Frank Cox was the identical twin of Fred Cox and as The Cox Twins they were one of British variety’s most enduring acts. Stalwarts of the RAF Gang Shows during the Second World War, they played four instruments, sang, tap-danced and performed acrobatic routines.
After the war and until their retirement in 2000 they were regulars at the London Palladium, starred in summer seasons and pantomimes and made several films, including the 1972 version of Alice in Wonderland, in which they appeared as Tweedledum and Tweedledee opposite Peter Sellers.
Francis Thomas Cox was born in Cardiff on December 4, 1920 and, at the age of 12, he and his brother Fred joined Steffani’s Silver Songsters, a touring boys choir – which included a young Norman Vaughan and yodeller Ronnie Ronalde – as speciality clog dancers.
The Songsters toured every major music hall in the country, often supporting major variety artists and, after leaving the choir, the twins joined a show with the singer Dorothy Squires.
At the outbreak of war they joined the RAF and were stationed at Padgate, a result of prime minister Winston Churchill stating that RAF personnel who were twins should stay together. They appeared in local troops shows with success, although their long hair caused considerable comment.
They were quickly transferred to the RAF Gang Shows, under the auspices of Ralph Reader, who was to become a lifelong friend. The twins’ involvement with the Gang Shows spanned 50 years, with much of the time spent as welfare and entertainment officers. In wartime they toured throughout Britain, Europe, the Gulf and the Far East, in company with up and coming stars such as Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Rex Jameson (Mrs Shufflewick) and Dick Emery, often in hazardous conditions. On a visit to Tangmere Aerodrome in Sussex, they had barely left their lorry when they were machine-gunned by a lone Messerchmitt 109 fighter, and in Normandy they were in a bunker with Ralph Reader when Stuka bombers started strafing them from low level.
After the war Frank and Fred were key figures in the RAF Gang Show reunions. They recently created a book of remembrance dedicated to the shows at St Clement Dances, the RAF church in London.
In post-war variety The Cox Twins were virtually never out of work, largely thanks to both Ralph Reader and the legendary booking agent Cissie Williams.
They made several films, including Up Jumped a Swagman (1965) and Funny Bones (1995) with Lee Evans and Jerry Lewis. Their numerous television appearance included Barrymore and The Story of Light Entertainment (2006).
After Frank’s wife Estelle died in 1984 they appeared on stage as The Cox Twins and Pauline. In 2000 they were given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Music Hall Society.
Frank Cox died on November 10, aged 86. He is survived by his brother.
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