WW1 – The Battle for Hill 60, Two More VC’s

2nd Lt Geoffrey Woolley (left) and Private Edward Dwyer (right)

Private Edward Dwyer

Edward Dwyer joined the East Surrey Regiment in 1912 aged just 17 and was posted to the 1st Battalion. Three years later he found himself in the middle of one of the fiercest battles of the 1st World War; the battle for Hill 60. Hill 60, despite being nothing more than a large spoil heap from the digging of a cutting on the Ypres-Comines Railway, was prized by both sides as it gave excellent views of the surrounding countryside and afforded the holder the high ground from which to fire on the trenches below.

Despite being just 19 years old, Dwyer displayed extreme courage under fire when his trench was attacked by grenade throwing enemy soldiers. He climbed up onto the parapet exposing himself to a hail of enemy grenades and bullets and used his own hand grenades to disperse the enemy. Earlier the same day he had rushed from his trench under heavy fire to bandage his wounded comrades.

Crater on Hill 60

For his extreme bravery, Private Dwyer received the Victoria Cross and was later promoted to Corporal in the 1st Battalion. Sadly Private Dwyer was killed in action on September 9th, 1916, at Guillemont, France during the battle of the Somme. At the time he was leading his section to victory. He is remembered on the memorial at Flatiron Copse Cemetery in France.

Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Harold Woolley

2nd Lt Geoffrey Woolley

Born on May 14th, 1892 Geoffrey Harold Wooley would also go on to find himself in the midst of fierce fighting at Hill 60. Unlike Edward Dwyer he was not a regular soldier, he was a commissioned officer in the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), a territorial unit of the British Army.

On the night of the 20th of April 1915 Second Lieutenant Woolley was the only officer on the hill, and only had a handful of men with him. Despite this he successfully resisted all attacks on his trench. And continued throwing bombs and encouraging his men until relieved. Throughout the night his trench was being heavily shelled and strafed by machine gun fire. For his actions that night he was awarded the Military Cross and Victoria Cross, the first territorial officer ever to win the award.

Second Lieutenant Woolley went on to join the Church after the war and served as a chaplain to the British Army. He died in Surrey on December 10th, 1968, aged 76.

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