‘A good soldier who died a hero’

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There can be nothing in the world more heartbreaking than the grief of a mother following the death of her only child.

As the First World raged, countless mothers in countless towns all across the globe received the news they must have dreaded since the day their sons marched off to fight.

One such death involved Lance Corporal Arthur George Cox, of the Royal Sussex Regiment, whose mother, Ada, lived in Devonshire Road, Horsham.

Arthur enlisted in September 1914, enduring the horrors of Gallipoli and being wounded in the battle of Ypres before he died on the Somme on March 22 1918, aged 22. His name is inscribed on the Pozieres Memorial.

The news was broken to Ada by her brother, Lance Corporal W Flack, who served in the same regiment and was himself in hospital after being wounded.

If sent today, the letter he sent to his sister would likely be seen as unfeeling.

Part of it was published in the West Sussex County Times on April 27 1918.

It read: “Don’t worry too much but cheer up, dear sister, he was a good soldier and died a hero. He was not the only one that fell my a good many. Let’s hope he is better off.”

The letter gave a glimpse of what Arthur’s final battle had been like. It stated: “We had a few hours’ sleep and in the morning went to meet the Germans. We held them up till about 11 o’clock but were outnumbered and had to retire as we were nearly cut off. We had to run for it. I was lucky to get out. We were nearly done up; we had no sleep for six nights and fighting all the time. We mowed them down with machine guns and rifle fire – there was no end to the devils.”