Egypt - Alexandria: Cox & Co
Cyril Sladden makes a number of references to Cox & Co, army agents, in his letters and Mela Brown Constable addressed some of her letters to him care of the agents in Alexandria, Egypt, which acted for men serving in the Dardanelles.
Cyril was wounded at Gallipoli in August 1915 and was sent to Malta. In the latter part of September, Mela sent letters c/o Cox & Co, Alexandria, as she did not know when Cyril would be leaving to rejoin his regiment. Cyril confirmed in a letter of October 1915 from Lemnos that, in the event of being reported wounded or sick, it would be best to write care of Cox’s at Alexandria as his emergency address. He said that some officers used it as their permanent address but, as direct mails to the front were satisfactory, he felt no need to do that.
Cox & Co was founded in 1758 when Lord Ligonier, Colonel of the 1st Foot Guards, appointed his secretary, Richard Cox, as regimental agent. Cox was responsible for the payment of officers and men, and also the provision of clothing and the marketing of officer commissions. He operated the business with the help of two clerks at his house in Albemarle Street, London, later moving to Craig’s Court in Whitehall then 16-18 Charing Cross. Richard Cox died in 1803, but, the firm, under Cox’s son and Charles Greenwood, went from strength to strength taking on a series of new partners. By 1815, it had become agent to the entire Household Brigade, most of the cavalry and infantry regiments, the Royal Artillery, and the Royal Wagon Train (later known as the Royal Army Service Corps).
Between 1905 and 1911, Cox & Co expanded further, setting up five branches in India. These primarily served the British garrisons who were stationed there. The business expanded dramatically with the outbreak of the First World War and established a branch in Alexandra, Egypt. Its staff numbers rocketed from 180 in 1914, to 4,500 in 1918. With a third of the original work force having joined up, the firm had to recruit women for the first time. The Charing Cross office was open all day every day during the War, cashing cheques around the clock for officers returning from the Front. The branch had around 250,000 men on its books. At the height of the conflict 50,000 cheques a day were cleared.
The firm did not just issue pay and manage officers’ bank accounts. Its Insurance Department could arrange to insure the officer’s kit; the Income Tax Department could deal with his tax returns; and the Standing Order Department would ensure that his tailor was paid regularly. Cox’s also sent a cashier with a supply of money to every hospital ship as it arrived, to enable wounded officers to cash cheques.
In 1922, Cox & Co was renamed Cox’s and King’s when it took over the firm of Henry S King.