RIFLEMAN CHARLES GEORGE COX
4TH OCTOBER 1918 AGE 28
BURIED: TINCOURT NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE
Whilst pre-twentieth century poets dominate the authors quoted in personal inscriptions, with Shakespeare and Tennyson taking the lead in what is admittedly my very unscientific analysis based on impression rather than statistics, Rupert Brooke and John Oxenham are the most popular of the twentieth-century. Neither of their reputations have survived very well but Brooke is definitely better known than Oxenham who few people have heard of these days.
Charles Cox's mother chose his inscription. It comes from Brooke's The Dead in which the poet claimed that by dying, by being prepared to sacrifice themselves, the dead have "made us rarer gifts than gold": the restoration of the high, moral qualities that mankind seemed to have lost before 1914. But now, thanks to them, "nobleness walks in our ways again; and we have come into our heritage".
It's a deeply traditional, romantic and heroic view of war, and of fighting and dying for your country, which has helped Brooke's reputation slide to its current lowly state. But that is how many people felt then. It is however arguable that Brooke, who was an intelligent and sensitive man, wouldn't have continued to feel like this, or write like this, had he lived. As it was he died on 23 April 1915.
Brooke might have changed his view but by the end of the war it was still that of many next-of-kin, like Mrs Cox; it brought them comfort.
Charles Cox, born and brought up in Newport, Monmouthshire, served with the 1st Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment. He died of wounds on 4 October 1918. The battalion were in action on the 3rd, he could have been wounded then, or on the 4th itself when the war diary recorded:
"Orders received for "C" Coy to dispatch a strong patrol (1 platoon) at 6.30 am as far into Montbrehain as possible, under cover of our bombardment. Patrol moved off at 6.30 am but was driven back by concentrated M.G. fire from front and both flanks. Only 3 returned unwounded. The remainder of the day was comparatively quiet with the exception of enemy shelling & MG fire ... "
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, that dying has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.