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Cox, Geoffrey Souter (1914–1964)

by Peter Burness

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Geoffrey Souter Cox (1914-1964), by unknown photographer

Geoffrey Souter Cox (1914-1964), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, 092006

Geoffrey Souter Cox (1914-1964), army officer, real-estate agent and politician, was born on 4 December 1914 at Bondi, Sydney, third and youngest son of Fred Fabian Cox, a property agent from England, and his native-born wife Mary, née Cameron. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Geoff worked as a clerk with the Bankers' and Traders' Insurance Co. Ltd, played football, and enjoyed sailing and billiards. He joined the Citizen Military Forces in 1936, became an artilleryman in the 16th Heavy Battery at South Head and rose to sergeant in 1939. On 10 November he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was appointed lieutenant in the 2nd/2nd Battalion next month.

Embarking as a platoon commander, Cox arrived in the Middle East in February 1940. He was wounded on 3 January 1941 during the attack on Bardia, Libya. After the ill-fated Greek campaign, he was posted in July to the 2nd/1st Battalion which was re-forming in Palestine. Promoted temporary captain in August, he accompanied the unit to Syria as adjutant. In March 1942 the 2nd/1st was sent to Ceylon and in July sailed for Australia. On 14 August that year at St John's Anglican Church, Toorak, Melbourne, he married Irma Robina Hitchins who had served as a Sister with the Australian Army Nursing Service in the Middle East; they were to have a son and two daughters, but were later divorced.

The battalion left for Port Moresby in September 1942 and was soon in action on the Owen Stanley Range. Before dawn on 23 October Cox guided a company of troops safely across the first bridge over Eora Creek; he was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and calm bearing. Invalided to Australia in December, he rejoined the battalion in July 1943 in Queensland. He was promoted major in December and in November 1944 transferred to the 2nd/7th Battalion, which he took to New Guinea as administrative commander before reverting to second-in-command. On 5 April 1945 he was promoted lieutenant colonel and nine days later assumed command of the 2nd/4th Battalion.

From the field headquarters which he had developed to a 'spartan standard of efficiency', Cox planned his battalion's attacks on Wewak Point (10 May) and Wirui Mission (14-15 May). In these engagements he 'was with his forward troops continually, and personally controlled and directed them'. For the brilliant success of both operations he won the Distinguished Service Order. Slim and taut, he was regarded by some as austere and aloof, but those who worked closely with him appreciated his loyalty and enthusiasm, and the empathy he had with his soldiers. Cox gave the same attention to detail in training as in battle. Junior officers saw him as the epitome of the infantry officer.

Transferring to the Reserve of Officers on 22 December 1945, Cox joined his brother Alan in the family firm, Alldis & Cox Pty Ltd, real-estate agents of Bondi. Their other brother John had served in the A.I.F. and died in 1943 while a prisoner of the Japanese. Geoff continued his involvement in the C.M.F. He commanded the St George Regiment in 1948-52 and the 8th Brigade in 1952-56. Promoted substantive brigadier on 31 August 1953, he was a member of the Eastern Command Officers Staff Group in 1958-62.

In August 1957 Cox had been elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as Liberal member for Vaucluse. He married a widow Vivienne Yvonne, née Lylian, on 11 December 1961 at St Andrew's Scots Church, Rose Bay. Experiencing mounting business pressures, on 16 November 1964 he shot himself through the head in his room at Parliament House; he was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His wife and the daughters of his first marriage survived him. In 1970 the debts of his estate were found to exceed its assets by $8552.

Select Bibliography

  • A. J. Marshall (ed), Nulli Secundus Log (Syd, 1946)
  • 2nd/4th Battalion Association, White Over Green (Syd, 1963)
  • E. C. Givney (ed), The First at War (Syd, 1987)
  • Bulletin, 23 July 1952, 4 Sept 1957
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 17 Nov 1964
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17, 20 Nov 1964, 15 Jan, 3 Sept 1965, 9 Oct 1970
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Cox, Geoffrey Souter (1914–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cox-geoffrey-souter-9848/text17421, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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