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Ernest Frank Guelph Cox

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Ernest Frank Guelph Cox (c1875-1959) of Cox and Danks

1959 Obituary [1]

MR. ERNEST FRANK GUELPH Cox, who died at Torquay on February 17, aged seventy-five, was an acknowledged expert in the salvaging of sunken ships. He was the founder of Cox and Danks, Ltd. (now part of the Metal Industries group), a firm which was started in the 1920s when Mr. Cox was engaged in raising the scuttled German battle fleet in Scapa Flow.

Mr. Cox was born at Wolverhampton and was trained as an electrical engineer. During the first world war he was engaged in munitions production, and in 1919 he entered the scrap metal trade.

In 1922, Mr. Cox set up a ship-breaking yard at Queenborough, Kent, and subsequently purchased from the Government a 40,000-ton floating dock which had been handed over by Germany as reparations.

It is said that while this dock was being dismantled at Queenborough, Mr. Cox decided it would be ideal equipment for raising the scuttled German warships from Scapa Flow. The floating dock was thereupon towed the 700 miles to Scapa and redesigned and converted to a floating workshop. By this time, Mr. Cox had negotiated with the Admiralty for the purchase of the German ships. The first lot to be acquired consisted of twenty-six destroyers and two battleships, and the first vessel which Mr. Cox raised from Scapa was a destroyer of about 800 tons, a task which took ten days.

After dealing successfully with a number of the smaller craft, Mr. Cox turned his attention to the bigger ships; one of his notable successes during that phase of the operation was the raising of the battle cruiser "Moltke" which was upside down on the bottom. It was decided to attempt to raise her by using compressed air. It was discovered, however, after the first attempt had failed, that it was necessary to distribute the air on the port and starboard side, as required, for the ship to be raised successfully. For this purpose, lofty airlocks were erected on the ship's bottom to give access to the interior so that the longitudinal bulkheads could be made watertight.

Several accounts of these salvage operations were printed in our columns at the time they were carried out, between 1924 and 1929. A detailed description of the difficulties and ingenuity of the enterprise was given by Mr. Cox himself in December, 1932, when he delivered to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers the Thomas Lowe Gray Lecture entitled "Eight Years' Salvage Work at Scapa Flow."

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