Unit: ‘A’ Company, 6th Battalion
Service Number: 4801307
Date of Death: 13 September 1943 – Killed in Action
Age: 26 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Salerno War Cemetery, Italy
Grave / Panel Ref.: Grave: V. F. 7.
Robert was born in the November quarter 1917, in the Leeds District. He was the son of Robert (Builder’s Labourer) and Elizabeth (née Poundall) Wilcox (Although Robert Snr. was born in Ruskington, they married on 18th December 1915 at St Peter’s Church, Hunslet Moor, Yorkshire.)
Robert had a younger sister, Ivy, born in the September quarter 1920 and a younger brother, Joseph Denis, born 5th February 1926. Ivy died, aged 10, in February 1931, and was buried on the 24th in Ruskington Cemetery, West Border, Grave 33.
In the March quarter 1939 Robert Jnr. married Annie Elsie Baker in Weymouth, Dorset. In September that year Elsie was living with her in-laws (possibly Robert as well – but record is redacted) at 6 Council Houses, Rectory Road, Ruskington.
Robert and Annie had two children, Ivy E. (born June quarter 1940) and Rodney (born June quarter 1943), both born in Weymouth.
After Robert’s death, and according to CWGC Records, Annie returned to live at her parents’ home in Westham, Weymouth, Dorset. [She re-married Harry Knight in Weymouth in the March quarter 1956, and died in the June quarter 1984.]
Robert’s parents lived at 6 Council Houses, Rectory Road, Ruskington, for the rest of their lives. They both lived into old age. Robert Snr. was 89 when he died in January 1984. Elizabeth died in March 1991, aged 95. They are buried together in Graves E. 282 and 283, Ruskington Cemetery, New Plot, Section E.
Without Robert’s Service Papers it is not possible to say when he joined the 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. However, when War was declared on 3rd September 1939 the 6th Battalion was called up at once, the Nominal Roll shows that Robert was embodied into the Battalion on 1st September 1939.
In April 1940 the Battalion embarked for France and later managed to return from Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo).
After two years spent on home defence, the 6th Battalion left in January 1943 by 3 trains from Ascot & Sunningdale in Berkshire for Clydebank. The C.O. was Lt.-Col. J.Y.E. Myrtle. The Battalion ‘Nominal Roll’ shows Sergeant R. Wilcox, as part of ‘A’ company, on board train 3. [CWGC Records show him as a ‘Corporal’.]
The Battalion sailed for North Africa on the MS Sobieski. In May 1943, the war in North Africa (Operation Torch) came to an end in Tunisia with the defeat of the Axis powers by a combined Allied force. The campaign began on 8th November 1942, when Commonwealth and American troops made a series of landings in Algeria and Morocco.
Commonwealth and American forces, as part of Mark Clark’s US Fifth Army, landed near Salerno on 8th-9th September 1943 and there was fierce fighting for some days as the bridgehead was established.
At the Salerno landings on 9th September 1943 (Operation Avalanche), the 6th Lincolnshires were involved in fierce fighting and completed the expulsion of the Germans from the strong-point of Magazzea.
Later on the Herman Göring Panzer and Reconnaissance, and Grenadier Battalions vigorously engaged the 2nd and the Royal Marine Commandos, which were supported by the destroyer HMS Nubian (F131). Towards evening the 6th Lincs arrived, tipping the scales, and the action died down.
Robert was one of 16 men of his Battalion killed in action between 11th and 13th September. All now lie in Salerno War Cemetery.
N.B. Another Ruskington man of the 6th Battalion, Private 4809709 Beresford Neville Headland, was killed in action earlier in the year during the North Africa campaign.
- “History Of The Sixth Battalion The Lincolnshire Regiment – 1940-45“ (ISBN-13: 978-1783311026)
- I am grateful to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for the photos of Robert’s Grave and Cemetery.
- The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6389A