RQMS George Alfred Fox
Unit : Battalion Headquarters, 12th Parachute Battalion.
Army No. : 4386637
Awards : Member of the British Empire, Mentioned-in-Despatches.
George Fox was born on the 1st June 1911, at 102 Sheriff Street, West Hartlepool, County Durham in the Parish of St Paul's. His parents were John Thomas Fox and Amy Fox (nee Picken), formerly of Haverton Hill in County Durham. George worked as a labourer, and on the 18th November 1929, then aged 18 years and 5 months, he enlisted in The Green Howards at Middlesborough, signing for seven years service as a Regular soldier and five years with the Reserves. His older brother, William, was then serving in The Duke of Wellington's Regiment.
George was posted to the 1st Battalion in the South of England, and, at Wellington Barracks, he participated in the guarding of Buckingham Palace from the 8th August to 1st September 1930, and, at Aldershot, from 1931 to 1934, took part in the Alma Day parades. In December 1931, Fox attended the 37th Preliminary Course of Physical Training of Aldershot Command, and as he acquired some sporting trophies it is possible that he boxed for the Battalion. On the 29th July 1931, he married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Harrison, at All Saint's Church, Preston-on-Tees, Eaglescliffe, and they had a daughter on the 30th June 1935, Edith Patricia.
Fox was discharged from Regular Army Service on the 23rd April 1936, having acquired the rank of Lance-Sergeant. His military conduct was recorded as exemplary, and his Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H. S. Kreyer wrote, "A very good type of man. Cheerful, very smart and energetic. He is thoroughly reliable and has a good manner. I can recommend him for any position of trust."
Fox worked for an engineering firm but was recalled to the Colours on the 15th August 1939. Due to his considerable experience, he was posted to the 303rd Infantry Training Centre as an instructor, and he found himself very happy to be back in uniform once again as civilian life had not been to his taste. On the 13th August 1941, Fox was promoted to the rank of Colour Sergeant and posted to the 10th Battalion The Green Howards as Company Quartermaster Sergeant. In June 1943, the Battalion was converted into the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion; Fox survived the weeding-out process and was promoted to Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. It was not necessary for him to become a qualified parachutist as it was his role to accompany the Land Element, bringing in additional stores via the ground route, nevertheless he attended parachute course No.84 on the 20th September 1943, after the larger part of the 12th Battalion had completed their training. Unfortunately it was discovered during ground training that he was suffering from sciatica, and he was subsequently removed from the course.
On the 6th June 1944, RQMS Fox arrived on the Normandy beaches with the 6th Airborne Division's Seaborne Echelon, and served with the 12th Battalion throughout the campaign. He subsequently participated in the Ardennes campaign and was stationed in North-West Europe from the 24th December 1944 to 22nd February 1945. He was Mentioned in Despatches, and on the 1st February it was announced in the London Gazette that he had been awarded an MBE for his conduct in Normandy:
After the Battalion had had heavy casualties at Breville on the night 12th/13th June 1944, R.Q.M.S. Fox arrived soon after the position was taken and on his own initiative brought up hot tea, ammunition and drinking water for very tired men despite the fact that a counter-attack was probably imminent. His efficiency and cheerfulness at a time when the Battalion was expecting a counter-attack was an example to all and had a steadying effect. When the Battalion withdrew to refit it was R.Q.M.S. Fox's efforts on re-equipping the Battalion which enabled the Battalion to be ready again for action, fully armed and equipped twenty-four hours afterwards. R.Q.M.S. Fox has been acting as Quartermaster of the Battalion since 15th June 1944, a post which he has carried out with extreme success. His organising powers have been of immense value in reorganising the Battalion.
R.Q.M.S. Fox has exceptional organising ability and throughout the operations has been one of the main stays of the Battalion. His thoroughness and devotion to duty have been remarkable. He has taken endless pains to see that the administration of the Battalion has been of the highest order. Nothing has been too much trouble to provide for the troops in the front line, with the result that the task of re-organising the Battalion has been facilitated. His cheerfulness, thoroughness and devotion to duty have at all times been exceptional.
He has been consistently brave under fire.
Fox took part in the Rhine Crossing on the 24th March 1945, flying in one of the eight Horsa gliders (chalk numbers 424-435) attached to the 5th Parachute Brigade for the operation, towed by Stirlings of No.38 Group and flown by "D" Squadron The Glider Pilot Regiment from Shepherd's Grove. RQMS Fox was killed on DZ-B as his glider came in to land. He is buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, plot 42.A.7.
On the 29th October 1946, his wife and daughter were presented with his MBE from Buckingham Palace, "in order that you, as next of kin, may receive from the King the Insignia of a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire awarded to your Husband, the late Regimental Quarter-Master Sergeant George Alfred Fox, M.B.E., Army Air Corps." Two third class train tickets were forwarded for his wife and daughter to travel to the capital.
George was still a young man, just two months away from his 34th birthday, only six weeks away from the end of the Second World War. He loved being a soldier, the Army was his career and he was at the peak of that career. A tragic loss, only one among thousands, but sadly missed nonetheless. His medals, a couple of boxing prizes, and a small number of photographs which Patricia now proudly own, are all that is left of this once mighty soldier. May he forever rest in peace on the foreign soil in which he is buried.
My thanks to Carol Fox and Bob Hilton for this account.
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