Friday, 29 April 2016

‘Murton Colliery Soldier Killed In Ireland.’

This week have a blog post by Steve Shannon.

Headline from the Newcastle Journal, 9 May 1916
Headline from the Newcastle Journal, 9 May 1916
Among the graves in the Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin is that of Richard Coxon from Murton, County Durham, who died on Wednesday 26 April 1916. Private Coxon, however, did not die in the trenches of the Western Front, but was killed in action on the streets of Dublin during an armed rising against British rule in Ireland. And he was County Durham’s only loss during the Easter Rising in Dublin that resulted in the deaths of over one hundred British Army soldiers.

Richard Coxon had been born in Murton in 1890, the son of Ralph Coxon, a miner, and his wife Mary. By the time of the 1911 Census, Richard’s parents had both died, but he was still living in the family home in Pilgrim Street with his brothers and sisters, and working underground as a ‘pony putter’ in the local colliery. 

In September 1914, Richard married Elizabeth Trotter in Easington and in late 1915 his daughter, Martha, was born. Richard had by then joined the British Army. Sadly, his service records have not survived but, from the records that have survived, he originally enlisted in Sunderland for the Royal Field Artillery before being transferred to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Why he was transferred from the artillery to an infantry regiment largely composed of Irish Catholics, when he appears to have had no Irish family connections, is, however, a mystery.
Cap badge of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers used under the IWM Non-Commercial Licence, © IWM (INS 7233)
Cap badge of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers used under the IWM Non-Commercial Licence, © IWM (INS 7233)
On 25 April 1915, the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers landed at Cape Hellas as part of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and over the next few months was involved in very heavy fighting with the Turkish Army. During this fighting, 22164 Private Richard Coxon was wounded and evacuated to hospital. After his recovery, Private Coxon was sent to the British Army’s base at the Curragh in County Kildare for re-training with the 5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers. And he was there on Easter Monday 24 April 1916, when the Easter Rising began.

As soon as the scale of the fighting in Dublin was grasped by the British military authorities in Ireland, the 5th Battalion was rushed there from the Curragh by special train, arriving just before 4 o’clock in the morning on Tuesday 25 April. The battalion then immediately went into action south of the River Liffey at City Hall and at other nearby buildings held by the Irish rebels. During the fighting the next day, Richard Coxon was killed and his body taken to the Red Cross hospital in Dublin Castle, from where he was later buried at Grangegorman.

Two weeks later, Elizabeth Coxon, then living in North Street, Murton, received news of the death of her husband in Dublin and, shortly afterwards, a brief account was published in the Newcastle Journal of 9 May 1916 under the headline ‘Murton Colliery Soldier Killed In Ireland’.

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