Private Frederick George DANCOX V.C.(21654)
Frederick George Dancocks (The confusion over the spelling of his surname arises from the mis-spelling using "Dancox" when he enlisted in to the Army) was born in Barbourne, Worcester in 1873, son of William Dancocks, a labourer, and Louisa Dancocks (nee Chance). He was the middle of three sons. He was batised several years later at St. Stephen's Church, Barbourne, Worcester on the 23rd November 1878, at the time the family was living at Crown Lane.
Frederick's father died in May 1880 when Frederick was only 2 years old, and three years later his mother re-married William Whittle.
After leaving school Frederick worked as a hay-baler, until he volunteered for the Army in 1915, by this time he was already 42 years of age. The family lived in various streets in poorer parts of Worcester City including Hylton Road and Dolday.
At the age of 18 Frederick set up home with Ellen Prichard they were living together at 28 Dolday in Worcester. Although not married they had four children; Their eldest child Frederic was born in 1902, and was followed by Florence (born 1906), Harry (born 1909), Nellie (Ellen, born 1913) and the youngest child, George, was born in 1915 and baptised in All Saints Church in July 1915 but tragically died the following summer aged just one year old.
Perhaps prompted by his decision to go to war, Frederick married Ellen Pritchard on 8th March 1915 in Pershore. Frederick was already a soldier based in Norton Barracks at the time.
Frederick enlised into the Worcestershire Regiment in 1915 and was posted to the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment after his initial training. He joined the 4th Battalion in Gallipoli on the 19th September 1915.
After the Gallipoli campaign the 4th Battalion were ordered to proceed to France. They disembarked at Marseilles on the morning of 20th March 1916. During July 1916 the 4th Battalion were involved in the attack on Beaumont Hamel (The Somme). On the night of July 29th/30th 1916 the 4th Battalion moved forward by train to Ypres and were to remain in action for some 2 months before leaving again for the Somme (8th October 1916).
By the time the third Battle of Ypres opened up in the summer of 1917, Frederick was a veteran and something of a character in the Battalion and was known by the nickname "Dando". He was the Sanitary Orderly in Headquarter Company.
Private Frederick George Dancox V.C.
(correct surname is "Dancocks")
On the 9th October 1917, he was to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his brave actions in capturing a German machine-gun post single-handed.
His citation reads:
"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack. After the first objective had been captured and consolidation had been started, work was considerably hampered, and numerous casualties were caused by an enemy machine gun firing from a concrete emplacement situated on the edge of our protective barrage. Pte. Dancox was one of a party of about ten men detailed as moppers-up. Owing to the position of the machine-gun emplacement, it was extremely difficult to work round a flank. However, this man with great gallantry worked his way round through the barrage and entered the 'pill box' from the rear, threatening the garrison with a Mills bomb. Shortly afterwards he reappeared with a machine gun under his arm, followed by about 40 enemy.
The machine gun was brought back to our position by Pte. Dancox, and he kept it in action throughout the day.
By his resolution, absolute disregard of danger and cheerful disposition, the morale of his comrades was maintained at a very high standard under extremely trying circumstances." (London Gazette 26th November 1917)
Below is an account of the 4th Battalions actions during the attack at Langemarck and how Private Dancox won his Victoria Cross.
THE BATTLE OF POELCAPPELLS (9th October 1917)
Just as the first light of the October day (9th) showed through the rain the British guns opened the battle, and the two leading companies of the 4th Worcestershire advanced. Led by Captain H. L. Grogan and Lieut. C. W. Morton, both of whom set splendid examples of bravery. Lieut. Morton was wounded in the advance but refused to leave his company until the objective had been secured. Both officers were awarded the M.C. They reached the stream; and before the one available bridge could be got forward it was found that two of the enemy's foot-bridges were still intact. Some of the attackers crossed by those bridges, but most splashed their way across through the stream and through the muddy shell-holes on its banks. Germans, many more than had been expected, were found in the shell-holes near the stream; they were killed or captured and the attack pushed forward.
Route taken by the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and location of machine-gun block-house attacked by Private Fred Dancox
Behind the leading companies the two companies of the second line and also the first line of the Newfoundlanders followed closely, so closely that in that difficult ground the units became intermixed; but all pressed forward with a will. Within half-an-hour, after dealing with several block-houses along the railway embankment, the attack had reached the first objective, marked by "Namur Crossing," where a road, just recognizable, ran under the railway embankment.
There the platoons commenced to entrench. Two hundred yards in front the protective barrage, a curtain of smoke and bursting shells, screened their extended line.
In spite of that barrage the enemy's fire was not yet mastered. One of the concrete blockhouses in front of the line (Apparently the solitary block-house midway between, the railway and the stream) had not been struck by the shells, and its machine-gun swept the line of the labouring troops with burst after burst of fire. Officers and men were shot down or were driven to shelter in the shell-holes. . Musketry was useless against the concrete walls, and messages were sent back for trench-mortars to deal with the block-house. But before the mortars could be brought up the fire of the machine-gun suddenly stopped. A minute later every man within sight was on his feet cheering and laughing, for stumbling through the mud towards the British line came a little crowd of the enemy with hands raised in surrender, and behind them came a solitary British soldier, labouring along under the weight of a machine-gun—the machine-gun. The cheering grew as he was recognised: "Dancox!" the troops shouted, "Good old Dancox ! "
Private Frederick George Dancox, a stolid old soldier, had served with the Battalion throughout the war. For that day he had been detailed as one of a party of "moppers-up," intended to deal with isolated enemy strongholds such as that block-house. The mud and the enemy's fire had broken up his party, and Dancox found himself out in front alone. Nothing daunted, he proceeded to attack the block-house single-handed. To approach its machine-gun from the front was impossible: behind and about the block-house our own shells were bursting. Carefully working round from shell-hole to shell-hole, Dancox ran the gauntlet of the bursting shells and reached the back wall of the block-house unobserved.
With a bomb in his hand he walked through the doorway at the back of the block-house into the midst of the enemy. Surprised and terrified the machine-gunners surrendered. Holding his bomb ready to throw, Private Dancox backed out of the block-house, beckoning the Germans to follow. Once outside, he ordered his prisoners off to our, lines: then, when he had seen them started on their way, he went again into the block-house and dismounted the machine-gun. He carried the weapon back in triumph, and fired it himself throughout the rest of the day, in great good humour and amid the laughing congratulations of all around.
For that example of cool bravery Private Dancox was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross.
Other German strongholds met a similar fate. Private W. Harding likewise attacked a block-house, the eight occupants of which surrendered with a machine-gun (Pte. Harding was awarded the D.C.M.). Lance-Corporal W. G. T. Pearse led a "mopping-up " party and captured a German post firing from a shell-hole. A party of the Battalion signallers while laying a telephone wire discovered a German dugout which had been overlooked by the attack. Led by Lieutenant H. M. Clark, the signallers attacked the dugout and captured it's occupants. L/Cpl. Pearse was awarded the D.C.M. Lieut. Clark was awarded the M.C.
Meanwhile Colonel Linton, ever in the thick of the fight, had moved his Battalion Headquarters forward to a captured block-house near Namur Crossing. R.S.M. D. G. L. Morgan showed great bravery in reorganising the companies, consolidating the position and getting up ammunition. He set a splendid example, and was subsequently awarded the D.C.M. Soon afterwards the barrage began again to move forward. Behind the barrage, the two supporting companies advanced to the second objective. One of the companys' was led by 2/Lieut. G. S. Pegler, who showed great'skill and determination in leading the platoons to their objective. He was awarded the M.C. With them was carried a trench-mortar. A block-house near the railway some three hundred yards to the front opened fire as the barrage lifted, and against it the trenchmortar was brought into action from the line of the stream. Four direct hits and an encircling advance (headed with great determination by Sergt. A. Sanders, who was awarded the D.C.M) caused the surrender of its garrison, some thirty in all.
Only Pascal Farm then remained to be dealt with. The trench-mortar was shifted to Namur ,Crossing and thence bombarded the Farm, while platoons pushed in from the left flank. Twenty-five rounds from the mortar were sufficient, and the garrison of the Farm, about fifty in number, came out and surrendered.
Thenceforward the advance met but little opposition, and by 9 a.m. the line of the Second objective had been secured. Again there was a long pause while the protective barrage burst in front of the line; then the barrage moved on, and the Newfoundland Regiment went through to capture Cairo House and the line of the third objective.
Behind them the Worcestershire platoons'worked hard, digging themselves into safety amid intermittent shell-fire. On the left the Guards were pushing forward towards Houthulst Forest, and away to the right Poelcappelle had been stormed by the 4th and 11th Divisions.
The work of consolidation went on until darkness fell; then the Worcestershire companies were relieved (The two companies on the first objective were relieved by the 7th Lincolnshire. The two companies on the second objective were relieved by the Newfoundlanders) and made their way back across the battle-field and over the canal to camp near Elverdinghe (Relief was not fully completed until nearly 4 a.m. on the following day, 10th October). There, after breakfasts, the Battalion entrained and was carried back to International Corner north of Proven, whence the weary troops marched to Sarawak Camp to rest. For his able and fearless leadership in that battle, Colonel Linton was awarded a bar to his D.S.O.
The losses totalled 7 officers (2 killed [2/Lieuts. W. W. McNally, M.C. and J. Sedgewick.] 5 wounded including Lieut. C. W. Morton and 2/Lieut. R. E. Wilson, Capt. N. H. W. Saw, R.A.M.C. attached, was also killed) and 167 N.C.O's. and men (20 killed, 107 wounded, 40 missing). On the other hand the Battalion had captured more than 200 of the enemy, including 6 officers, together with five machineguns.
Private Frederick G. Dancocks
Awarded the Victoria Cross
Dancocks was granted a fortnight’s leave at the end of November to collect the award from the King. He wrote a letter to his wife Ellen, telling her that he would be home on leave for the first time in over a year, to receive his Victoria Cross from H.M. King George on the 30th November 1917. All of Worcester was preparing to welcome a hero and the family home at Dolday was hung with patriotic bunting, as was the railway station.
His wife Ellen with the four children, a band, civic civic dignitaries, reporters, and hundreds of excited local people waited at Shrub Hill railway station. On the arrival of the 4.40 p.m. train from Paddington, the whole growd broke out in cheers - but Frederick Dancocks was not on the train or any other train that day. The crowd dispersed after the arrival of the last train of the day at 8.00 p.m.
It was later learned that the reason he was not on the train is because all leave for any 4th Battalion men had been cancelled due to a German counter-attack at cambrai.
Rumours of his death began to emerge in early December. They were confirmed in the local newspaper on 22nd December 1917, when Berrow’s Journal printed both a letter dated the 14th December informing Mrs. Dancox of her husband’s death, and an account by a Quartermaster Sergeant who had been present at the battle that took place near Masnieres in France. It said, on the 30th November 1917, the 4th Battalion had been mobilised against the German’s counter-attack. Private Dancox, the eyewitness said, was killed by a shrapnel wound to the head.
The Regimental History tells of the horror:
"The night of November 29th/30th was spent by the 4th Worcestershire in the cellars of Marcoing. The sleep of the troops was disturbed by the crash of great shells in the ruins over their heads, and by several alarms of gas. As dawn broke, the enemy's gun-fire increased in intensity. Everything was obscured by a thin mist. At 9.0 a.m. came a sudden alarm and urgent orders. On the right the enemy had broken through the 20th Division. General de Lisle's headquarter's had been surprised. The troops in reserve in Marcoing would move out at once in readiness to make a counter-attack. Even as the orders arrived, a big shell crashed into the buildings close by Battalion headquarters. The five battalions in Marcoing turned out as swiftly as they could, and were hurried to the southern end of the ruined town. Before they were clear of the houses, shells came raining down upon Marcoing. On every side buildings were collapsing under the bombardment, and many men of the hurrying platoons were struck down by the falling ruins."
Frederick Dancocks body was never found. In fact he was the second of the Dancocks brothers to die with no known grave: his older brother William Dancocks was killed on the 23rd October 1914 whilst serving with the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment near Neuve Chapelle. His two younger stepbrothers; Thomas and William Whittle were also killed during the war whilst serving with the Worcestershire Regiment. Thomas Whittle was killed on the 21st August 1916 whilst serving with the 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. William Whittle was killed on the 31st March 1918 whilst serving with the 1/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. Both have no known grave.
Frederick's younger bother Henry Dancocks, survived the war, having served alongside Frederick in the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
Letter from H.M. King George V to Mrs. Ellen Dancocks (note spelling "Dancox")
After the War
Ellen Dancocks collected the Victoria Cross on her husband’s behalf. A fund was set up for the Dancocks family for members of the public to contribute to, with an initial donation from the City Council of £50. The Mayor and Town Clerk were among the trustees. In February 1918 the General Purposes Committee minuted that "subscriptions were not coming in very satisfactorily", but eventually a total of £451 was subscribed.
Unveilling of Private Fred Dancox V.C. memorial at outside Langemarck, Belgium (9th September 2006)
L to R: Stuart Dancox, Bill Dancox, L/Cpl. Jones-Newton, Fred Dancox and John Jones-Newton
all decendants of Private Frederick George Dancox V.C.
A few years later Ellen Dancocks was forced to sell her husbands medals due to extreme poverty and Worcester County Council purchased them. In 1923 it was for a brief period framed and displayed in the Guildhall in Worcester before being loaned to the Worcestershire Regimental Museum.
Worcester has not forgotten Dancox’s heroism. Dancox House, a sheltered accommodation facility in the city centre, is named after him. All secondary school pupils are required to study the First World War as part of the National Curriculum, and some local schools incorporate his achievements into the lessons.
The Worcestershire & Herefordshire Branch of the Western Front Association, the commune of Langemarck-Poelcapelle and the Dancox family raised the money for a memorial. On the 9th September 2006 the unveilling ceremony was carried out at the location near "Namur Crossing" where Dancox won his V.C. The memorial includes an anodised aluminium information panel with a photo of Freerick Dancox, a map of the battle in which he won his V.C. and the story of the action, including his citation in English and Flemish. The unveiled ceremony in Belgium, received prominent coverage in the local and national press.
Private Frederick George Dancox V.C. medal group
Finally, it should be explained that, although the Victoria Cross citation spells Frederick's surname "Dancox", he was registered at birth and marriage as "Dancocks" which was the normal spelling of that surname at the time.
Frederick Dancocks is remembered on Panel 6 at the CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, LOUVERVAL, France. The Memorial stands on a terrace in Louverval Military Cemetery. His surname is still recorded as "Dancox".