Serial Number: NZ437270
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 14th of May 1943
Date of Demob: 1947
Rank Achieved: Warrant Officer
Date of Birth: 15th of January 1925, at Cambridge
Personal Details: Bryan was the second son of John Barker Cox and Janet Edith Cox (nee Joynt). Bryan had many family connections in the Air Forces, probably more than any other Cambridge person did. His big brother Grant Cox was an RNZAF bomber pilot, who was sadly killed over Germany, and his mother Janet Cox later joined the WAAF, working at No. 1 Stores Depot at RNZAF Te Rapa.
Bryan's cousin and great mate Bob Peake of Cambridge became a flight mechanic in the RNZAF. Bryan remembers their closeness compared with even his own brother, "Grant barely knew that Bob existed due to the age difference, and his friendship at that time with Jim Ross. I regularly stayed with Bob at their farm at Roto-O-Rangi after we left the farm in 1935. Due to age differences, Bob tended to be more of a brother to me through those years than Grant did, and they would take me on holidays to Waihi Beach, etc ."
Bryan stresses the importance of the work that Bob and others like him did. "In my own capacity of Secretary of the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Association, I am careful to give full credit to all aircraft maintenance personnel – who had by far the most onerous and stressful existence under operational conditions. In Bob's case he remained in Hamilton I think mainly on engine overhauls, which were critical to us."
He continues, "On the subject of “ground staff” – we could never have got airborne, or fired any guns or dropped any bombs without their extreme dedication under the most trying conditions, particularly in the field, which in the Pacific involved daytime temperatures up to 120°F, which made the metal of the aircraft so hot you couldn't touch them – but they had to!"
Bryan also had two non-Cambridge cousins flying in the Air Force, Kevin Cox of Hamilton and Tony Cox of Christchurch. Tony was killed at Singapore in No. 488 Squadron RNZAF on Buffalo fighters, and Kevin was killed in England in an accident with No. 485 (NZ) Squadron, on Spitfires.
Kevin's brother Bernard was in the Navy and was later killed in the Mediterranean on mine disposal duties. And cousin Tony's sisters Noeline and Daphne Cox of Christchurch were in the first intake of WAAFs into the RNZAF at Wigram .
Bryan Cox was born in Cambridge, and lived on a 360 acre farm at French Passwith his family. His early education was carried out at Cambridge Primary School from 1930 till 1935.
When the family moved to Te Rapa, north of Hamilton, in 1935, Bryan naturally transferred to Te Rapa Primary Schoo, where he stayed till 1937. Te Rapa, now a large industrial area, was then mostly countryside. The Cox's had a farm next to where the RNZAF Station would later be built.
In 1938 Bryan advanced on to Hamilton Technical College, where he continued till 1940, when he left to find employment.
He says, " I joined the Bank of New Zealand in Hamilton almost immediately on leaving school at the end of 1940."
Less than a year later he joined an organisation that would give him his first experience of what the RNZAF might be like - the Air Training Corps. Bryan remembers, "Yes I was a foundation member of No 7 Squadron ATC in Hamilton, serving from 13/9/41 to 15/5/43 on which day my log book shows that I entered the Air Force at Omaka, Blenheim."
Bryan's first ever flight was while he was a member of the Air Training Corp (No 7 Hamilton Squadron) when he had a ride in a Tiger Moth at Hamilton. His second flight came in an Airspeed Oxford whilst on an ATC NCO's course at Ohakea.
By all accounts he thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the ATC, and it helped determine in him that he wanted to follow other family members and join the RNZAF as a pilot. However, even after Cambridge got its own Air Training Corps unit, Bryan remained loyal and stayed with the Hamilton ATC.
He says now, "I had forgotten that there was ever a flight of the ATC at Cambridge, but no doubt there was. Two others who attended at Hamilton from Cambridge were Bruce Hulme long deceased, and John Richardson."
He joined the RNZAF in May 1943. to find more about his experiences within the RNZAF I highly recommend that you track down at least one of Bryan's books. He recorded his RNZAF experiences in an autobiogrpahy entitled ‘Too Young To Die' which became a bestseller, and is a mainstay of most New Zealand libraries. This he followed up with "Pacific Scrapbook" which tells the same tale but in a different way, through photographs.
If you cannot find a library copy of these books, I suggest you try searching on ABE books, Amazon, Ebay or any other reputable internet second hand book dealer. Or alternatively contact me and I'll attempt to assist.
Bryan later married his brother's widow, Wynne on the 13th of August 1949
Today: Bryan lives with Wynne at Welcome Bay in Tauranga, and he is Secretary of the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Association
Connection with Cambridge: Bryan was born and bred in Cambridge but moved to Hamilton in 1935
Bryan has checked his log book and personal records for this project and he says "My various ranks in the RNZAF were:
LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) during training.
- Sgt Pilot on obtaining my WINGS at Woodbourne 7/6/44
- Flight Sergeant on joining No 16 Squadron at Ardmore 17/10/44
- Warrant Officer on being posted to No 14 Squadron for service in Japan 1/12/45 which was my final rank
He adds, "Notwithstanding that, on my third tour in the Pacific stationed at Jacquinot Bay I was leading a section of four Corsairs in which my No 2 was a Flight Lieutenant and No 3 a Flying Officer (both with less overseas experience than I had, in fact my No 2 Max Hope had once instructed me at Woodbourne on Harvards."
NOTE: There is more to come on this, Bryan is a good friend and I have interviewed him fully. Given time I will add further details here. If you want to know more, either contact me by emailin firstname.lastname@example.org or you can listen to a great talk given by Bryan at the official launch of this website in November 2004, by clicking here