b. 04/12/1904 Fulham, London. d. 26/12/1982 Droxford, Hampshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20-21/02/1944 London.
Leslie Owen Fox (1904-1982) was born in Fulham, South West London on 4th December 1904. His father Charles worked as an omnibus driver, and young Leslie was educated at New King’s Road School and All Saints’ CofE School in Fulham High Street. As a child, Leslie developed a keen interest in woodwork, and that became his trade post-school. He eventually became a carpenter and worked at the Regent Palace Hotel in Piccadilly for over 30 years.
In August 1930, he was commended for his bravery in stopping a runaway horse at the junction of Grange and Church Roads on 14th July that year. He married Elizabeth Louise Roberts soon afterwards, and though they had no children of their own, he gained a stepson, John Frederick. During World War II, John served in the Merchant Navy.
Leslie’s role in the Second World War was as part of the Fulham ARP Committee (renamed the Civil Defence Committee in August 1939). Leslie joined Civil Defence in 1939 and served in No 8 Squad, London County Council Heavy Rescue at No 1 Depot, Fulham.
In November 1943, Adolf Hitler gave the order for reprisal attacks on London for Allied air raids on Germany. The “Little Blitz” as it was known, began on 21st January 1944 and continued until the end of March. The Germans had a new weapon, a container which could hold as many as 620 incendiary devices. Fulham’s turn came on 20th February 1944, and the Heavy Rescue Service was called to Edith Road, where some houses had been demolished by high explosive and incendiary bombs.
The wreckage was alight and the walls were liable to collapse at any moment. Cries for help were heard from under the debris and Fox, without thought for himself, immediately began to tunnel his way through the burning ruins. Debris passed back by him was often too hot to handle and his men continually sprayed him with water in an attempt to keep down the heat. At great danger to himself, Fox shored up the entrance to the tunnel, adjoining which was a very dangerous party wall. After two hours of very strenuous work, and under the most difficult and dangerous conditions, Fox located the casualty, Major Guy Edney. Although in a distressed condition, he would not allow a relief to take his place and continued the rescue operation.
Shortly afterwards the wall fell, blocking the entrance and causing the tunnel to collapse. Fox, however, recommenced tunnelling, straining every muscle to expedite the work. After a further two hours' work, he had tunnelled 15ft and was able to clear the debris away from the head of the casualty and cover him with a soty of protection. A medical officer was then able to enter and administer restoratives to the injured man, who was eventually brought to safety. Fox performed his duty in a most gallant and determined manner. Sadly, Major Edney died of his injuries on 26th February.
After a short delay, the Regional Commissioner, Admiral Sir Edward Evans (he had been No 2 to Captain Scott on his Antarctic Expedition), recommended Leslie for the George Cross on 10th November 1944. The award was finally announced in the London Gazette on the 20th February 1945, exactly a year to the day later. His award brought great civic pride to Fulham. When interviewed for the Daily Herald, Fox stated “It was just a job of work I was paid to do. If anyone ought to have a medal it’s the chap we got out. He was the gamest man I’ve known – he apologised for causing any bother.”
Leslie received his GC from King George VI on 16th March 1945 at Buckingham Palace. In later life, Leslie enjoyed horse racing and his three step grandchildren. When he retired from carpentry, he and his wife moved to Fareham, Hampshire in 1977 at the invitation of his stepson.
Leslie died on Boxing Day, 1982 aged 78. A cremation took place at Portchester Crematorium on the 4th January 1983 and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. His widow died in 1988 and her ashes were scattered in the same area.
Leslie’s medals including his GC, Defence Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were sold at auction at Charterhouse Auctions on 13th June 2008, where they were bought by a private buyer. They remain in private ownership following a second sale in 2010.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: PORTCHESTER CREMATORIUM, FAREHAM, HAMPSHIRE.
Picture - Kevin Brazier