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.  

Nursing at the Front: The Forgotten Heroes of the Great War

Trawling through the newspaper archives from 1914 to 1918 I came across the occasional story of awards for nurses, for their courage under fire at the front. Given the current global situation we find ourselves in, and all the praise rightfully directed at the amazing doctors and nurses of the NHS, I decided that this was worth a little more investigation.

Nurses at the Front

Stories of courage and gallantry from the fighting men at the front are easy to find and are so numerous that it would be impossible to research and write about them all. Was I did find rather odd was the lack of stories about the red cross nurses, who worked tirelessly all along the front, rarely complaining, just quietly getting on with their vital work. The stories that did find their way to print very rarely named the nurses who were to be commended officially.

There is the story of a Scottish physician, Doctor Elsie Inglis, who set up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service. Field hospitals staffed by volunteers, and set up on the battlefields of Belgium, France, Serbia, and Russia. At the outbreak of war Dr Inglis offered her services to the war office and was reportedly told to “go home and sit still!” Undeterred Dr Inglis set up her field hospital.

Dr Elsie Inglis

Where the British government had shunned the offer of support, the French government gratefully accepted, and the first hospital was set up in France. Another unit was set up in Serbia, which Inglis would lead herself. Volunteer nurses arrived in their hundreds, and eventually around fourteen teams were sent to battlefronts right across the continent.

Unarmed, often working under canvas which gave no protection from enemy air attack, and dealing with the most horrendous injuries, and diseases brought about by most unsanitary conditions in which they would also live and work, these courageous nurses, who rarely slept, would spend hours treating physical and mental injuries, comforting the men at their lowest points, and watching men die. Some of the nurses would succumb to the very diseases they were trying to treat.

Nurse Louisa Jordan

One of the volunteers for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals was Louisa Jordan from Glasgow. Jordan had worked at several hospitals in Scotland before volunteering for foreign service. She travelled to Serbia and joined the 1st Serbian unit. In 1915 Serbia suffered from a typhus epidemic, and Jordan was placed in charge of the typhus ward that was set up in response. She volunteered to look after Doctor Elizabeth Ross, who had answered an appeal by the Serbian Government for Doctors. While treating patients she had contracted typhus. Tragically both died of typhus; they knew there was the risk of this when they volunteered, and they volunteered all the same.

Dr Elizabeth Ross

This article is dedicated to all the Doctors and Nurses, past and present who have worked, and continue to work in hospitals, both civilian and military, all around the globe.

The Christmas Truce: Humanity in times of war.

German and British Soldiers Pose for a Photographs

With the war a little less than 6 months old and following months of bitter fighting in rain filled muddy trenches, a most remarkable event occurred. In the midst of war we were given a stark reminder that humanity still existed. It started with an exchange of Christmas carols, and after a while a few curious soldiers from either side began to emerge from the trenches, giving assurances that they would not shoot each other. Over the course of the next few hours the two sides walked together, chatted, and exchanged gifts as though they were old friends strolling through the park.

In a letter to a local newspaper, Sergeant Mervyn Powell of the Royal Berkshire Regiment takes up the story.

“Well Christmas has come and gone by once more, and I don’t suppose I shall experience another one like this. To start with Christmas Eve, it was a nice frosty night, and about 11pm we heard singing in the German trenches only about 250 yards away. I went to the listening post and the sentries told me that the Germans were having a good time singing carols etc. I was so interested that I stopped up an extra hour on duty to listen to them, instead of having a sleep (We work more by night than by day, as it is impossible to get up on top in daylight). At daybreak and as soon as we were able to see the outline of the trenches and have a good look round, we heard the Germans on our left shouting. “Happy Christmas, Englishmen,” Which our chaps answered by looking over the top and wishing them the same. Then they shouted, “We no shoot, Englishmen, we no shoot.” I can hardly say how it came about, anyway our chaps got out of their trenches, then the Germans got out of theirs, then followed more waving of arms and shouting to one another, and then to cap all a couple of our fellows went a little way towards their trenches and they came a little way towards us, with the result that an hour after this we were exchanging bully beef for black bread, and we gave them fags, etc. Not a shot was fired, it was a proper local armistice. Don’t think we left anything to chance, far from that. 

I was very glad myself we came to the understanding we did, as the roof of my “funk-hole” was just beginning to come in, so I set to work and re-roofed it, made it a little bigger, and fixed up a chimney with biscuit tins etc. It is difficult to believe that we were friends at Christmas now for on the night following boxing day, after coming into billets, we had to go back to our trenches, and our artillery was soon whizzing shells right over us, right into their trenches.”

England V Germany 25th of December 1914

These localised and unofficial truces took place all along the front line. In Rue Du Bois, France the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment got to know the Saxon Regiment opposing them. Private Oakes described his conversations with the Germans.

“They were a Saxon regiment and they told us their regiments had been in Kiel Harbour for three months waiting to go to England before they had been sent to the fighting line. They all seemed anxious for a speedy termination of the war, and one fellow said both sides ought to stand back to back and advance.”

The encounter was also recorded in the official regiment war diary:-

24th December 1914

“Quiet. Germans ask for armistice for Christmas. Sing songs in turn from opposite parapets.”

25th December 1914

“Not a shot fired. Germans bury their dead and we go and help. Baccy and cigars exchanged, and Germans and our men walk about together in the open together!! Return to trenches at 4am. Peace Reigns till midnight.”

Sent to war by their political masters, the soldiers on opposite sides of the divide showed us that despite the politics and rhetoric, at the end of the day, we are all human and share more in common than what divides us.

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Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The Headlines on this Day…

Monday 7th of December 1914

King George Meets King Albert and Reviews Belgium Soldiers

King George Visits the Troops

King George’s historic visit to his soldiers is at an end, and his majesty is back in London. Regardless of all personal danger, he visited trenches while shells were bursting but a little distance away. “That is all the more reason I should go among my soldiers. There is no reason why I should not take risks, they take them” he said when told it might not be safe.  

He paid special honour to the brave Belgians by reviewing a number of King Alberts Soldiers.

Tuesday 7th of December 1915

Russia to Attack Bulgaria? Our Allies Marching to the Danube Across the Snows

Russian Troops

A telegram received yesterday states that the Tsar has telegraphed to M Pasitch, the Serbian Premier, saying that he will not tolerate the disappearance of Serbia, or the loss of her independence. “Russia” added his majesty, “has already made her plans to save Serbia.”

Russian troops are marching to the Danube, where large forces are now being concentrated, and Cossacks are operating in the Caucasus, where the snow in places is 10ft deep!

Thursday 7th of December 1916

Mr Lloyd George to be Premier: War Secretary Accepts Office After Mr Bonar Law Had Declined

David Lloyd George

Mr Lloyd George is to be Premier, and the nation has got the man it wanted. Rumours, statements, official and otherwise, were afloat yesterday, and the news changed every hour. But later came really definite news from the Press Bureau that Mr Lloyd George had consented to form a cabinet in co-operation with Mr Bonar Law. Thus ends the great political crisis. What the nation owes to him for organising our factories at the time of the shell shortage is now history. As Minister of Munitions he has organised our vast resources for what has proved a war of machinery. The employment of women labour has been an unqualified success.

Friday 7th of December 1917

Two Gothas Downed and the Six Occupants Captured

German Gotha Heavy Bomber

Two of the Gothas that raided England are not returning to Germany, and neither are the crews, who will sojourn in England pro tem. One of the captured pilots, who is 6ft. 4in. in height, is said to be only sixteen years of age. Never have the raiders arrived at such an awkward hour, but Londoners who were aroused from their slumbers at a time when the lark is alleged to be astir, were uniformly cheerful and cracked jokes, invariably uncomplimentary to Fritz and his habits.

Saturday 7th of December 1940

Nazi Pirate Chased

HMS Carnarvon Castle

A fast, heavily armed German raider, disguised as a merchantman, has been located, fought, and chased in the South Atlantic Ocean by a British armed merchant cruiser. The news was revealed yesterday in an admiralty communique, which said that the British ship, HMS Carnarvon Castle, was in action Thursday with the German in the South Atlantic.

It is understood in London that the scene of the action was about 700 miles north-east of Montevideo, the South-American port outside which the Graf Spee was scuttled.

The Carnarvon Castle is expected to reach Montevideo on Monday, apparently seeking repairs. The Uruguayan Government have granted permission for her to enter.

Sunday 7th of December 1941

Germans in Retreat

Cossacks Smash von Kleist

Russian Cossack Cavalry

Von Kleist’s attempt to make a stand outside Taganrog was smashed yesterday by the army of General Remizov.

Russian troops swept down the plain of Taganrog as the Germans again fled along the road towards Mariupol.

While German tanks are bogged up in mud and slush, Cossack cavalry waiting for just this moment have flung themselves upon the retreating Nazis with all their fury. One section of them is riding hard along the coast, cutting off small bodies of Germans and wiping them out.

Other sections of Cossacks are sweeping down from the north-east. They have crossed the river Miuss, where the Germans were preparing a new defence line, and are rushing down to coast behind to off the main line of retreat.

Monday 7th of December 1942

RAF Beat Weather, Bomb Rhine Centres

Nine of Strong Force Missing

South-west Germany was the target last night for a strong force of Royal Air Force Bombers. Karlsruhe, important traffic, and industrial centre, was the RAF’s main target, states the German News Agency. The adjoining town of Iffezheim, 20 miles to the south-east, was also raided.

Bad weather made observation of the results impossible. It is officially stated that nine of our bombers are missing, but two enemy fighters were destroyed.

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.

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.

25th of October – On this Day Special



World War 1

25th of October 1917

VC Hero at Passchendaele

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.



Courage and Self Sacrifice: George Peachment V.C.

George Peachment was born in Bury, Lancashire on the 5th of May 1897. His father, George senior was a hairdresser, Barber, and Newsagent originally from Norfolk, and his mother, Mary, was a school mistress from Cambridgeshire. The family moved to Bury following the Birth of their eldest son Charles. They had a second son, David, in 1895 and Shortly after George was born.

Private George Peachment V.C.

George joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps at the start of the war, aged just 17, and was sent with the 2nd Battalion to France. During September 1915 his Battalion were involved in fierce fighting in and around Loos on the outskirts of Lens in France. An attack on German lines was planned for the 20th of September. Zero hour was 5.50am and the attack began with a gas attack and smoke shells, a decision which turned the attack into somewhat of a disaster.

Despite reassurances from the gas expert, the wind changed at 6am, and the gas drifted back especially onto “B” Company who suffered losses severe enough to put them out of action. Twenty minutes later the wind changed again, and the gas was turned back on again. At 6.34 the Battalion began to move forwards to attack the German lines; they could see nothing because of the smoke and gas between the lines and direction finding was extremely difficult. On reaching the enemy wire it was discovered that it had not been cut. To add to their problems the Battalion had been slow to advance and the Battalion had to fall back and regroup. A rally was made on the left and the Battalion was able to move up again, but no sooner had they moved forwards, the gas from the 15th Division drifted up to their position and they were again forced to withdraw.

The Battle of Hill 70

It was during the withdrawal that Private Peachment noticed his company commander, Captain Dubs lying wounded on the ground. Despite the fact that there was a shell hole close by in which several other men had found refuge, Private Peachment put his own safety aside and rushed to the aid of his Captain. As he knelt beside the wounded man, completely exposed to the enemy, and attempted to help him he was first wounded by a bomb, and then mortally wounded by a rifle bullet. He died on the Battlefield aged just 18, having made the ultimate sacrifice in an attempt to save the life of a fellow soldier.

For his actions on that day he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on the 16th of November 1915. His actions were a striking example of courage, determination, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. So today we remember Private George Peachment V.C. A true hero.

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.



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.