10 days in the front line

Charles Aubrey Fox

Charles Aubrey FOX #3635, 52nd Infantry Battalion

Aubrey FOX was born in Cooktown to George Fox and Emily Evans in 1886. His parents and three siblings, George, Thomas and John, had emigrated to Queensland from England in 1882.

Aubrey married Agnes Hamper in 1908 and their daughter Beatrice was born the same year.

In February 1917 Aubrey stepped forward and volunteered to serve with the first AIF at the recruiting office in Brisbane.

Initially assigned to the 47th Infantry Battalion, he trained at Rifle Range Camp, Enoggera. Aubrey was chosen to be a driver for the Field Artillery, then allotted to the 31st Battalion, where he trained outside of Queensland for several months.

Finally in August 1917 he was transferred back to Queensland and joined the 10th Reinforcements for the 52nd Infantry Battalion, C. Company. They left Brisbane via a troop train which took them to Sydney to join the other reinforcements onboard HMAT Euripides.

They left Sydney in October 1917 arriving in England on Boxing Day, where they were taken to the training camp at Codford, but soon after Aubrey was admitted to hospital for 7 days, with Bronchitis.

Fit to serve once again, Aubrey Fox joined his unit in the field just after Easter, on 4 April 1918, where the Battalion was conducting operations near Dernancourt.

10 days later in the evening of 24 April 1918, Private Aubrey Fox was killed.

Shortly after a ‘stunt’ at Villers-Bretonneux he and three others – John Boyd #3114, George Henry Cooper #3131 and Frank Charles Dellar #3284 left the lines to go for rations, when they were hit and killed outright by an explosive shell.

Private Clyde Greenaway who knew Aubrey well, was a stretcher bearer and carried him in after seeing Aubrey lying out in the open, but he was already dead. Greenaway handed Fox’s belongings over to one of the Officers for safekeeping. The men were later buried, about 500 yards behind their front line, by men from the Pioneer Battalion, near Corbie Road by Hamlet Wood.

Fox, Red Cross Wounded and Missing File

The Germans retook this ground later in the battle and many graves were obliterated. Private Aubrey Fox is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial built at Villers-Bretonneux for those whose graves are not known. There are over 10,700 Australian servicemen officially commemorated by this memorial.

The AIF kit store forwarded Aubrey’s effects to his wife Agnes who in 1918 was residing at Skew Street, North Quay, Brisbane. They were being transported on SS Barunga which was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine on its way back to Australia. The 800 sick and wounded on board were rescued, but the ship subsequently sank, along with its cargo on 15 July 1918.

Later as medals were issued and awarded, Aubrey Fox’s were dispatched and received by his wife Agnes, now Mrs Clarence Elliott, residing in Wardell south of Ballina, NSW.

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Marg Powell |  QANZAC100 Content Technician  State Library of Queensland