As we continue our ‘Join the Family’ series, a chat with David Featherstone reminded me of the importance of remembering and commemorating those who have gone before us.
David shared stories of Les and Daphne Cox, who were part of our Wimbledon church family for over 45 years. They met at Harris Street Baptist and were baptised at the same service at the age of 15. Their friendship deepened through church tennis, youth clubs and teaching Sunday school. Les joined the RAF just before World War II, trained as a pilot and was appointed to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. They married while he was home on leave on 9 June 1942.
Les returned to active service almost immediately, and six weeks later was shot down in flight. He was imprisoned for three years in Stalag Luft 3, the prisoner of war camp made famous by escapes depicted in The Great Escape and The Wooden Horse. Les himself was involved in plans to escape, and with others endured the brutal winter forced marches across Europe as the Russians advanced into East Germany.
Daphne didn’t know his fate for some time, but started to receive letters from him (which she handed over to the authorities, as she was told they contained coded messages!). Les and Daphne were finally reunited in June 1945, shortly after VE Day.
Les resumed work as a civil servant, moving into the health sector in the early years of the NHS, and they eventually joined Queens Road Baptist Church (now Everyday Wimbledon) in 1966. They were founding members of the Acorn Luncheon Club, helping prepare and serve meals; later in life they were able to enjoy the fruit of these labours themselves!
They delighted in their own family: two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and celebrated a joint 90th birthday party and a platinum wedding anniversary before Les’s passing in 2013. Daphne also suffered the loss of one of her children in 2015; the comfort of her family and the love and support from her Everyday family, in particular Barbara Featherstone, Barbara Gulson and Ann Payne, helped in her difficult last years before her passing in January.
I never met Les or Daphne, but as I reflect on these snippets of their lives I am grateful for God’s redemptive power in the brokenness and fragility of our world. Their story is not just one of survival and endurance, but loving service, the forging of family in and with Him, and of hope that endures; in this life, and the one to come.