This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Pennsylvania.
This is the tragic story of two young cousins, born in England but who grew up together in Mckeesport, Pennsylvania and who died within 24 hours of each other during the influenza pandemic.
Cyril Cox was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire on 6 March 1897, the only child of Harry and Clara Cox. The family emigrated to the United States in 1904, arriving on the SS Campania on 29 October, and settled in Mckeesport with Clara’s brother-in-law and sister, George and Mary Morris, who had emigrated many years earlier.
George Dillow was born in Kettering on 25 June 1898, the second son and middle child of Joseph and Fannie Dillow. The family emigrated to the United States in 1905, arriving on the SS Lucania on 15 April, and joined the rest of the family in Mckeesport—George Morris was Fannie’s father.
Although close in age, the two boys were first cousins once removed. In Mckeesport, Cyril Cox became a tin worker and George Dillow worked as a butcher before they enlisted together on 13 August 1918. Both men joined the 1st Depot Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment at Belleville, Ontario and were allocated consecutive regimental numbers: Cox—3060833 and Dillow—3060832. Both were not fully fit for general service, and were categorised as only able to serve at home. Nonetheless, they began training at Belleville that summer.
When the influenza pandemic hit Belleville, both young men fell ill. Dillow was admitted to Belleville General Hospital suffering from influenza on 4 October 1918 and Cox followed him to hospital on 8 October. Both men died of pneumonia within hours of each other—Dillow on 14 October and Cox the next day. They appeared on the same casualty list.
The bodies of both men were taken home together and in a joint funeral they were buried near each other in the Cox/Dillow family plots in the southern portion of Richland Cemetery, Dravosburg, in Section D, plots 646 and 671 respectively. The parents of both men are also buried here, as is George Dillow’s brother, Ernest, and sister, Mildred. In addition to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones, both graves are marked by flat private markers at the foot of the graves.
Private Cox is commemorated on page 390 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 24 August. Private Dillow is commemorated on page 398; that page is displayed on 28 August.
Chris Dubbs and Dale Pysher for their efforts to visit and photograph the graves.
1. (Back) Harry Cox (25 June 1847-28 December 1929) was a widower with a 15-year-old daughter (Annie Ada) when he married Clara Jane Smith (23 August 1855-11 July 1941) in 1890 in Kettering.
2. (Back) George Morris (24 June 1849-28 September 1931) married Mary Charlotte Smith (6 February 1847-17 May 1925) in Kettering on 11 July 1869. They emigrated to the United States in 1888.
3. (Back) Joseph Edward Dillow (22 October 1871-4 May 1908) married Fannie Ethel Morris (31 March 1870-27 August 1951) in 1893 in Kettering: Ernest Morris (5 May 1894-October 1972); Mildred Ethel (19 November 1903-October 1975).