Ernest Wilkin COX
Known as Tony

Serial Number: NZ41881
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 9th of February 1941
Rank Achieved: Pilot Officer
Flying Hours: Unknown
Operational Sorties: Unknown

Date of Birth: 27th of November 1919, in Christchurch
Personal Details: Ernest was the son of Alan Douglas Cox and Heather Maxwell Cox (nee Campbell) of Cambridge. He was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch and then went to Canterbury University College. He became a clerk with the accountants firm Frank Graham & Sons in Christchurch. At the time of his being reported missing his father was listed as living at Kowai Bush, Sheffield.

Service Details: In 1940 Ernest joined the the New Zealand Army Territorial Force with the 1st Canterbury Regiment, serving for a year before being accepted into the RNZAF. He began his Air Force career as an Airman pilot Under Training at the Initial Training Wing, RNZAF Station Levin on the 9th of February 1941.

He progressed on the 23rd of March 1941 to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School at Taieri, Dunedin, to begin his flying training on de Havilland DH82a Tiger Moths.

Following completion of that phase of training, Ernest was posted to RNZAF Station Wigram on the 3rd of May 1941, where he continued training on the larger Fairey Gordon biplanes. He gained his pilots badge with effect from the 14th of June 1941, and was given a commission as a Pilot Officer on the 26th of July 1941.

Ernest was posted to No. 488 Squadron RNZAF, which was New Zealand's first ever fighter squadron, on around the 26th of September 1941 and was attached to the Royal Air Force. The squadron which had assembled at RNZAF Station Rongotai, Wellington, set sail for Singapore (via Australia) on the 11th of September 1941. When they arrived in Singapore on the 10th of October 1941, Ernest was attached to No. 21 Squadron RAAF, with the intention of converting onto the more modern mono-wing types, the CAC Wirraway and/or the Brewster Buffalo, a big step from the previous biplane trainers he had done all his flying in. he was with that unit from the 12th to the 23rd of October, and then returned to No. 488 Squadron who were now flying Buffalo fighters.

When the Japanese entered the war with the Allied forces in the Pacific on the 8th of December 1941 (local time), Singapore and Malaya were in the front line and No. 488 Squadron was one of the few defensive fighter squadrons that were charged with the desperate task of repelling the onslaught of the Japanese offensive.

Date of Death: 18th of January 1942, in Singapore, aged 22. Tony had taken off in Brewster Buffalo I (serial number W8141) at 11.45hrs on this day, with other aircraft from the squadron. On climbing through 16,000 feet the formation was attacked by Japanese fighters that were coming in from above. Ernest's aircraft was seen diving into a cloud (at approximately 12.30hrs) over the Strait of Singapore, and no further sighting was seen. He was posted missing, believed killed.
Commemorated: On the Singapore Memorial, Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore

Connection with Cambridge: Tony's parents lived in Cambridge at some stage, though this is not fully established when, and it's possible he too may have lived in the district. The Cox family was a large one in the Cambridge district, and Tony was a cousin to Bryan and Grant Cox who were born in Cambridge

Sources: Thanks to Errol Martyn for providing information on this airman, and further details from his books For Your Tomorrow Volumes 1 to 3. Another source was the Auckland War Memorial Cenotaph Database


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