Friday, January 1, 2016

Grandfather During WWII

He moved his family from London to the US in 1922 and they traveled to Detroit, Michigan where they stayed with an aunt until he found employment.

The last job he held was working as a chemist and salesman for a man who manufactured car polishes and waxes and sold them to Ford Motor Company. During a sales call with the Ford buyer, the man told him that he really did not care for the man my grandfather worked for and went on to say that he would prefer to buy the products from him.

In 1930 my grandfather started his own company, Excelda Mfg. Co. In the beginning he manufactured the products in his basement until he could afford to buy an old building in Ferndale, Michigan, which is located nine miles outside of downtown Detroit.

To make ends meet he also sold automotive cleaning products retail to those men who were unemployed. They paid cash and used the chemicals to polish and wax cars of those who could afford to pay.

When the US entered WWII his manufacturing plant was converted to a tool and die shop that made parts for the B25 bomber being assembled at Willow Run Airport, which was located outside of Detroit.

He was very active in promoting "War Bonds" and soon Ferndale found national recognition for residence buying more bond than any other city of its size. The Army sent General Douglas Macarthur to Ferndale to personally thank them for their contribution to the war effort. It is believed that after the general's speech, my grandfather shook Macarthur's hand. At the end of the war my grandfather's war efforts were awarded when he was honored with the "US Treasury Award for Patriotic Service".

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Whole Story

For those visiting for the first time and those returning, I have two books, one self-published, "The Great Promise", which is available on Amazon and a non-fiction e-book on Kindle, "World War One - An Unkept Promise".

"The Great Promise" was written and published in 2013 as a tribute to my grandfather, Captain Fred G. Coxen, RFA. It contains some fictional sections used to move the story along, which troubled historians, along with the absence of a bibliography.

"World War One - An Unkept Promise" is non-fiction and was written with the help of historians. It contains more information on Captain Coxen's military career as well as photos and documents.

Both books offer all of the journal entries, but in the e-book a few entry phrases were altered from American English interpretation to British.

Ian Gumm - A battlefield historian who operates his own battlefield tour company    Has read "The Great Promise" and was fascinated by the journal entries. He thought the book would help those less familiar with WWI to gain insight, while historians would find the journal entries compelling. Through our discussions he will promote the book while attending the "Battlefield Guides Convention". He believes the guides could use journal entries to bring the early battles of the war to life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Grandfather's journal May 1st - 4th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU.

May 1st to 4th
We were still in same position. The hostile shelling never ceases, day or night.
We fire mostly by aeroplane wireless - attacks and counter attacks twice daily.
Batteries on our left seem to get it jolly hot, but in spite of the gases and their preponderance of artillery, we are informed that we have stopped the march on CALAIS.
We were ordered to move with Lahore Division, (which was now sadly depleted in numbers) to move on the night of the 4th.
I was billeting and Mr Donahue and I left about 5 pm, and eventually, after a hard ride, found billets some 1.5 miles from Ypres in a village I never knew the name of. I left at midnight to conduct the Battery.
It was raining all night and I tied my horse to the railings of a churchyard, determined to get a drink somewhere and something to eat. After a while I came on an establishment and vigorously knocked, which was opened by a Staff Officer. I told him I wanted something to eat and drink. He was very good and took me inside and fixed me up.
I left refreshed, While it was still raining and cold; I eventually met the Battery about 6 o'clock.

I got some breakfast from the Officer's cooks of the Ammunition Column and then had a sleep about 10 am. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 28th - 30th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU.

We went back, while shells of large caliber were continually passing right over the guns, but only one burst near, about 20 yards from where I had made my dugout at the foot of a large tree - it did no harm.
The night passed uneventfully, except for the continual shelling, and during the night, two batteries of French 7.5's took up position about 50 yards in our rear.

April 29th
Was impossible to fire from observation, as we could not get to the observing point and the wire was broken in many places by the continual shelling. We fired by map and wireless from aeroplane.
Hostile aeroplanes were very active and one must have spotted us, for they gave it to us warm in the afternoon and evening.
The officers had made a bivouac beneath a large tree, a few yards on my left.
A few shells, and they were real coal-boxes, burst very near. They moved over to the left and lucky they did, for a few minutes later a shell hit the tree and snapped it off like a match. Other shells followed and we had to leave the guns for a while. When it was over we went back; the officer's huts had been blown to pieces. Two coats that hung on a tree were absolutely in ribbons; almost everything there was irrevocably ruined. One of them had been sitting on a box of biscuits; this box was blown yards away and not even a biscuit that was inside remained. The tin box was like a piece of twisted tin. Everything was almost unrecognizable.
Dowling, one of the servants got both arms badly splintered. They were continually shelling roads to our rear and right all night.

April 30th
We fired in the morning by wireless, bombardment to support attack by the French, which was said to be successful.
In the afternoon, we were again heavily shelled as we expected.
The 57th got it worse than us, about 50 yards on our right. One shell pitched into a dugout, killed 4 telephonists and several men were wounded.
They got it so fiercely that they were compelled, as we were yesterday, to desert their guns, but they were soon back again.
One 17" dropped by the French guns and they nipped (as per usual). Several fell in front of us and one 30 yards to, and in direct line with, our left gun, just where I was.
It is impossible to describe these monsters coming through the air. The nearest it is like an express train going through a tunnel and the burst is like a terrific clap of thunder.
The earth sways as if it were an earthquake. We measured this hole at night and it was 25 foot deep and 43 foot across; great lumps of earth, like rocks, had been scattered many yards. It seems impossible, even to one who understands artillery that this great eruption could have been made by a shell. We picked up several splinters going anything from a few ounces to several pounds.

The attack was repulsed and towards dark it became a little more quiet, just the usual nightly dozen per hour. The 17" must have put the wind up the Frenchies, for they had moved during the night and never came back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Grandfather's journal end April 27 & start 28 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

They seemed to lengthen the range a little on to the road where we had to go to get through Ypres. We resolved to go for it and we did. It was the maddest gallop I had ever had; my old charger never moved so quickly as when he galloped round ' Dead Man's Gulch' and through the town itself.
The only ones we met till through the town were the dead ones lying about.
Our troubles for this night were not over yet. I had only a faint idea where the battery was going to, and instead of following the right road, we took the wrong.
Eventually found ourselves just on the left of Hill 60, which was being subjected to a fierce bombardment from all directions. We had another mad ride back and tried another road. We found a reel of wire which must have fallen off one of the wagons, and knew we were on the right track. We were, and eventually caught the battery just as dawn was breaking.

April 28th
Went into action on the edge of a wood on the left of Ypres; this seemed more quiet than the place we had vacated.
In the afternoon we ran our wire to a point for observing, just over the canal. Everywhere about here was a scene of desolation, half- starved cattle roaming about, pigs, and all sorts of farm commodities; many were lying about dead.
The French Infantry held this front and just in the rear of the trenches were 4 of their Howitzers, which showed how far the enemy had advanced. We stopped to observe some big shell bursting near, a kind we had never seen before, and promptly named it ' Black Jack' on account of the great volume of black smoke they gave off. While we were watching one burst directly over the heads of a few Frenchman, they scattered and I didn't think any were harmed

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grandfather's journal April 27, 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

April 27th
Our Captain was a perfect brick and stuck it grandly, his hat being carried away once by a shrapnel burst.
He had just left the house and was running to the fire trench when a 17" came right into the house. It threw it almost bodily into the air - after the smoke cleared off, the house was a pile of wreckage. Several natives had been killed, Lt Donahue having a lucky escape - three natives were horribly wounded and pinned down under the wreckage. An officer mercifully shot them to put them out of their misery.
We kept up fire by map all day. Several shells burst upon us and one pitched right against the trail of Jerry's wagon, and funny enough hurt nobody.
The thought struck me in the afternoon that it was my birthday - Gee! It was a very grim and bloody one.
Old George and Collins had an exciting afternoon. While going along the wire, they had to take refuge in a shell hole, They had to stay in it for a long while, and they eventually got back alright.
About midnight we got orders to move at once, for the position was absolutely suicidal to hold. The battery got away alright; I remained with my horse holder to wait for George and Collins, who were with the Infantry Head Quarters. They were reeling in what remained of our wire.
Shelling was still going on, and the burst of shells, firing of our own guns, and the rockets from both side's trenches always lights up the Heavens like a gigantic firework display.
I waited a long time behind the shelter of a building for them to come, and I thought that they must have got knocked over. I resolved to go and look for them; it was a nasty job for the road and the village of ST JEAN was still being heavily shelled. The road was deserted as I crept from tree to tree. But every here and there were dead horses and occasionally a dead man.
As I got to the village, two infantry chaps were coming down from the end of the village. I asked them if they had seen anything of my chums, but they told me they had not seen anybody, and advised me to go no further, if I wanted to live.
So I returned to where I had left the horses, thinking that George and Collins were 'goners'. I was greatly relieved when I got there to find them back. They had come back a different way, as it was too hot through the village and road.

I had hardly been back 10 minutes when a shell struck the roof of the building, or rather, shed. We were inside and tiles and bricks fell in a shower on top of us. Collins got a whack in the shoulder, but it was not serious. Another shell followed; 19 burst all within 40 yards of us and not one of the four was touched. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Grandfather's journal end April 26th beginning of 27th 1915

All his journal entries are in my book "World War 1 - An Unkept Promise" on Kindle or paperback "The Great Promise" on Amazon Available in US, UK, EU

A couple of days previous the Canadian Scottish were ordered to retire, but refused to do so. They charged the enemy on their own. It was a mad thing to do and they lost over 500 men, but captured some trenches and captured 100 prisoners or more; not one of these prisoners were brought down.
We were fighting as they - no quarter, and the Canadians gave none. Just in the rear of our guns, there was a Prussian Guardsman (a fine fellow, fully 6' 3" in height and big with it) pinned to a tree with a bayonet. He had a post card stuck on his forehead with the words, 'Canada does not forget.'
The byword of the Canadians were, 'we'll give'em crucify.' The happenings around of this period would fill a book with horrors of this description.
Word spread of the splendid fighting of the Canadians and the Indian troops who were with us.
Truly enough the Canadians had served Ypres, as did the 7th, 5th, and 1st Divisions in November.

April 27th
Much the same as yesterday - continual shelling and firing, the enemy also sending over their great 17' Howitzer shell (the real ones) into YPRES (a mile in our rear), as well as at artillery and the trenches.
The enemy must have been preparing for this for months, for their ammunition expenditure was enormous and unceasing.

We found another observing post near ST JULIEN, a wrecked house about 200 yards in rear of our trenches, but it was almost useless as the wire was continually getting broken, and it was impossible to signal.