A decorated war veteran has become a social media sensation after a story about his 100th birthday went viral.
Ralph Cox marked his centenary celebrations recently with a party at Sanctuary Care’s The Beeches Residential Care Home, which provides residential care and dementia care in Birmingham, where he has lived for over two years.
His story hit the headlines in both local and national newspapers, but the fame did not end there with an article about Ralph, who survived being shot three times during combat, proving so popular it has been shared by thousands of people via Facebook.
Ralph’s story has been liked by over 6500 people on Age UK and Birmingham Updates’ Facebook pages, shared by over 850 people and attracted over 670 positive comments. Meanwhile a post about the centenarian by Sanctuary on LinkedIn received 272,741 impressions, 909 clicks and over 1,900 likes.
Many of the comments applaud his bravery during the Second World War when he was stationed in France, Italy and North Africa as a Sergeant with The Parachute Regiment, known as ‘The Red Berets’.
He was badly wounded after being shot in the back, arm and leg. After he recovered he continued with his service and received six military medals in total, including one which reads 1939-1945 King’s commendation for brave conduct.
Comments on Facebook page read: “……thank you for my freedom….,” “….true courage and bravery…,” “…thank you for all that you have done for our country and our freedom…” and “…happy birthday Ralph, you’re a hero.”
Speaking about how proud he felt that his father’s bravery had been recognised by thousands of people online his son Ron, who is 76 years old and lives in Cheshire said: “I’m really glad - these guys gave us the life we now have now by risking their necks.
“I am glad people have responded in this way and I’m delighted that there has been such a big response. People like my dad should be applauded because their effort was huge.”
Ron was just seven years old when a medal for his father, who was still on tour came through the post.
“A postman brought it in a little blue box,” he said. “Mother opened the box and burst into tears and said ‘I don’t want this medal I want my husband back’.”
Ron talked about a special memory he had of Ralph during his time in combat.
He said: “He did a tour in North Africa and I always remember he came back on leave and brought myself and my sister a banana back – we’d never seen a banana before and we were quite interested in this strange thing. I was so fascinated by it I locked it in my drawer and looked at it every day – of course it went black and I couldn’t eat it.”
Lisa Thomas, Sanctuary Care’s Regional Manager – Midlands said: “We are overwhelmed that there has been such a positive response to Ralph’s story. The power of social media is truly astounding and we are so pleased that such a remarkable man has received such widespread recognition and so many birthday wishes.”
Born in Lozells, Birmingham, Ralph married neighbour and childhood sweetheart Anne. The couple had four children – Jill, Ron, Wendy and Ray.
A keen sportsman who played golf well into his 90s, when asked how he felt about becoming a centenarian Ralph said: “I feel happy and quite contented living life.”
Wendy and Jill said: “They were super parents – very kind. He was a very kind father and we were very close growing up – all of us are.”
The couple enjoyed 45 years of happy marriage, before Anne sadly died of cancer in 1982. Jill said her father lovingly cared for Anne, as he did for his second wife Marion, whom he married in 1983. Marion, who had three children Geoff, Terry and Margaret from her first marriage passed away in 2005 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
Ralph, who has 13 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren was an all-round sportsman and loved football, golf, bowls and competed for several years as a runner with the Birchfield Harriers.