1939 – Sir William George Coxen, Lord Mayor of London


300px-stpaulsblitzIt is November 1939 and Britain has been at war with Germany for one month.


The government had already ordered the mobilisation of all of Britain’s armed forces and all men between the ages of 18 and 41 were required to report for duty. Evacuation is happening for vulnerable civilians and children in anticipation of German air attacks.


Identity cards were mandatory for all citizens and at the same time the government were able to control all use of labour. There were over 150,000 British troops in France.


The first German air attack on Britain was in October 1939 and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has also been blamed for bombs set off in London. In this situation, William George Coxen becomes the new Lord Mayor of London.




The Blitz of London



German aircraft drops bombs on London

Blitz is from the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning ‘lightning war’. Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941, 16 British cities suffered aerial raids over a period of 267 days, 


London was attacked 71 times. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 20,000 civilians were killed. 






East end of London ablaze during the Blitz

The first major raid took place on 7 September 1940. On 15 September 1940, on a date known as the Battle of Britain Day, a large-scale raid was launched in daylight.







View from St Pauls after the Blitz

Probably the most devastating strike occurred on the evening of 29 December 1940, when German aircraft attacked the City of London itself with incendiary and high explosive bombs, causing a firestorm that has been called the Second Great Fire of London.  


At 18:17, planes released the first of 10,000 fire bombs, eventually amounting to 300 dropped per minute. Altogether, 130 German bombers destroyed the historical centre of London


George William Coxen


George William Coxen was the eldest child of George Nickels Coxen and Fanny Luxton, of Newington, London.


William was born on the 23rd March 1867 when his parents lived at 8, Gray’s Terrace, Newington, London. At the time of William’s birth his father worked as a Draper but would soon become a publican running a Public House in Upper Holloway called the Crown.


The family resided at the Crown for most of William’s childhood. George Nickels Coxen’s parents, Joseph Coxen and Elizabeth Rosa Nickels had been publicans themselves during at least part of his childhood, as indeed were two of George’s uncles, at least two of his cousins, and one of his brothers.


William was educated at the Onger Grammar School in Essex and then at King’s College, London. 


During the First World War he served as Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion of the London Volunteer Rifles. He was Mayor of Holborn between 1919 and 1920, Chairman of the Joint Industrial Council for the London District between 1920 and 1922, an Alderman of London and Sheriff of the City of London between 1928 and 1929. William George Coxen was knighted in 1929. 



Sir William George Coxen, 1st Bt.

Sir William George Coxen described as an Alderman of Billingsgate and Cordwainer was elected Lord Mayor of London and took office on the 9th November 1939, one month after the start of World War 2. He was 72 years old.


During his one year term of office Sir William and Lady Coxen spent much time fundraising for the war effort. It is documented that he raised £5 million during the year. During his term London was constantly bombarded and then the Blitz began.



In 1941 he was created a baronet, of Seal in the County of Kent. A baronet is a hereditary title down the male line. 

Coxen married Kathleen Alice Doncaster in 1912. They had no children. He died in April 1946, aged 79, when the baronetcy became extinct.


The Lord Mayor of London

The Lord Mayor of London was first instituted in 1189 and is an elected position with liverymen casting votes on behalf of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Livery Companies comprise the ancient trades association and guilds. 

The most famous Lord Mayor is Richard ‘Dick’ Whittington who served four terms between 1397 and 1419. By an order of 1435 the candidate for Lord Mayor is a current Alderman of the City of London. During their term of office the Lord Mayor lives in the Mansion House and their role is to represent the Livery Companies and be part of the governing body. 

The City of London has ancient rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens before the Norman Conquest in 1066 with a Charter granted by William the Conqueror in 1067, where he promised to recognise the rights, privileges and laws that the City had enjoyed since the time of Edward the Confessor (1042-62). 

In Saxon London and in the medieval period, municipal authority rested principally with Aldermen (‘elder’ men or elder folk), From medieval to Stuart times the City was the major source of financial loans to monarchs who sought funds to support their policies at home and abroad.


[Acknowledgements and References: City of London Corporation, Wikipedia, David Harvie Whant]

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