Ronald Edwin Cox
Ronald was born in Bath in July 1918 to Oliver and Catherine Cox. When he was six years old his younger brother Lesley was born. Ronald did well at Primary school and won a place at the City of Bath Boy’s Grammar School where he was very happy, particularly enjoying playing sports and he was in the Hockey, Cricket and Football teams. Ronald spoke of the great fun he had as a boy in the Boy Scouts and later in the Rovers, especially when they would go to camp in the valley above the sea at Branscombe in Devon.
When he left school he started a seven year Printer’s apprenticeship with the famous Pitman Press in Bath. At the age of eighteen he met an attractive seventeen year old girl called Kathleen who was sitting on a wall with her friend watching his cricket match – and so began a special 70 year long friendship and Ronald and Kathleen’s 67 years of married life together. They shared the enjoyment of long walks in the countryside around Bath and attended church there together.
Like most of his generation, the pattern of his life was abruptly altered at the onset of the Second World War when Ronald and many of his school friends joined the Somerset Light Infantry. He was sent to various places including Northern Ireland, Essex and the Kent coast and he told amusing stories of being kept busy amongst other things, keeping the Germans guessing with mock coastal defences and fires lit about the countryside to convince German bombers they had hit their targets.
During the German retaliatory Baedeker raids on the City of Bath in 1942, Ronald lost both his parents who were still quite young, when they were killed together one night during a bad bombing raid, though miraculously his younger brother was saved.
On June 6th 1944 Ronald and his school mates boarded the landing craft which were to transport them across the 60 miles of Channel to Normandy and the D Day battles on the invasion beaches and beyond. The D Day landing on Arromanche beach robbed him one by one of his school friends until only he and one friend in his Infantry remained alive. They continued towards Caen until they reached Hill 112 overlooking Caen and after days and nights of dreadful battle his friend died beside him and then Ronald was severely injured. A long period of recovery ensued but he eventually returned home from the Army to civilian life again with Kathleen and his little son Michael in Bath in March 1946, but unsurprisingly he found it impossible to settle back to life at Pitman’s in Bath again. Throughout his life he never talked of the dreadful experience of losing his parents or the battles in Normandy and he preferred not to look back at all – but he quietly revisited Hill112 and the graves of his friends nearby quite recently with his family.
In 1947 Ronald and Kathleen and their small son Michael set out to start a new life in Africa, leaving family and friends behind. He was working for His Majesty’s Civil Service at the Government Printer’s Department in Lusaka, then the small capital town of Northern Rhodesia.
Ronald and Kathleen were to remain in Lusaka for 21 happy years, making their home in several houses but in each, they created beautiful gardens which were a blaze of tropical colour and a playground for Jasper their son Michael’s much loved Golden Cocker Spaniel. They enjoyed a pleasant social life with a group of special friends, some of whom are here to remember Ronald with her today. Ronald continued to play football and he became an active member of the Masonic Lodge of Lusaka. He was known for his sense of humour and cheerful disposition.
They lived in Northern Rhodesia until it became Zambia and for the last few years there Ronald became the boss and was Government Printer for Zambia, a job which enabled him to meet many interesting people including some notable pioneering characters who shaped Northern Rhodesia. His department which was at the hub of all the government departments in that era, was the communication centre and so he acquired a wide ranging knowledge of the country, its people and its government over the years he worked there – although because of his very down to earth, unassuming character, few would be aware of this. His level headedness and wicked sense of humour were an asset to him on more than one occasion and especially when dealing diplomatically with sensitive situations involving African Heads of State.
On one such occasion having met the legendary Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa in the 1960’s, he was given a guided tour of the new state of the art printing works there and was astonished to witness visiting Ministers of State stuffing newly printed stamps into their pockets as they came off the press!
Christmas and Easter holidays spent at the spectacular Victoria Falls were treasured memories for him, as were the eagerly anticipated and carefully planned holidays in England at three yearly intervals during the years in Africa. These were made more exciting by the sea voyages up the west and eastern coasts of Africa en route for home and were always clearly amongst his happiest memories.
In 1968 Ronald and Kathleen returned to England to live in Bournemouth, but he put off early retirement and worked at Link House Publishing in Poole for a number of years. He continued to play an active role in the Masonic Lodge in Bournemouth and was a member of Bournemouth Football Club where he was a regular supporter. He spent many happy hours landscaping the garden wearing his customary shorts and looking tanned and fit and he and Kathleen walked for miles along the coast with Jasper 2 their Cocker Spaniel. They were regular members of St Alban’s Church in Charminster and had some good neighbours who became friends. He and Kathleen ventured all over Europe on holidays, sometimes with close friends.
In 1983 they found a house in Romsey and moved here to be nearer Michael and Catherine and their two grandchildren Emma and Matthew. Ronald retired and completely landscaped the garden and carried out improvements to the house. He still travelled to Bournemouth regularly to attend Lodge functions, joined the Romsey Branch of the U3A and he became a regular Volunteer hospital driver for Romsey Good Neighbours for a good number of years.
He and Kathleen continued to enjoy short breaks in France and Devon until last year despite some significant health set backs for them both.
They were thrilled by the arrival of their two great grandchildren James and Ruby and got great pleasure from sharing in the lives of all their family who are here today with Kathleen, to celebrate Ronald’s life.