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 Boy Hero: John Travers Cornwell V.C.

John Travers Cornwell V.C.

The 16 year old Boy Sailor stood by his shattered gun, his crew mates around him dead and dying. Despite continuing enemy fire and the exposed position he was in he stood quietly, awaiting further orders. His devotion to his duty compelled him to remain at his position “just in case he was called upon for further action.” Many would have sought shelter from the onslaught, but John Travers Cornwell stood firm in the face of the enemy.

John Travers Cornwell was born on the 8th of January 1900 in West Ham, London. He was the second child of Eli, a tram driver originally from Cambridgeshire, and Lily, a native of London. The family lived on Clyde Place, Low Leyton in West Ham. Eli’s Job as a tram driver was the family’s sole source of income, and the family just had enough to make ends meet.

HMS Chester

John joined the Navy aged 15 on the 31 July 1915; less than a year later in May 1916 he found himself in action aboard HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland aged just 16. HMS Chester was a Town Class Light Cruiser, originally ordered by the Greek Navy but pressed into service by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of hostilities. John was part of the gun crew on one of the ship’s 5.5 inch guns.

During the battle John’s position took heavy fire, and the ship sustained significant damage. John’s gun was put out of action as the men around him were killed or seriously injured. Despite the exposed position, and the carnage all around him John felt that he may be called upon for other duties, and that he should remain at his post.

Quietly standing by, despite suffering shrapnel wounds to the abdomen, John remained at his position until the ship withdrew from the battle. He was landed in Grimsby with the rest of the wounded but sadly died of his wounds just 24 hours later in Grimsby Hospital.

John Cornwell’s Grave in London

Following his Fathers death on military service in Essex, the family had fallen on hard times, and his mother’s poverty meant that John was buried in a common grave. Upon discovering his fate, and with the permission of his mother, John’s body was exhumed at the cost of the Admiralty and buried with full military honours. The tributes included a wreath from Admiral Sir David Beatty, and a floral anchor from his ship mates.

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.

The Headlines on this Day on…

Friday 27th November 1914

Loss of HMS Bulwark: British Battleship Blown up in Sheerness Harbour While Band Played: “Tragic Accident”

HMS Bulwark

The battleship Bulwark was blown up at Sheerness Harbour early yesterday morning. At the time of the Explosion the band of the battleship was playing. Only twelve men were saved out of a crew which numbered between 700 and 800. All the officers perished. The vice and rear Admirals who were at Sheerness have reported their conviction that it was an internal magazine explosion which sent the ship asunder.

The ship had entirely disappeared when the smoke cleared away. An inquiry will be held today, which may possibly throw more light on the occurrence. The Bulwark, it should be noted, is a Battleship of an old but useful type, and had it not been for the tragic death toll her loss would not have been very considerable to the British Navy.

Monday 27th November 1916

Led the Line When Officers Fell

Irish Sergeant Saves Critical Situation and Wins V.C.

Sergeant Robert Downie

When most of the officers had been wounded this non-commissioned officer re-organised the attack, which had been temporarily checked. At the critical moment he rushed forward alone shouting “come on the Dubs”. This stirring appeal met with an immediate response and the line rushed forward at his call.

That was how Sergeant Robert Downie, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers won his V.C. His magnificent gallantry, like that of the six other officers and men who are also awarded the V.C. is recorded in a supplement to the London Gazette.

Wednesday 27th November 1940

Christmas Truce ‘NO’ by Premier

Winston Churchill

Mr Churchill will have nothing to do with any proposal for a Christmas armistice. He said so in Parliament yesterday. A labour M.P. asked him if he would approach the Vatican or some other neutral state to arrange a 48 hour armistice at Christmas.

“No,” he replied. He will not even consider a proposal from someone else for a Christmas armistice. Asked if such a proposal from a neutral state would be considered, Mr Churchill answered “It would be rejected.”

Friday 27th November 1942

First Army 24 Miles from Tunis

British forces are now 24 miles from Tunis, according to the unofficial Morocco Radio last night. Vichy radio said the allies were just 22 miles from the Capital. Further South the radio added, fighting has been going on for possession of two mountain ranges on the Algerian-Tunisian front. One of them is now in Allied hands it was claimed.

Norman Augustus Finch: Last Man Standing

As the prevailing wind changed dispersing the smoke screen, HMS Vindictive, the aging Arrogant Class Cruiser was hit by a torrent of fire from the German Guns on the shore. The upperworks bore the brunt of the barrage and many were injured by splinters from the battered vessel. Many of the Royal Marine Gunners in the foretop were killed, yet the guns continued to answer the German fire.

Norman Augustus Finch was born in Handsworth, Birmingham on Boxing Day in 1890. His Father Richard Finch was a Mail Porter for the Post Office, and the family had six other children, whom his Mother, Emma, stayed at home to care for. In 1983 the family had another child, George meaning there were now eight children living in the terraced property on Nineveh Road.

Norman Augustus Finch V.C.

In 1908 Norman Joined the Royal Navy as a Gunner in the Royal Marines Artillery, and was posted to China, serving on board HMS Minotaur, a first class armoured cruiser, and the flagship of the China Station. At the end of 1914, Minotaur was transferred to the Grand Fleet and participated in the Northern Patrol, a blockade of German ships preventing them from entering the Atlantic. This was a particularly tough posting, and Norman transferred to a shore based posting.

HMS Minotaur

On the 2nd of January 1915 he was promoted to Corporal, and two years later, promotion to Sergeant followed. In 1918 the admiralty planned a raid on the German occupied port of Zeebrugge in Belgium, which was being used as a strategic U-Boat station, from which the German Navy could terrorise allied shipping. The plan was to block the entrance to the port by sinking three obsolete cruisers filled with concrete, thus preventing German vessels from entering or leaving. Upon hearing about the raid, Sergeant Finch volunteered immediately, and was posted to HMS Vindictive.

For the raid, Sergeant Finch was assigned as second in command of the pompoms and Lewis guns situated in the foretop of the ship. As the Vindictive appeared from the dissipating smokescreen and the Germans let loose their maelstrom, the men around Sergeant Finch were cut down. Two shells hit the Foretop leaving all apart from Finch either dead or disabled. Despite being wounded himself, Finch continued to fire on the German defenders on the mole, scoring valuable hits before another direct hit finally put the guns out of action.

HMS Vindictive

Following the raid Norman was treated at the Naval hospital at Deal, in Kent for gunshot wounds to the right hand and leg, and on the 19th of July he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant actions. He married in 1919 and moved to Portsmouth, where he was promoted again in 1920 to Quartermaster Sergeant, before leaving the Navy and taking a job as a Bank Messenger for Lloyds Bank. He died at St Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth in 1966 aged 74.

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.

25th of October – On this Day Special

World War 1

25th of October 1917

VC Hero at Passchendaele


The third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) is now into a third month. The British currently hold Hill 60, a spoil heap on the Ypres-Comines railway. It was during this battle that 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Colvin from Burnley Earned his Victoria Cross. Colvin started his military career as a Private in the 8th (Royal Irish) Hussars serving in India and retired from the Army as a Major having earned his commission on the battlefield in 1917. He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion the Cheshire Regiment, and attached to the 9th Battalion in which he won his V.C. for taking command of two companies when their commanding officers were killed and leading them in an assault against German machine gun posts under heavy fire.

World War 2

25th of October 1940

RAF Coastal Blitz

AVRO Manchester

RAF bombers swept the coast of occupied France in the biggest blitz to date. Aircraft were over occupied France for more than an hour protecting a convoy from German long range guns. At the same time, German Aircraft attacked the convoy, and the escorting ships opened up with everything at their disposal including anti-aircraft guns and Lewis Guns. None of the ships suffered a direct hit.

25th of October 1941

Naples Ablaze for Fourth Successive Night

RAF Wellington Bomber

Fires burning in the Italian city of Naples are still burning for a fourth successive night, as RAF bombers continue their campaign. For more than six hours the RAF kept up the attack dropping thousands of pounds of High Explosives. The port and railway were the main targets, the reason for which is though to be to prevent the city from being used as a supply depot for German and Italian forces in Libya.

25th of October 1942

Allies Smash Rommel’s Lines

British Tanks in Egypt

After the biggest artillery barrage of the war so far, British, Dominion and Allied infantry have smashed through Rommel’s outer defences in Egypt. Tanks have been brought up and fierce fighting is now under way inside the German lines. The artillery barrage was described by an eye witness as the biggest since the Battle of the Somme.

26th of October 1943

Red Army on the Hunt

Red Army Armour

The Germans are in full retreat in the East as an avalanche of Russians tanks pursue them. Reports say that the German soldiers are ditching weapons and even loot on the roadside as they flee the Red Army’s armour.

In other News

25th of October 1950

Atomic Scientists Show of Loyalty

Many foreign born scientists now working in Britain on Atom splitting and Atomic weapons projects have handed in their passports confining themselves to Britain in a show of loyalty to their adopted nation. Following the disappearance of one scientist, and the discovery that another was betraying secrets, a group of scientist met and decided on the gesture in order to prove their loyalty and dedication to the work.

25th of October 1960

Queen in near miss with Luftwaffe

Luftwaffe Sabre Fighter Aircraft

Three dramatic moves have been made following the news that two German Sabre jet fighters narrowly missed a 1000 m.p.h. collision with an aircraft carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The West German Government issued a formal apology through its embassy in London to the Queen on behalf of the Luftwaffe; a joint investigation was set up involving the RAF and the Luftwaffe to investigate the incident, and finally the Luftwaffe have opened an internal inquiry to identify the pilots, telling all officers to stand by, all night if necessary.

25th of October 1970

Freed Briton in “Spy” Riddle

Ship’s Officer Peter Crouch , held by the Chinese for two-and-a-half years, flew back to Britain and freedom and immediately became the centre of a “spy” mystery. The riddle that he posed on his homecoming; was he or was he not spying for the Navy?

At first he said that he was and that he had made notes on Chinese warships and that the Navy had asked him to, but he later changed his mind and said that the Navy hadn’t asked him to spy, and that his actions were all carried out on his own initiative.

Remebering Private Thomas Whitham: VC Hero who died in Poverty

Private Thomas Whitham was born in Burnley on the 11th of May 1888. He was one of seven Children brought up by Catherine Witham, who lost her husband when Thomas was only young. The family lived in Worsthorne, a small village in the borough of Burnley. Thomas trained as a mason and bricklayer in Burnley initially working for a local form before joining his brothers building firm, also based in Burnley.

Pte Thomas Whitham VC

A man of quiet disposition and imposing stature, Thomas immediately answered the call to arms and was enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in February 1915. He was posted to the first battalion and sent to France, becoming a respected and popular member of his battalion, being described by one of his colleagues as “one of the finest and bravest men in the army of heroes.” He also had several lucky escapes. On one occasion he was lost for three days, and officially reported missing, but was found by the Irish Guards. Even more miraculously, on another occasion he went out to look for a missing sergeant and left his kit bag behind in the trench. He had only got a short distance away when a German shell landed in the trench and exploded; no trace of his kit bag was ever found.  

On the 31st of July 1917 he was serving with his platoon in Pilkem, Belgium when a German machine gun got into a position where it was able to fire on the Battalion to the right of Thomas’. Without hesitation Thomas fought hi was from shell hole to shell hole until he was in a position to rush the machine gun. Under heavy fire Private Whitham and three other men were able to silence the machine gun. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 6th of September 1917.

Thomas was one of four brothers serving in the army. His Brother Willie, with whom he worked as a builder was in training with the Royal Engineers at the time; John was in the Coldstream Guards serving as a military policeman, and Harry was serving with the Royal Field Artillery in France. He was married and had three children. Tragically during his one period of leave in October 1916 the family lost their eldest son aged just eight years old.

Thomas Whitham Sixt Form Burnley

Thomas died of Peritonitis in 1924 aged just 36. He passed away in Hospital in Oldham, leaving behind his wife and six children. He had fallen on hard times, and was out of work, having to sell his Victoria Cross just to earn a little money. While in hospital he also received gifts from the people of Oldham. A Sixth Form College in Burnley is named after him, and the Coldstream guards have funded plaques in his memory.

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.

October 15th – On this Day in…

Ajax Again – Sinks 3 Italians

October 15th, 1940

HMS Ajax

HMS Ajax, the famous cruiser which battered the Graf Spee in the River Plate battle , has sunk 2 Italian destroyers and, in the face of heavy odds, crippled another in two brilliant Mediterranean Actions.

HMS York finished off the damaged vessel and then the navy showed its complete contempt for Mussolini’s navy.

Despite the risk of giving away their position in clear weather they radioed the position of the sinking vessel and its survivors on Italian wavelengths. Italian aircraft picked up on the transmission but failed to score any hits on the British ships. A report on the incident stated:

 “HMS Ajax made contact with three Italian destroyers of the 679 ton Airone class, about eighty miles south-east of Sicily. HMS Ajax at once engaged and two of the destroyers were sunk outright.” “Shortly after this encounter Ajax sighted an enemy force composed of one heavy cruiser and four destroyers.” “Ajax again engaged and succeeded in crippling one of the enemy destroyers. The remainder of the force escaped into the darkness.”

“Dead” VC is Prisoner

October 15th, 1940

Captain Wilson

A British officer reported to have been killed defending a machine-gun post in Somaliland and awarded the VC is alive, and a prisoner of war in the hands of the Italians.

The officer is Lieutenant (acting Captain) Eric Charles Twelves Wilson of the East Surrey Regiment, attached to the Somaliland Camel Corps. When informed, Captain Wilson’s mother was said to be unable to believe the news. His VC citation read:

 “For four days the posts manned by Somali soldiers were blasted by short-range gunfire. Captain Wilson was wounded in one shoulder and one eye, and was suffering from malaria.”

Wins DSO for his 21st Birthday

October 15th, 1941

Paddy Finucane

Irish born RAF ace Paddy Finucane has been awarded the DSO on his 21st Birthday. Paddy, acting Squadron Leader has shot down twenty-three enemy planes and already holds the DFC with two bars.

Axis Lose 12 more over Malta: 94 Since Sunday

October 15th, 1942

Spitfire on Malta

The Spitfires of Malta shot down twelve more enemy aircraft; four bombers and eight fighters were downed while several more were damaged. The battle brings the number of enemy aircraft downed over or near Malta to ninety-four since Sunday. British losses were twelve Spitfires but five pilots are safe.  

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.

WW1 – The Battle for Hill 60: Second Lieutenant Benjamin Handley Geary VC

Hill 60 near Ypres in Belgium was actually a large spoil heap from the digging of a cutting on the Ypres-Comines Railway. The hill was a strategic landmark because of the view it gave to the surrounding area, and as a result it was fought over and changed hands numerous times. On April 17th, 1915, the British began a campaign to seize Hill 60 from the Germans, as with most battles of the period it would be a bloody affair, with many casualties on both sides.

Benjamin Handley Geary VC

Benjamin Handley Geary was born in Marylebone, London on June 29th, 1891. He was educated at Keeble College Oxford, and at the outbreak of war he was teaching at Forest School in Walthamstow. He was also a talented rugby player and played for England against France. When war broke out Geary immediately answered the call to arms and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He proved to be a talented and efficient officer and was soon sent to the front.

In April 1915, the East Surrey Regiment was sent to Ypres to take part in the battle for Hill 60. Geary was attached to the 1st Battalion during the battle and on April 20th and 21st he found himself leading the defence of a large crater on the left of the British position. The crater’s defences were destroyed by a heavy German artillery barrage, and throughout the night was subjected to repeated bomb attacks leaving the area strewn with dead and wounded. With only his own platoon, a handful of men from the Bedford Regiment, and a few reinforcements who came up during the night, they managed to repel near constant German attacks. Geary himself used his rifle to good effect, as well as throwing grenades in order to beat off the attackers. In between attacks he spent his time arranging for the supply of ammunition and reinforcements.

Hill 60

Throughout the attack Geary repeatedly exposed himself to the enemy in order to use the light from flares to spot the enemy when they attempted to rush his position. Finally he was seriously wounded himself and had to be evacuated, but he had done his duty and the position was held. As a result of his wounds Geary lost the sight in one eye, and injured the other, forcing him to be evacuated back to England for treatment and recovery. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, and vowed to return to the front, which he later did as a Captain with the East Surrey Regiment. He was wounded again on August 21st, 1918, suffering a gunshot wound to the abdomen, he was treated by the 1st New Zealand Field Ambulance and later transferred from the front by the No. 16 Ambulance Train.

Victoria Cross

After the war Benjamin Geary followed in his fathers footsteps and joined the church. He was ordained at Chelmsford Cathedral on October 2nd, 1921, and later served as Chaplain to the forces from 1926 to 1927. He resigned in 1927 and moved to Canada. During World War 2 he again answered the call to arms and served with the Canadian Army, reaching the rank of Major. He died in Ontario, Canada on May 26th, 1976, aged 84, and was buried in St Mark’s Cemetery, Niagara-on-the-Lake.    

The Heroes of HMS Jervis Bay

HMS Jervis Bay, built by Vickers Limited in Barrow-in-Furness, and launched in 1922 started life as a Commonwealth Line steamer. In 1939 she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted into an armed merchant cruiser. She was fitted with seven outdated, late 19th century 6 inch guns and two, even older 3 inch guns for anti-aircraft defence. In May 1940 Jervis Bay was assigned to convoy protection duties and was handed the role of escort for a convoy of merchant ships from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Bermuda that were bound for Britain carrying vital supplies. Jervis Bay was the only escort for this convoy consisting of 37 vessels.

HMS Jervis Bay

The Admiral Scheer was a German Heavy Cruiser of the Kriegsmarine, often called a pocket battleship, she was fast and heavily armed. Launched in April 1933 the Admiral Scheer had a top speed of just over 28 knots and was armed with six 11 inch guns in triple turrets, and eight 5.9 inch guns in single turrets. She was tasked with hunting down and sinking allied merchant vessels, and was extremely successful, as she was easily able to outgun and outrun most vessels assigned to escort duty. The slow lumbering merchant vessels were easy pickings once the escort vessels were dispatched.

Admiral Scheer

In October 1940, the Admiral Scheer slipped through the Denmark Strait with orders to locate and destroy allied shipping. On the 5th of November, convoy HX 84, escorted by Jervis Bay was approaching the coast of Iceland, on route to Britain from Nova Scotia when lookouts sighted a ship on the horizon. The ship was eventually identified as a German pocket battleship. The Jervis Bay was no match for the Admiral Scheer; she had a top speed of just 15 knots compared with the Admiral Scheer’s 28, and her miniscule vintage 6 inch guns could have little impact on the German Heavy Cruiser’s thick armour plating. The Captain of Jervis Bay, Edward Fegen didn’t flinch. Ordering the convoy to turn away and scatter, he steered his ship straight at the heavily armed German vessel and steamed towards her, drawing her fire away from the convoy saving all but five of the vessels. Despite being no match for the Admiral Scheer, Jervis bay fought on valiantly until the very end.

Captain Edward Fegen VC

In a one sided battle Jervis Bay was eventually sunk, but the lightly armed vessel had bought enough time for the majority of the convoy to escape. Captain Fegen went down with his ship and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his selfless and courageous actions that saved 31 vessels carrying vital war materiel. Further posthumous awards were bestowed on Ordinary Seaman Bennett Southwell for “great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.” The other was awarded to Temporary Sub-Lieutenant Jack Maynard Cholmondeley Easton for equal heroism; both men were awarded the George Cross. George Medals were awarded to a further 9 officers and seamen.