in Burma. He never spoke much about the reason he received the certificate of gallantry but our Malcolm once spoke to Uncle Jack about it (Uncle Robert’s brother) and he told him that Robert was in charge of a group of Gurkhas in Burma and they were trying to get off  the islands they were on before more Japanese landed, they used to take their uniforms off and wander into the dense forest while waiting to be picked up.  On one of these trips into the jungle one member was captured and Uncle Robert wouldn’t leave the island without him so they decided to help free him.  What entailed wasn’t discussed but  needless to say they ALL got off the island and it resulted in Uncle Robert being awarded a certificate/medal of gallantry.
I do remember when I was little Uncle Robert having a Japanese Officers sword on the wall of his house in Ramshaw and had forgotten all about it till my brother reminded me.  He also had a curved knife called a kukri that belonged to one of the Gurkhas.”

 In December 1944, 3rd Commando Brigade was ordered to take the island of Akyab.  Fortunately, the Japanese had vacated the island therefore they landed unopposed.  The next objective was the Myebon peninsula.

The Battle for Hill 170

12 January 1945: Japanese opposition was slight although a few men were lost to mines.  The major obstacle was the mud of the mangrove swamp as landing craft ran aground 400 yards from the beach.  Wading this distance took 3 hours.  Luckily, the Brigade was not under fire.  42 Commando entered the unoccupied village of Myebon.  The enemy were dug in on 3 hills to the north.  These were attacked with the support of tanks and the Japanese were driven off.  The next task was to advance to Kangaw which lay across from a series of swamps [chaungs] and were overlooked by a commanding feature, Hill 170.  Some reinforcements were received.  The objective was to cut the Japanese lines of communication for its 54th Division which was falling back along the Myohaung to Dalet road.  The Brigade landing craft took them up the Daingbong Chaung to land in front of Hill 170, a long ridge, 2 miles from Kangaw. No.1 Commando took the lower slopes before being held up by enemy fire.  42 Commando took the neck of land between the chaung and Hill 170, 44 Commando advanced to pass Hill 170 on a far hill but were shelled heavily during the night and lost about 60 men.  44 was relieved by an Indian battalion.

18 January, 42 and 5 Commando joined No.1 on Hill 170.  The Japanese kept the hill and the chaung to the rear under heavy shellfire for the next 10 days.

31 January, at 0600, a major attack was launched by artillery bombardment and infantry assault.  At 2000, a mortar opened up then artillery then the Japs swarmed in with grenades and machine gun fire but they were beaten off.   There were 26 killed and 44 wounded.[14]

Colonel Peter Young, who fought throughout the war to gain the DSO, the MC and 2 bars, recalls the Battle of Kangaw as the fiercest of his experience:[15]

“I was deeply impressed with the murderous onslaught of the Japanese and the staunchness of the men of 4 Troop, No.1 who held the key position.  After a heavy opening bombardment, the Japanese sent in strong infantry attacks which fell directly on 4 Troop of 1 Commando and eventually overran them.  Counter attacks by 42 and 1 Commando failed to retake this troop position at first but 2 troops of 5 Commando finally retook 4 Troop’s position in late afternoon.”

Lt. George Knowland, A Troop, 1 Commando with less than 40 men, beat off attacks by 300 Japanese infantry, supported by machine guns and artillery, and continued to fight on, encouraging his ever depleting force, until he was shot down.  For his gallantry on Hill 170, Lt. Knowland was awarded a posthumous VC.[16]  A Troop’s stout defence prevented the Japanese from penetrating the Brigade line but they remained in possession of the hill.  Repeated attacks by 1 and 42 Commando could not dislodge them.

1 February: The Japanese put in assault after assault, fighting was hand to hand and the fight for Hill 170 raged all day.  As night fell, both sides were clinging onto their patch of the hill.  That night the Japanese withdrew.  As 5 Commando advanced to relieve the hard pressed 1 Commando, they found over 400 Japanese dead lying in an area of less than 100 yards square.  The Commando units lost 45 dead and 90 wounded in the 10-day fight for Kangaw.

General Sir Philip Christison, GOC XVth Indian Corps of which 3 Brigade formed part, issued a Special Order of the Day:

“The battle of Kangaw has been the decisive battle of the Arakan campaign.  It was won due very largely to the magnificent courage of 3 Commando Brigade on Hill 170.”

3 Commando Brigade withdrew from the Arakan and were preparing for Operation Zipper, the invasion of Malaya, when the war ended in August 1945.[17]

CH/X1885 Corporal Robert Cox, 42 (Royal Marine) Commando received the 1939-45 Star, the 1939-45 War Medal and the Burma Star.  He was also awarded a “Certificate of Gallantry” dated 18 January 1945 from Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia.

The Commando Memorial in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey is a small monument, the simple statue of a Commando soldier but the quotation upon it, from the Second Book of Samuel, speaks for all wartime Commandos, Army or Royal Marine:

“They performed whatsoever the King commanded.” [18]

Post War

Robert Cox died 27 April 1977 aged 57 at the St. John of God Hospital, Scorton, North Yorks. [19]


Cpl. Robert COX


[1] Family information & England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.641 1920Q1 Auckland

[2] Family information

[3] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.593 1941Q3 Durham Western

[4] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.325 1944Q1 Durham Western





[9] “By Land and Sea: The Story of the Royal Marine Commandos” 2004 Robin Neillands p.214-217


[11] Eureka was a type of landing craft used at Dieppe

[12] Neillands p.217

[13] Email from Aline Waites dated 15 May 2020

[14] Neillands p.221

[15] Neillands p.223

[16] Neillands p.224

[17] Neillands p.225

[18] Neillands p.226

[19] Family information & England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.2 p.2170 1977Q2 Richmond, Yorkshire North Riding