Commander Loftus William Jones: Fighting to the Very End!

Loftus William Jones was born in 1879 in Petersfield, Hampshire, a small town 17 miles to the north of the Naval Base at Portsmouth. His Father was Admiral Loftus Francis Jones, who retired from the Navy twenty years after his son was born in 1899. Given his Father’s position in the Royal Navy and the traditions of the day, a career in the Navy was the obvious choice for Loftus, and he attended the Royal Navy Academy in Fareham before going on to HMS Britannia in 1894, a shore-based training establishment.

Commander Loftus William Jones V.C.

On completion of his training he was posted to HMS Royal Sovereign, a pre-dreadnought battleship, as a midshipman. From this point, until he took command of HMS Shark in 1914, he became something of a nomad, moving from ship to ship, and holding more than 25 separate appointments. This gave Loftus a rounded education in the ways of the Senior Service. In 1901 he served aboard HMS Spiteful, a torpedo boat destroyer which at the time was only two years old. This suited Loftus more than the big ships, as he discovered that he preferred serving aboard the smaller vessels.

His first destroyer command was HMS Success, a four-year-old B-Class torpedo boat destroyer. He married in 1910 and would spend the rest of his time up until his promotion to commander serving in destroyers. In 1914, in what would become his final appointment, he was given command of HMS Shark. Shark was an Acasta class destroyer built in Wallsend by Swan Hunter. She was launched in 1912 and had a top speed of 29 knots, relatively fast for the time. Her armament consisted of 3 four-inch Mark IV guns, 1 QF 2 pounder pom-pom gun, and 2 single torpedo tubes.

HMS Shark

Shark was part of the 4th Flotilla, which at the outbreak of war became part of the Grand Fleet based out of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. In 1916 the Grand Fleet took part in a huge naval battle with the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet off Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula.

On the afternoon of the 31st of May 1916 Commander Jones in HMS Shark led a division of destroyers to attack a German battlecruiser squadron. The fighting was intense, and HMS Shark’s bridge was hit by a German shell, disabling the steering gear, and killing or wounding many of the bridge crew. The commanding officer of another destroyer selflessly placed his ship between Shark and the enemy, in an attempt to protect her, but Jones, realising that this would almost certainly see the other vessel destroyed, ordered her to remain clear.

Jones had been wounded himself but made his way to the aft steering position to help to connect and man the aft steering gear. In the meantime the Germans had shelled and destroyed both the forward and aft gun positions. Jones now made his way to the midships gun, and personally took command of it, ensuring that it continued firing. Shark was being pummeled from close range by the German light cruisers and destroyers, and a few minutes after arriving at the position Commander jones was hit by a shell which tore off his leg above the knee.

Battle of Jutland WW1

Despite the severity of his wounds, Jones to everybody’s amazement, remained in position giving orders to the gun crew while a chief stoker improvised a tourniquet in an attempt to stem the bleeding. In the greatest traditions of the Royal Navy, Jones noticed that the Navy Ensign was not properly hoisted and ordered that another be raised in its place. Moments later Shark was dealt the fatal blow by the enemy.

HMS Shark was struck by a torpedo, fired from one of the German destroyers. She sank quickly, leaving only a few survivors in the water. These survivors were later picked up by a neutral ship, sadly Commander Jones was not amongst them. He had gone down with his vessel, fighting to the very end despite suffering wounds that would have incapacitated most men immediately.

Kviberg Cemetery War Memorial CWGC

This courageous and selfless commander refused to give in, and even when he was certain the ship would soon sink, he ordered his crew to prepare by donning lifejackets, while he himself remained at his station and continued fighting to the very end. For his immense bravery, and selfless actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross by the King in 1917 and is remembered on the war memorial Kviberg Cemetery in Sweden.  

The Fighting Bradfords: A Most Remarkable Family

In 1885 George Bradford, a mining engineer from Chirnside, a small village just North of the border, married Amy Marian Nicholson from Brabourne in Kent. Nobody could have predicted at the time that this marriage would produce one of the most remarkable fighting families Britain had ever seen. Their four sons, Thomas; George; Roland and James would go on to win two Military Crosses, two Victoria Crosses, countless mentions in despatches, a Distinguished Service Order, and even a knighthood.

George Nicholson Bradford V.C.

Tragically, of the four brothers who went to war, only Thomas would survive. George; James and Roland were killed in action, George and Roland became the only two Brothers in the Great War to be awarded the Victoria Cross, James won the Military Cross for his actions in the field, and Roland became the youngest Brigadier General in the British army; a reward for his remarkable courage and leadership ability.

Roland Boys Bradford M.C. V.C.

George Nicholson Bradford was educated at the Royal Naval School in Mottingham, Kent. In 1904 he was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a Midshipman. During his time in the Navy he developed a talent for Boxing, going on to become the Navy Welterweight Champion. In 1909 he was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant following his daring rescue of a boy from below decks on a sinking trawler. By 1914 he had been promoted to Lieutenant and was serving aboard the Dreadnought Battleship, HMS Orion.

Iris II on the Mersey

On the 22nd of April 1918, George, now a Lieutenant Commander, was appointed to lead a seaman storming party during the Zeebrugge Raid, a British attempt to block the port of Zeebrugge, denying the Germans the use of the port as a strategic base for its U-Boats. George and the storming party sailed aboard HMS Iris II, a requisitioned Mersey Ferry.

HMS Iris II came alongside the mole in order to put ashore the storming parties that would neutralise the German Guns protecting the port. The crew, however, were finding it almost impossible to secure the parapet anchors and secure the vessel. The storming party could not be put ashore until the vessel was secured. George saw the danger and sprang into action. He spotted a derrick projecting out from the ship and over the mole. Despite the heavy seas he managed to climb it and make his way out over the mole. The heavy seas were crashing the derrick into the mole, but George clung on. Spotting his chance between waves, George leapt ashore. He managed to successfully secure the anchor but was tragically killed by German fire seconds later.  

James Barker Bradford M.C.

In 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Roland Boys Bradford was serving with the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at Eaucourt L’Abbaye in France. His battalion was in support and the leading battalion had been cut down by German machine gun fire, and its commander severely wounded. Roland requested permission to take command of the exposed forward battalion and was granted permission. He dashed forward to take charge. Now leading two battalions he charged forward, somehow managing to rally the beleaguered men through his own energy and commitment. Against all odds they succeeded in capturing their objective. For his courage and outstanding leadership, Roland was awarded the Victoria Cross. Roland died on the 30th of November 1917, having just learned that he had been promoted to Brigadier General.

Sir Thomas Andrews Bradford D.S.O.

The full story of the Fighting Bradfords will be available in “Courage: Tales from the Great War”, RG Books, expected early 2021.

Captain the Reverend Edward Mellish: The Miracle of St Eloi



Of all the Victoria Cross recipients I have researched, the story of Edward Noel Mellish was the one that probably inspired me the most. A story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and involving bravery of the very highest order; a story of unswerving devotion to duty, not only to king and country, but a duty also to care for those brave young men who went over the top to drive back the enemy at the point of a bayonet.

Captain the Reverend Edward Noel Mellish

Edward Noel Mellish, the son of Edward senior, a Bill Broker and Mary, was born on Christmas eve in 1880. His father’s work had taken the family to China, but they had now returned to England and were living at Tenable House, Oakleigh Road, Barnet. The family had seven other children, six of whom were girls.

Edward was educated at King Edward VI School in Saffron Walden in Essex, and in 1900 he joined the Artists Rifles. He sailed from Southampton the same year aboard the SS Kildonan Castle Bound for South Africa, where his regiment were involved in the South African War.

During the conflict he and his colleagues found themselves trapped by Boers in a lonely, isolated farmhouse. Edward immediately volunteered for the near suicidal task of breaking through the enemy to summon help. As he went his comrades felt he was facing certain death, and that they had seen him for the last time. There did not seem to be more than a one in a million chance that a man could run the Boer gauntlet.

Despite the odds against it, Edward succeeded in breaking through enemy lines. Not satisfied with simply delivering the SOS message, he then turned around and went back, alone, through the encircling enemy to bring the news to his besieged comrades that help was on its way.

After the war he remained in South Africa working in a diamond mine in Jagersfontein, and also helping out at a local Native Mission in the evenings. He would often be found sitting up all night nursing dying Africans. It was this voluntary work that convinced him that his future lay with the church and the service of others.

On his return to England, Edward went to King’s College London to read theology, and in 1912 he began his service with the church. He was ordained a year later, and his first appointment was as curate of St Paul’s Church, Deptford in South East London.

St Paul’s Deptford

When war broke out, as a former soldier he was certain that there must be a job for him at the front. He applied for and was given a temporary commission as an army chaplain and was attached to the 4th Royal Fusiliers. His position meant that he could have remained at headquarters, a safe distance and nobody was going to stop him.

On the 27th of March 1916 Edward’s battalion was involved in heavy and desperate fighting at St. Eloi, near Ypres in Belgium. The enemy have constructed a complex series of defensive positions, and the fusiliers are facing murderous fire, causing heavy casualties. The British were outnumbered two to one yet managed to drive back the enemy at bayonet point.

The Battle for St Eloi

After each assault, all six feet of Edward Mellish was seen, striding out into no man’s land under heavy enemy fire, prayer book in hand, walking as though he was on a Sunday church parade. He tended the wounds of the injured and brought them back, one by one, to the British trenches. The fire was so murderous that three men were killed as he knelt beside them. This didn’t deter him, and he continued to bring in the wounded that had seemed beyond the reach of the stretcher parties.

The next day he got straight back to work, heading back out into no man’s land, without even waiting for the enemy barrage to abate. With shells exploding close by and bullets passing too close for comfort he continued his work, walking slowly and calmy out to the wounded, bringing each man back to safety. He only stopped for a breather when there was a lull in the fighting and the ambulance parties were able to go out.

His battalion was relived the next day, and he really should have left with them, instead he chose to stay and saved another 12 lives. Later that day he led out a party of volunteers and cleaned up the remaining inaccessible wounded. Describing the scene, a brother officer said, “he was walking into a tempest of fire, a prayer book under his arm as though he were going on a church parade in peace time” a Private adding “It made us think a bit more of parsons, to see how he walked quietly under fire.”

Edward was awarded to Victoria Cross in 1916, and later the Military Cross in 1918. After the war he went back to the Church becoming the Vicar of St. Marks in Lewisham. In 1939 thieves broke into the Vicarage at Great Dunmow in Essex and stole his V.C. and M.C. as well as two pounds. They left all the collection plates in the church though.

Reverend Mellish

He retired from the church on October the 1st 1953 after 5 years as the Vicar of Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury and moved to Galhampton with his wife. He died on the 8th of July 1962 aged 81, leaving behind his wife Elizabeth, and three children.



George William Chafer V.C. – Small in Stature; Big in Heart

Private George W Chafer V.C.

George William Chafer, an orphan of a little over five feet in height was not your typical Victoria Cross recipient; indeed, he is the smallest man to ever receive the award. What he lacked in stature though, he more than made up for in courage and determination.

Born in Bradford in 1894, George lost his Father when he was an infant, and was orphaned before his 16th Birthday. He was brought up by his Aunt and Uncle before moving in with the Reed Family in Rotherham and taking up a job as a weigh clerk at the Silverwood Colliery.

In 1915 George joined the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment; he was mocked by his friends at the time, who said he was far too small to join the army. Undeterred he completed his training as was sent to France around Christmas time.

On the night of the 4th of June 1916, during a very heavy enemy bombardment, a messenger carrying an important message to a company commander was knocked unconscious and half buried when an artillery shell exploded nearby. George, on seeing the messenger decided that the message must be of great importance and on his own initiative he grasped it from the unconscious man.

Battle of the Somme 1916

Although severely wounded in three places himself, and half choked and blinded by gas, he ran along the ruined parapet under heavy enemy fire and just succeeded in delivering it to the company commander before collapsing as a result of his own injuries.

For his efforts he was awarded the Victoria Cross and the Russian Order of St George, which was personally handed to him by the Tsar of Russia. He also unfortunately lost his left leg as a result of the injuries he received.

After the war he went on to work as a milk man but struggled to make ends meet as the coal stoppage meant that people could not afford to pay him, and as a result he could not afford to pay his suppliers. He eventually gave up the milk round and used the small amount of capital he retained to set up as a poultry farmer.

George passed away at his home in Rotherham at the age of 71.

From Private to Major: The Rise of Hugh Colvin VC

Hugh Colvin

Hugh Colvin was born to Scottish parents on the 18th of March 1887 in Burnley Lancashire. His Father, also Hugh, was a Gardener, and Hugh himself was sent off to work as Gardeners apprentice in Lancaster as a teenager. Hugh was one of four Children; his older sister Margaret was born in Scotland in 1885; his younger sister Mary was also born in Scotland in 1890, and Brother Thomas, the youngest child was born in Stockport in 1894.



At the turn of the century the Colvin’s were living in Stockport in Cheshire, Hugh now aged 14 was working as a hat packer at the Battersby Hat Works in the town, along with older sister Margaret who was working as a felt trimmer. In 1908, Hugh, now living in Belfast joined the 8th (Royal Irish) Hussars reaching the rank of Lance Corporal before returning England at the outbreak of war in 1914.

The same year Hugh was sent to France with the 8th Hussars, and proved himself to be a brilliant soldier, eventually earning himself a commission for “good soldiering” in April 1916. He was attached to the Cheshire Regiment as a Second-Lieutenant and excelled as an officer just as he had as a soldier, becoming a trusted and respected leader, and on the 6th of November 1917 he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Citation Read:

“His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned:- Second Lieutenant Hugh Colvin, Cheshire Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery in attack. On 20th September 1917 east of Ypres, Belgium, when all the officers of his company except himself – and all but one in the leading company – had become casualties and losses were heavy, he assumed command of both companies and led them forward under heavy machine-gun fire with great dash and success.

He saw the battalion on his right held up by machine-gun fire and led a platoon to their assistance. Second Lieutenant Colvin then went on with only two men to a dug-out. Leaving the men on top, he entered it alone and brought up fourteen prisoners. He then proceeded with his two men to another dug-out which had been holding up the attack by rifle and machine-gun fire and bombs.

This he reached and , killing or making prisoners of the crew, captured the machine-gun. Being then attacked from another dug-out by fifteen of the enemy under an officer, one of his men was killed and the other wounded. Seizing a rifle he shot five of the enemy, and, using another as a shield, he forced most of the survivors to surrender.

This officer cleared several other dug-outs alone or with one man, taking about fifty prisoners in all. Later he consolidated his position with great skill, and personally wired his front under heavy close range sniping in broad daylight, when all others had failed to do so.

The complete success of the attack in this part of the line was mainly due to Second Lieutenant Colvin’s leadership and courage.”

For his actions Colvin was also promoted to Lieutenant and remained with the Cheshire regiment for the remainder of the war, reaching the Rank of Captain. Colvin spent the remainder of his career as a recruiting officer and was promoted to the Rank of Major, working in Liverpool and Preston retiring in 1947 at the age of 60. He died in 1962 at the age of 75, and in 1963 his Nephew, also Hugh Colvin, Presented hi Victoria Cross to the Cheshire Regiment.