Group Captain Charles Leslie Lea-Cox
Charles Leslie Cox was born on 3 November 1898 in the Parish of Edmonton, London, the son of Alfred HL Cox. As a youth, he attended Enfield Grammar School. Prior to joining the war effort, he worked as a bank clerk. On 30 June 1915, still too young to enlist in the War, he joined the 2nd Battalion Essex Volunteer Regiment as a Private. On 3 February 1917, he signed up with an Officer Cadet unit with the stated aim of eventually enlisting in the Royal Flying Corps, which he joined on 14 March 1917. His eagerness to be part of the Royal Flying Corps was evident in an earlier letter to the Air Ministry in which he requests guidance on what to study to prepare himself for this eventuality. On 30 August 1917, he was awarded a probationary commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and 'discharged' from the South Farnborough Recruits Depot. On 25 July 1918, he joined 66 Squadron in Italy, where he flew the Sopwith Camel, claimed 3 victories (all Albatros DV aircraft, on the same flight) and received the Italian Croce di Guerre.
Flying Officer Cox was posted to 56 Squadron 20 May 1921. When the Squadron was disbanded in 1922, he was one of 6 pilots (and presumably associated airmen) that maintained the 56 Squadron banner when a Flight was sent to operate under the command of 208 Squadron during the Chanak Crisis 1922-1923. This cadre would rejoin the 'new' 56 Squadron in August of 1923 at RAF Hawkinge. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant 1 January 1926 and took command of C Flight. Some time between October 1926 and October 1927 he officially became referred to as Lea-Cox vice Cox in Squadron documentation and the London Gazette. On 28 May 1929, "Flight Lieutenant C.L. LEA-COX won the Sassoon Cup Race from No. 29 (F) Squadron by a few yards."1
On 31 January 1930, after nearly 9 years of service with No. 56, Flight Lieutenant Lea-Cox was posted to 39 (B) Squadron. Therein, he received a notice in the Gazette "for distinguished services rendered during Operations on the North West Frontier of India during the period, 23rd April to 12th September, 1930." He would return to 56 Squadron on 19 August 1935, and officially assumed command on 1 October with his promotion to Squadron Leader. In this capacity, he would oversee the Squadron take possession of the Hawker Hurricane. He left the Squadron on 10 August 1938 to work at the newly formed HQ Maintenance Command, Andover. Combined, Charles Leslie Lea-Cox had served with 56 Squadron for over 11 years, which must make him one of the longest serving pilots in Squadron history. He was promoted to Wing Commander in November 1938 and took charge of the Maintenance Command Administrative Staff. Promotion to Group Captain followed in 1941. At this rank, he would receive two 'mentions in despatches'. Having served in two wars and two interwar actions, Group Captain Lea-Cox retired from the RAF 16 April 1946, and passed away in 1966.
London Gazette Entries
The undermentioned cadets to be temp. 2nd Lts. (on prob.). 30
Aug. 1917 : �
CONFERRED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF ITALY.
Flying Officers to be Flight Lieutenants.
The names of the undermentioned have been brought to notice for
distinguished services rendered during Operations on the North West
Frontier of India during the period, 23rd
April to 12th September, 1930, by His Excellency Field-Marshal Sir
William Birdwood, Bart., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., C.I.E., D.S.O.,
late Commander-in-Ohief in India:�
The undermentioned Flight Lieutenants are promoted to the rank
of Squadron Leader. 1st Oct. 1935:�
Squadron Leaders to be Wing Commanders.
Wing Commanders to be Group Captains (temporary).
Air Ministry, 1st January, 1943.
1National Archives AIR 27/527 p59.
Information taken from National Archives, Air Force Lists at digital.nls.uk, findmypast.co.uk, and the London Gazette. Information also taken from www.66squadron.co.uk.