Regimental VC`s (World War One)
The Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded 628 times to 627 recipients for action in the First World War (1914–1918). The Victoria Cross is a military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other Orders, decorations and medals; it may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The award was officially constituted when Queen Victoria issued a warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29th January 1856 that was gazetted on 5th February 1856. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War. The first awards ceremony was held on 26th June 1857, where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park.
The First World War, also known as the Great War and in the United States as World War I, was a global military conflict that embroiled most of the world’s great powers,assembled in two opposing alliances: the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.More than 70 million military personnel were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. The main combatants descended into a state of total war, directing their entire scientific and industrial capabilities into the war effort. Over 15 million people were killed, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.The proximate cause of war was the assassination on 28th June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Soon after, a system of alliances were activated that would see Europe at war. The western Front saw the largest concentration of Commonwealth troops with soldiers occupying sectors of the line from the North Seato the Orne River.
On 1st July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme, the British Army endured the bloodiest day in its history, suffering 57,470 casualties and 19,240 dead; nine Victoria Crosses were awarded for action on that day. Most of the casualties occurred in the first hour of the attack. The entire Somme offensive cost the British Army almost half a million men. The war was not just fought on land; the First World War saw major naval battles as well as the first large-scale use of military aircraft. The war at sea was mainly characterised by the efforts of the Allied Powers in blockading the Central Powers by sea. In return, the Central Powers attempted to break that blockade and establish an effective blockade of the British Isles and France with U-boats and raiders. The largest navel battle of the First World War was the Battle of Jutland which was the only full-scale clash of battleships in that war. Four Victoria Crosses were awarded for action at Jutland. The war in the air saw 19 VCs being awarded to airmen. The First World War saw significant interest in flying aces, including the German Manfred von Richthofen—also known as The Red Baron—as well as British aces such as Albert Ball, Mick Mannock and Billy Bishop, who were all Victoria Cross recipients. Hostilities ended on 11th November 1918 with the signing of the Armistice Treaty in the Compiegne Forest, but the war was not officially over until the various peace treaties were signed in 1919. By the war’s end, four major imperial powers— Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire—had been militarily and politically defeated, and the latter two ceased to exist as autonomous entities.Of the 60 million European soldiers who were mobilised from 1914–1918, 8 million were killed, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured.
During the war, Britain called on its dominions and colonies, which provided invaluable military, financial and material support. The armies of the Dominions provided over 2.5 million men as well as many thousands of volunteers from the Crown colonies.The largest number of men came from the Indian sub continent, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Imperial Force(AIF) began forming on 15 August 1914 and remained a volunteer force for the entire war.Throughout the four years of conflict, 331,814 volunteers from Australia were sent overseas with 63 VCs awarded; nine of these were given for the Gallipoli Campaign. Eleven members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) were awarded the Victoria Cross. The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) saw over 600,000 enlistments throughout its four-year history with 71 VCs awarded.At the outbreak of the hostilities, Newfoundland was a separate dominion and 2 soldiers from Newfoundland were awarded the Victoria Cross.
The 628 awards of the Victoria Cross given for action during the First World War account for almost half the 1356 Victoria Crosses awarded throughout its history; in comparison the Second World Warsaw 181 medals awarded. Noel Godfrey Chavasse was awarded the Victoria Cross and bar, for two separate actions in the First World War on the battlefields of Mametz and Passchendaele. He died from wounds received in the second action. Arthur Martin-Leake received a Bar to his Victoria Cross for action in the First World War; he had been awarded his first Victoria Cross for action in the Second Boer War.
Regimental VC`s (World War One)
William Beesley VC (5th October 1895 – 23rd September 1966) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Beesley was 22 years old, and a private in the 13th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ On 8th May 1918 at Bucquoy, France, when Private Beesley’s platoon sergeant and all the section commanders were killed he took command. Single-handed he rushed a post, shot four of the enemy, took six prisoners and sent them back to his lines. He and a comrade then brought his Lewis gun into action, inflicting many casualties and holding their position for four hours until the second private was wounded. Private Beesley, by himself, maintained his position until nightfall, when he returned to the original line with the wounded man and the Lewis gun which he kept in action until things had quietened down.
He later achieved the rank of sergeant.
1915 Lance Sgt D W Belcher VC of the London Rifle Brigade (RB)
Douglas Belcher Lance-Sergeant London Regiment WWI 13 May 1915
Belcher was a lance-sergeant in the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (The London Rifle Brigade), British Army, during the First World War, when the deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. He was 25 years old.
On 13 May 1915, south of the Wieltje-St. Julien Road, Belgium, Belcher was in charge of a portion of an advanced breastwork during continuous bombardment by the enemy. With very few men, Belcher elected to remain and try to hold his position after the troops near him had been withdrawn, and with great skill he succeeded in his objective, opening rapid fire on the enemy, who were only 150-200 yards away, whenever he saw them collecting for an attack. This bold action prevented the enemy breaking through and averted an attack on the flank of one of our divisions.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the RGJ / Rifles Museum at the former Peninsula Barracks.
Buried in Claygate Surrey
Edward Brooks VC (11 April 1883 – 26 June 1944) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Edward Brooks was born in Oakley, Buckinghamshire, on the 11th of April 1883 and baptised in Oakley Church on the 20th of January 1884. He was one of twelve children of Thomas (born in Oakley in 1855) and Selina Brooks (born in Halesowen, Worcestershire in 1857).
He was 34 years old, and a Company Sergeant Major in the 2/4th Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 28 April 1917 at Fayat, near Saint-Quentin, France, Company Sergeant-Major Brooks, while taking part in a raid on the enemy’s trenches, saw that the front wave was being checked by an enemy machine gun. On his own initiative he rushed forward from the second wave, killed one of the gunners with his revolver and bayoneted another. The remainder of the gun crew then made off, leaving the gun, where upon the company sergeant-major turned it on the retreating enemy, after which he carried it back to Allied lines. His courageous action undoubtedly prevented many casualties and greatly added to the success of the operation.
William Francis Burman VC (30th August 1897 – 23rd October 1974) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Burman was 20 years old, and a sergeant in the 16th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ During the Battle of Passchendaele on 20th September 1917 south-east of Ypres, Belgium, when the advance of his company was held up by a machine-gun at point-blank range, Sergeant Burman shouted to the men next to him to wait a few minutes and going forward to what seemed certain death killed the enemy gunner and carried the gun to the company’s objective where he used it with great effect. Fifteen minutes later it was seen that about 40 of the enemy were enfilading the battalion on the right. Sergeant Burman and two others ran and got behind them, killing six and capturing two officers and 29 other ranks.
John Fitzhardinge Paul Butler VC DSO (20th December 1888 – 5th September 1916) was a British Army Officer an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Butler was born in on 20th December 1888 to Lt. Col. Francis John Paul Butler and the Hon. Elspeth Butler. He was married, to Alice Amelia of Portfield, Chichester. He was nephew of Lord Gifford, VC. Butler was commissioned into the King`s Royal Rifle Corps in February 1907.
He was 25 years old, and a lieutenant in The King`s Royal Rifle Corps , attached to Pioneer Coy., Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 17th November 1914 in the Cameroons, Nigeria.
“ For most conspicuous bravery in the Cameroons, West Africa. On 17th November, 1914, with a party of 13 men, he went into the thick bush and at once attacked the enemy, in strength about 100, including several Europeans, defeated them, and captured their machine gun and many loads of ammunition. On 27th December, 1914, when on patrol duty, with a few men, he swam the Ekam River, which was held by the enemy, alone and in the face of a brisk fire, completed his reconnaissance on the further bank, and returned in safety. Two of his men were wounded while he was actually in the water.
He later achieved the rank of Captain, and was Killed in action at Motomba on 5th September 1916.
George Edward Cates VC (9th May 1892 – 8th March 1917) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Cates was born on 9 May 1892 to George and Alice Ann Cates, of Wimbledon, London
He was 24 years old, and a Second lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War and was awarded the VC for his actions on 8 March 1917 at Bouchavesnes, France during which he was killed.
London Gazzette, dated 11 May 1917
“ For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice. When engaged with some other men in deepening a captured trench this officer struck with his spade a buried bomb, which immediately started to burn. 2nd Lt. Gates, in order to save the lives of his comrades, placed his foot on the bomb, which immediately exploded. He showed the most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in performing the act which cost him his life, but saved the lives of others.
Major William “Billy” La Touche Congreve VC, DSO, MC (12th March 1891 – 20th July 1916) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was at school at Summer Fields School, Oxford and then at Eton, leaving in 1907.On 1st June 1916 he married Pamela Cynthia Maude, the daughter of actors Cyril Maudeand Winifred Emery.
Congreve was 25 years old, and a Major in The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ During the period 6th July to 20th July 1916 at Longueval, France, Major Congreve constantly inspired those round him by numerous acts of gallantry. As Brigade Major he not only conducted battalions up to their positions but when the Brigade headquarters was heavily shelled he went out with the medical officer to remove the wounded to places of safety, although he himself was suffering from gas and other shell effects. He went out again on a subsequent occasion tending the wounded under heavy shell fire. Finally, on returning to the front line to ascertain the position after an unsuccessful attack, he was shot and died instantly.
He was the son of General Sir Walter Norris Congreve, also a Victoria Cross awardee – they are one of only three father and son pairings to win a VC. His younger brother, Geoffrey, first of the Congreve baronets of Congreve, Staffordshire, was a distinguished sailor, awarded the DSO for a raid on Norway and killed in 1941 during a raid on the French coast.
His widow bore a posthumous daughter, Mary Gloria Congreve, born 21st March 1917.Pamela Congreve later remarried, to Brigadier the Hon. William Fraser, in 1919.
William Congreve’s grave is at Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, France, 9 miles east of Amiens, Plot I, Row F, Grave 35. There is also a memorial to him in the form of a plaque in Corbie church, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyenst.
Major Edward Cooper VC (4th May 1896 – 19th August 1985) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Cooper was 21 years old, and a Sergeant in the 12th Battalion, The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck, during the Battle of Passchendaele for which he was awarded the VC.
The citation was published in the London Gazzette on 14th September 1917, and reads:
“ No. R.2794 Sjt. Edward Cooper, K.R.R.C. (Stockton).
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sjt. Cooper, with four men, immediately rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on. About 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire at the blockhouse. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, he immediately rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine guns and forty-five prisoners were captured in this blockhouse. By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives.
He later achieved the rank of Major. His medal is on display at Preston Hall Museum in Stockton. Major Cooper was cremated at Teesside Crematorium.
L/Cpl AJ Christie VC Finsbury Rifles (KRRC) 1917 Palestine
Christie was 22 years old, and a Lance Corporal in the 1/11th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles, British Army during the first World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 21st December-22nd December 1917, at Fejja, Palestine, after a position had been captured, the enemy immediately made counter-attacks up the communication trenches. Lance-Corporal Christie, seeing what was happening, took a supply of bombs and went alone about 50 yards in the open along the communication trench and bombed the enemy. He continued to do this in spite of heavy opposition until a block had been established. On his way back he bombed more of the enemy who were moving up the trench. His prompt action cleared a difficult position at a most difficult time and saved many lives
His medal is privately held.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Daniels VC, MC (13th December 1884 – 13th December 1953) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Harry Daniels was the 13th child of baker in Wymondham, Norfolk. He joined the army at a young age and served abroad in India.
He was 30 years old, and a Company Sergeant Major in the 2nd Battalion of The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 12 March 1915 at Neuve Chapelle, France, his unit was ordered into an advance on the German trenches across no-man`s land which was covered by machine guns and strewn with barbed wire. Daniels and another man, Cecil Reginald Noble, voluntarily rushed in front with cutters and attacked the wires They were both wounded at once, Noble dying later of his wounds.
For further activities on the Western Front he was awarded the Military Cross and later achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the RGJ / Rifles Museum at the former Peninsula Barracks.
Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Stephen Dimmer VC, MC (9th October 1883 – 21st March 1918) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Born on 9th October 1883, Dimmer was 31 years old, married, and a lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, The King`s Royal Rifle Corps and was awarded the VC for his actions on 12th November 1914 at Klein Zillebeke, Belgium.
The London Gazette, 19th November 1914
“ This Officer served his machine gun during the attack on the 12th November at Klein Zillebeke until he had been shot five times – three times by shrapnel and twice by bullets, and continued at his post until his gun was destroyed.
Alfred George Drake VC (10th December 1893 – 23rd November 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Drake was born in December 1893 in Mile End, Stepney, London to Robert and Mary Ann Drake. He was 21 years old, and a corporal in the 8th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War and was awarded the VC for his actions on 23 November 1915, near La Brique, Belgium. He was killed in his VC action.
The London Gazette No. 29447, 21 January 1916
“ For most conspicuous bravery on the night of 23rd Nov., 1915, near La Brique, France. He was one of a patrol of four which was reconnoitring towards the German lines. The patrol was discovered when close to the enemy who opened heavy fire with rifles and a machine gun, wounding the Officer and one man. The latter was carried back by the last remaining man. Corporal Drake remained with his Officer and was last seen kneeling beside him and bandaging his wounds regardless of the enemy’s fire. Later a rescue party crawling near the German lines found the Officer and Corporal, the former unconcious (sic) but alive and bandaged, Corporal Drake beside him dead and riddled with bullets. He had given his own life and saved his Officer.
He was interred in La Brique No2 Military Cemetery near Ieper.
The officer rescued by Corporal Drake was Lieutenant Henry Tryon also of the Rifle Brigade. After Tryon recovered from his wounds he returned to his former unit and was killed in action at Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916.
Sergeant Albert Gill VC (8th September 1879 – 27th July 1916) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 36 years old, and a serjeant in the 1st Battalion, The The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ On 27th July 1916 at Delville Wood, France, the enemy made a very strong counterattack on the right flank of the battalion and rushed the bombing post after killing all the company bombers. Sergeant Gill rallied the remnants of his platoon, none of whom were skilled bombers, and reorganised his defences. Soon afterwards the enemy nearly surrounded his men and started sniping at about 20 yards range. Although it was almost certain death, Sergeant Gill stood boldly up in order to direct the fire of his men. He was killed almost at once, but his gallant action held up the enemy advance.
Gill is buried at Delville Wood Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Somme, France.
William Gregg VC DCM MM (27th January 1890 – 10th August 1969) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 28 years old, and a sergeant in the 13th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own), British Army during the First World War when he performed a deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On the 6th of May 1918 at Bucquoy, France, when all the officers of Sergeant Gregg’s company had been hit during an attack on an enemy outpost, he took command, rushing two enemy posts, killing some of the gun teams, taking prisoners and capturing a machine-gun. He then started to consolidate his position until driven back by a counter-attack, but as reinforcements had by now come up, he led a charge, personally bombed a hostile machine-gun, killed the crew and captured the gun. When driven back again, he led another successful attack and held on to his position until ordered to withdraw.
He later achieved the rank of company sergeant-major and served in World War II with the Sherwood Foresters.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Green Jackets / Rifles Museum in Winchester,
William lived in Heanor, Derbyshire, and as testament to his deeds of gallantry when the town’s new swimming baths were built in 1970 they were named the ‘William Gregg V.C Swimming Baths’ in his honour.
That recognition was continued when the facilities were extended and privatised in 2009-10 as the ‘William Gregg V.C. Leisure Centre.
George Allen Maling VC by Arthur Lockyear
George Maling was born in Sunderland on 6th October, 1888 at Carlton House the son of Edwin Allan and Maria Jane Maling. He was educated at Uppingham, going on to Oxford and then to St Thomas’s Hospital where he obtained the Degrees, M A; M B; B Ch. Oxon; MRCS; and LRCP. The Battle of Loos formed a part of the wider Artois-Loos Offensive conducted by the French and British in autumn 1915, sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of Artois, and comprised the major Allied offensive on the Western Front in 1915.The Loos offensive began on 25th September following a four day artillery bombardment in which 250,000 shells were fired, and was called off in failure on 28th September. Presided over by General Douglas Haig, the British had committed six divisions to the attack despite serious misgivings regarding the unavailability of a further two divisions as reserves. This delay in making available the reserves was crucial.
The Germans poured in reserves to counter-attack the following day when the British no longer had the benefit of a preliminary artillery bombardment.
Advancing towards the astonished Germans that afternoon without covering fire, the “Tommies” were cut down by repeated machine gun fire. After several days of sporadic fighting, the British were eventually forced to order a retreat. During the battle the British forces suffered 50,000 casualties. German casualties were estimated much lower, at approximately half the British total. It was against this backdrop of carnage that Lieutenant George Maling of the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to 12th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (now the Royal Green Jackets) won his Victoria Cross.
At dawn on the second day of battle a group of British soldiers were trapped in the area of a ruined house in “no man’s land”, near Fauquissart, by a murderous artillery barrage, with the screams of the wounded carrying to the British lines, where their comrades were unable to give them support because of the intensity of the shelling.
Despite this, and on being advised that were some three-hundred wounded around this ruin, Maling shouldered his medical pack, shouted for his orderly and jumped the parapet and ran through curtain of exploding steel, and inexplicably arrived at ruin unharmed. He then set about his duties conscientiously and systematically, despite the incessant barrage, and the consequent escalation in casualty numbers.
Accompanied by his orderly, Maling moved from casualty to casualty, never hurrying, dressing wounds, carrying less seriously wounded men to more comfortable positions, and giving solace and as much palliative care as circumstances would permit to the more serious injured.
Both men worked through the day, taking cover only when the bombardment became too intense, and even then Maling sought to protect his patients with his body. Eventually, and inevitably, a shell exploded almost over-head of the two men, throwing them a distance.
Lieutenant Maling found to his surprise that he was uninjured, his orderly however, was not so fortunate and lay wounded amongst a pile of bodies.
Dazed, Maling struggled to his feet, pulled his orderly clear, and commenced to treat his wounds. At this point, Maling heard the faint cry of a comrade begging for water, and as he made his way to this unfortunate soldier another artillery shell exploded near-by flinging Maling to the ground, covering him with debris and blowing his bag out of his hand.
Most incredibly he again escaped unhurt, and so crawled about on his hands and knees recovering his lost medical equipment, and re-commenced treating the ever growing band of injured and dying as the barrage continued pitilessly throughout that terrible and Hellish day.
As night fell the bombardment lessened in intensity, becoming more sporadic. Maling was therefore able to commence transporting the wounded to relatively safer places. Not once during this long night of wounded and dying soldiers did Maling think of leaving his patients and returning to the safety of British lines, instead he continued alone in his selfless and gallant humanitarian work, with great commitment and courage.
As dawn broke, the early light showed hundreds of dead around the area of the ruined house, but almost three hundred alive but wounded. Again a haggard and tired Maling continued moving from man to man giving what treatment he could and trying to raise their spirits.
By 8am the German gunners ceased their attack, and British rescue teams were able to move forward to bring the wounded back to casualty stations and thence away from the “Front”. For the most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in collecting and treating more than 300 wounded, all the time under heavy shell fire and in the open Lieutenant Malling was awarded the highest honour that can be bestowed on a British soldier — the Victoria Cross. He was mentioned in despatches and promoted to Captain in 1916.
George Allen Maling VC died on 9th July, 1929 at the age of 40 in Lee, South East London, where he had practised as a General Practitioner (Doctor). His medals are held by the Museum of Army Medical Services, Aldershot.
Sgt AJ Knight VC Post Office Rifles (RB )1917 Belgium
Alfred Joseph Knight was born in 1888 in Ladywood, Birmingham. He married Mabel Saunderson in 1915 and worked as a Clerical Assistant in the North Midland Engineering District prior to the outbreak of war.
The Great War began on the 28th of July 1914 and Alfred, keen to offer his services in the name of his King and country joined the Post Office Rifles three months later on the 26th October 1914. The Rifles moved to Northern France in May 1917 where they would see their first major action at the Second Battle of Bullecourt.
The Second Battle of Bullecourt was a further attempt at penetrating the German lines after the initial assault failed (The First Battle of Bullecourt). Before the offensive was called off on May the 17th 1917, Knight distinguished himself with an act of bravery that saw him bringing back wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire and it was this action that saw Alfred promoted to Sergeant.
Sergeant Alfred Knight and the Post Office Rifles went on to fight at the Battle for Wurst Farm Ridge, Ypres on the 20th of September 1917 and it was during this battle that Knight’s act of gallantry saw him be awarded with the Victoria Cross. Alfred charged the enemy and single handedly captured an enemy position with no regard for his own safety whatsoever. Knight was presented with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace on January 3rd, 1918 by King George V.
It is also noted that as an extraordinary soldier, who was ready to improvise in Theatre of War, Sergeant Alfred Knight rushed through a group of enemy soldiers who were causing casualties at Hubner Farm bayoneted two, shot one and caused the rest to scarper. It was acts of bravery such as this that made Alfred Knight one of the standout soldiers in the Post Office Rifles.
After the war Alfred Knight worked at the Ministry of Labour, managing the Employment Exchange. He later went on to become the Senior Wages Inspector in the Midlands section of the Ministry of Labour and retired in 1951. In that same year he was made a member of the Order of The British Empire.
Sergeant Alfred Knight died aged 72 at his home on the 4th of December 1960.
William Mariner VC (29th May 1882 – 1st July 1916) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Mariner, the son of Mrs A. Wignall was 32 years old, and a Private the 2nd Battalion, The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
The citation for the award, published in the London Gazette on 23rd June 1915
No. 2052 Private William Mariner, 2nd Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
“ During a violent thunderstorm on the night of 22nd May, 1915, he left his trench near Cambrin, and crept out through the German wire entanglements till he reached the emplacement of a German machine gun which had been damaging our parapets and hindering our working parties.
After climbing on the top of the German parapet he threw a bomb in under the roof of the gun emplacement and- heard some groaning and the enemy running away. After about a quarter of an hour he heard some of them coming back again, and climbed up on the other side of the emplacement and threw another bomb among them left-handed. He then lay still while the Germans opened a heavy fire on the wire entanglement behind him, and it was only after about an hour that he was able to crawl back to his own trench.
Before starting out he had requested a serjeant to open fire on the enemy’s trenches as soon as he had thrown his bombs. Rifleman Mariner was out alone for one and a half hours carrying out this gallant work.“
Cecil Reginald Noble VC (4th June 1891 – 13th March 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 23 years old, and an Acting Corporal in the 2nd Battalion,The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 12th March 1915 at Neuvue Chapelle, France, when the advance of the battalion was impeded by wire entanglements and by very severe machine-gun fire, Corporal Noble and another man ( Harry Daniels) voluntarily rushed in front and succeeded in cutting the wires. They were both wounded, and Corporal Noble later died of his injuries. Daniels survived to receive his Victoria Cross and later rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
George Stanley Peachment VC (5th May 1897 – 25th September 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Before he joined up in April 1915, Peachment was an apprentice steam engine maker in Bury, Lancashire.
Peachment was a private in The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
” At the Battle of Loos, on 25th September 1915 near Hulluch, France, during very heavy fighting, when the front line was compelled to retire in order to reorganise, Private Peachment saw his company commander lying wounded and crawled to help him. The enemy fire was intense but although there was a shell-hole quite close in which a few men had taken cover, Private Peachment never thought of saving himself. He knelt in the open by his officer and tried to help him, but while doing so was first wounded by a bomb and a minute later mortally wounded by a rifle bullet.
His medal is held in the Lord Ashcroft VC Collection.
Harry Sherwood Ranken VC (3rd September 1883 – 25th September 1914) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Ranken was 31 years old, and a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, British Army, attached to 1st Battalion, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On the 19th and 20th of September 1914 at Haute-Avesnes, France, Captain Ranken was severely wounded in the leg whilst attending to his duties on the battlefield under shrapnel and rifle fire. He arrested the bleeding from this and bound it up, then continued to dress the wounds of his men, sacrificing his own chance of survival to their needs. When he finally permitted himself to be carried to the rear his case had become almost desperate and he died on 25th of September.
Ranken is buried in Braine Communal Cemetery.
Ranken worked at the Brook fever hospital in South East London, which was on the site adjacent to the Royal Herbert Military Hospital; the original hospital designed on the principles laid down by Florence Nightingale after the Crimean war. When the military hospital moved across the road to a new set of buildings around 1970 – the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital – the administration block at the QE was named after him – Ranken House. The QE has since been largely rebuilt and is now a civilian hospital, but the name has been preserved. Harry Ranken’s photograph and a copy of his citation are still proudly displayed in the reception area of Ranken House.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Army Medical Services Museum (Aldershot, England).
Albert Edward Shepherd VC (11th January 1897 – 23rd October 1966) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 20 years old, and a privat in the 12th (S) Battalion,The King`s Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ On 20th November 1917 at Villers Plouich, France, when his company was held up by a machine-gun at point-blank range, Private Shepherd volunteered to rush the gun and although ordered not to, rushed forward and threw a Mills bomb killing two gunners and capturing the gun. The company, continuing its advance, came under heavy enfilade* machine-gun fire and when the last officer and NCO had become casualties, Private Shepherd took command of the company, ordered the men to lie down and went back some 70 yards to get the help of a tank. He then returned to his company and led them to their last objective
A formation or position is “in enfilade” if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. For instance, a trench is enfiladed if the opponent can fire down the length of the trench. A column of marching troops is enfiladed if fired on from the front or rear such that the projectiles travel the length of the column. A rank or line of advancing troops is enfiladed if fired on from the side (flank)..
He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on 28th August 1916 and became acting Corporal one month later on 28th September 1916.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the RGJ / Rifles Museum at the former Peninsula Barracks.
Alfred Wilcox VC (16th December 1884 – 30th March 1954), was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Until 2006, he was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross whose exact resting place was unknown.
He was 33 years old, and a lance corporal in the 2/4th Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 12 September 1918 near Laventie, France, when his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire at short range, Lance-Corporal Wilcox rushed to the nearest enemy gun, bombing it and killing the gunner. Being then attacked by an enemy bombing party, the corporal picked up enemy stick bombs and led his company against the next gun, finally capturing and destroying it. Then, left with only one man he continued bombing and captured a third gun. Going up the trench, bombing as he went, he captured a fourth gun and then returned to his platoon.
A nephew was Charles Wilcox GC. In 2006 his nephew John Wilcox, who had attended his Uncle’s funeral in 1954, helped historian Chris Sutton in locating his grave in Aston Church. A service was held, and a memorial unveiled on 12 September 2006, 88 years to the day after he captured the guns.
Joseph Edward Woodall VC (1st June 1896 – 2nd January 1962) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Woodall was 21 years old and a Lance Sergeantt in the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 11th April 1918 the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade was rushed up in buses to a position on the La Bassée Canal to try to stem the German breakthrough on the Lys. Over the next eleven days it was involved in severe fighting in the area around Hinges and Robecq. On 22nd April, 1st Bn, Rifle Brigade, together with the 1st Hampshires, took part in an attack which helped to secure the Canal. It was during this fighting that Lance Sergeant Joseph Woodall won his Victoria Cross on the far side of the canal at La Pannerie, near Hinges.
His citation read:
La Pannerie, France, 22nd April 1918, Lance Sergeant Joseph Edward Woodall, 1st Bn, The Rifle Brigade.
“ For most conspicuous bravery and fine leadership during an attack. ( La Pannerie, France ) Sjt. Woodall was in command of a platoon which, during an advance, was held up by a machine gun. On his own initiative he rushed forward and, single-handed, captured the gun and eight men. After the objective had been gained, heavy fire was encountered from a farmhouse some 200 yards in front. Sjt. Woodall collected ten men and, with great dash and gallantry, rushed the farm and took thirty prisoners. Shortly afterwards, when the officer in command was killed, he took entire command, reorganised the two platoons, and disposed them most skilfully.
Throughout the day, in spite of intense shelling and machine-gun fire, this gallant N.C.O. was constantly on the move, encouraging the men and finding out and sending back invaluable information. The example set by Sjt. Woodall was simply magnificent, and had a marked effect on the troops. The success of the operation on this portion of the front is attributed almost entirely to his coolness, courage and utter disregard for his own personal safety.
Joseph Woodall was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 23 November 1918.
Joseph Woodall stayed in the Army after the war and on 7th March 1919 became a Second Lieutenant with one of the Service Battalions of The Rifle Brigade. He retired from the Army as a Captain in September 1921.
Woodall did not attend the 1956 VC Centenary Review, although he did attend a Festival of Remembrance in Dublin in November 1956, along with three other VC holders – Adrian Carton de Wiart, John Moyney and James Duffy.
Joseph Woodall died at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire on 2 January 1962 and was buried in Deans Grange Cemetery.
Medal entitlement of Captain Joseph Edward Woodall – 1st Bn, The Rifle Brigade
Sidney Clayton Woodroffe VC (17th December 1895 – 30th July 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Woodroffe was born in Lewes, Sussex and was educated at Marlbrough Collage.
He was 19 years old, and a second Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort`s Own) of the British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
“ On 30th July 1915 at Hooge, Belgium, when the enemy had broken through the centre of our front trenches, Second Lieutenant Woodroffe’s position was heavily attacked with bombs from the flank and subsequently from the rear, but he managed to defend his post until all his bombs were exhausted. He then skillfully withdrew his remaining men and immediately led them forward in a counter-attack under intense rifle and machine-gun fire, and was killed whilst in the act of cutting the wire obstacles in the open.
This medal is currently in the Lord Ashcroft V.C. Trust Collection
2nd Lt. Woodroffe has no known grave and is commemorated at the Menin Gate in Ypres. His entry is possibly unique, in that the postnomial VC appears before his name, and was most likely added at a later date. He is also listed on the Lewes War Memorial.
War poet Charles Sorley, a contemporary of Woodfroffe at Marlborough, dedicated a poem to Woodroffe entitled ‘In Memoriam SCW VC
He was the brother of Kenneth Woodroffe, a cricketer who played for Hampshire and Sussex. Kenneth was also killed in 1915 whilst serving with the Rifle Brigade.
Geoffrey Woolley Second Lieutenant Queen Victoria’s Rifles WWI 20–21 April 1915VC OBE MC (14th May 1892 – 10th December 1968) was the first British Territorial Army officer to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Woolley was the son of a clergyman, Rev. George Herbert Woolley, the curate of St Matthew’s, Upper Clapton, in London, and his wife Sarah. He had seven sisters and three brothers, including the famous archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley and George Cathcart Woolley, a colonial administrator and ethnographer. Woolley was educated at Parmiter’s School, Bethnal Green, St John’s School, Leatherhead and The Queen’s College, Oxford. He seemed destined to follow his father into the Church until the outbreak of the First World War, when he obtained a commission in the Queen Victoria’s Rifles, the 9th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment of the British Army.
First World War
The Queen Victoria’s Rifles were posted to the Ypres Salient. On the 17th of April 1915, the British Army captured Hill 60, a low rise to the south-east of Ypres. In the midst of fierce German efforts to retake the hill, Second Lieutenant Woolley’s company were sent up on the afternoon of the 20th of April to take ammunition supplies to the defenders. The situation quickly deteriorated, with many men and all the other officers on the hill being killed. Woolley refused verbal and written orders to withdraw, saying he and his company would remain until properly relieved. They repelled numerous attacks through the night. When they were relieved the next morning, he returned with 14 men remaining from the 150-strong company. The citation for the Victoria Cross he was awarded for this action reads:
For most conspicuous bravery on “Hill 60” during the night of 20th–21st April, 1915.
Although the only Officer on the hill at the time, and with very few men, he successfully resisted all attacks on his trench, and continued throwing bombs and encouraging his men till relieved. His trench during all this time was being heavily shelled and bombed and was subjected to heavy machine gun fire by the enemy.
Two days later Woolley was promoted directly to the rank of Captain. He saw further action in the early stages of the Second Battle of Ypres until he was invalided back to England suffering from poison gas and psychological effects. When Woolley had recovered, he was appointed as an instructor at the Officers Infantry School. He returned to the Western Front in summer 1916 as a General Staff Officer Grade II on the Third Army Staff. After the war, Wooley was one of many officers awarded the Military Cross in the King’s Birthday Honours of 1919.
After the war Wooley resumed the study of theology at Oxford, was ordained in December 1920, and took a teaching post at Rugby School. In 1923 he resigned his commission and became vicar of Monk Sherborne, Hampshire, before moving on to the chaplaincy of Harrow School.
In the January of 1940 Woolley resigned from the school and was commissioned into the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department. He was appointed Senior Chaplain of the Algiers area in the November of 1942, reaching the rank of Chaplain to the Forces 3rd Class (Major). With several other officers he was appointed OBE in 1943 “in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North Africa.” His son Rollo, a Spitfire pilot, was posted to North Africa in the same month, and killed in early December 1942 in a battle over Tunis.
Woolley took on the parish of St Mary’s, Harrow on the Hill, in 1944. In 1952, finding it difficult to climb the hill, he resigned his commission and moved to be rector of West Grinstead, Sussex, where he stayed until he retired in 1958.
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original source from www.thegazette.co.uk