COX, Lancelot Bruce (SX31702)

Studio portrait of SX31702 Private Lancelot Bruce COX. The photographer was Norton-Trevaire Studios, Adelaide and was taken in November 1943 prior to his embarkation overseas to New Guinea. From the COX and MILNES family collections.

SX31702 Private Lancelot Bruce ‘Doug’ COX

Lancelot Bruce ‘Doug’ COX was born on 19 September 1924 at Walkerville, the youngest of six children of Ray Sylva COX and Myrtle Amyria COX (nee MITCHELL), who later moved to Victor Harbor. Doug was working as a carpenter’s apprentice prior to his enlistment in the militia forces on 5 January 1943. He underwent his initial training at Woodside, South Australia followed by further infantry training at Watsonia, Victoria and on completion Pte COX was posted to the 2/18th Infantry Battalion at Gan Gan, New South Wales.

In June 1943, Pte COX requested a transfer to the 2nd AIF. At this time soldiers in the Australian Militia Forces could only be used in the defence of the Australian mainland and New Guinea, whereas soldiers in the AIF could be sent overseas. Sent to the Infantry Training Centre at Canungra, Queensland, he arrived there on 10 October 1943 for five weeks of rigorous jungle warfare training. The training was hard, intense and often dangerous as live ammunition was used in training exercises. Injuries were a common day occurrence.

On 20 December 1943 he embarked for Lae, New Guinea, arriving there on 26 December 1943. After arrival the reinforcements laboured unloading ships at the harbour and on 11 January 1944, Pte COX was transferred to the 2/17th Infantry Battalion, A Company, 7 Platoon. The Battalion had been engaged in fighting the Japanese and had pushed them across the Masaweng River. In February 1944, Pte COX was granted proficiency pay as a sniper. After clearing the enemy from its area of operations the Battalion returned to Australia arriving in Brisbane on 10 March 1944. After some leave the Battalion reassembled at Mount Garnet in the Atherton Tablelands and underwent intensive training in readiness for its return overseas.

The Battalion embarked from Townsville on 6 May 1945 and landed unopposed at Morotai, Netherlands East Indies on 16 May. The troops then received further instruction in Japanese mines and the use of flamethrowers as final arrangements were made for Operation OBOE 6, the recapture of Borneo and Labuan, including the huge oilfields, from the Japanese. On 10 June 1945, at 0915 hours, the first wave landed on the beaches in North Borneo but met no initial opposition from the enemy. As the Battalion advanced towards their objectives of Brunei Town and Brooketon, there were sporadic skirmishes with pockets of Japanese and these were mopped up. When they entered the town they found evidence of Japanese atrocities against the natives and Allied POWs. As the Battalion continued to secure their area of operations they encountered further opposition from the enemy and eliminated it.

Patrols were sent upriver to establish outposts and on 27 June 1945, a group including Doug, departed by canoe to Kuala Beulai where they established a patrol outpost close to a Dyak native village and commenced sending reports of enemy movements to headquarters. In early July, Doug was evacuated suffering with a malaria relapse but returned to his platoon four days later.

On 23 July 1945, Doug’s older brother Bill (SX16710 PTE Wilfred Lionel COX) was killed in action in New Guinea whilst serving with the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. Doug was told of the news a couple of days later by his company commander.

Extensive patrolling continued to be carried out until the Japanese surrender on 14 August and thereafter the Battalion maintained defensive positions. It was not until 20 September 1945 that the Japanese on the island formally surrendered to the Australian forces.

Doug returned to Australia, arriving in Adelaide on 10 December 1945 and was demobilised from the 2nd AIF on 2 January 1946. He resumed his employment as a carpenter, and later married Avon WILLARD; there were two children of the marriage. Doug established himself as a successful builder on the south coast over the ensuing years. Doug and Avon live in retirement at Victor Harbor.

This photograph was taken by an official army photographer on 11 June 1945, in the Brunei Bay area; it shows from left: Private E.E. BELL (NX21489 LCPL Elson Evered BELL), Private Doug COX (middle) and Private B.B. MOORE (NX19113 PTE Brian Bede  MOORE) of 7 Platoon, A Company, 2/17th Battalion, resting on the roadside during the unit’s advance from Brooketon to Brunei. The photograph was later sent by the Army Public Relations Unit to the Victor Harbor Times for publication. Australian War Memorial collection (109474).


Service file of SX31702 Lancelot Bruce COX purchased from the National Archives of Australia ( Australian War Memorial database ( ).

Interviews with Doug COX.


Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, April 2009.