VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #10 GEORGE BRADFORD & A DEADLY RAID ON ZEEBRUGGE

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

George Bradford was awarded a posthumous VC in 1919, his mother attended Buckingham Palace to receive the family’s second VC from King George V, as George’s brother Roland was also awarded the medal. The Bradford’s were the only brothers to receive the honour in the Great War. (see previous post)

For years after, his sacrifice was remembered every St George’s Day by a memoriam notice in The Times. It was placed there every year until his mother’s death, she used to take part in the Armistice Day services wearing the two VCs of her dead sons. Later, when she was too frail to attend, her place was taken by her daughter. This is George’s story.

I was born on 23 April 1887 at Witton Park, County Durham, my parents were George and Amy. I had three brothers and a sister. We all loved sport and games, it was all fair play. I particularly like boxing. My father was a mining engineer, he had risen through the ranks to colliery manager, mine owner and eventually Chairman of a group of collieries in South Wales and a steel company in Darlington.

I was educated at Darlington Grammar School, the Royal Naval School, Eltham. I joined HMS Britannia in 1902 where I became officers’ welterweight boxing champion and twice reached the finals of championships.

I was promoted through the ranks to Lieutenant Commander in 1917. I served as midshipman in the battleships Revenge and Exmouth, and alternated between destroyer and big ship appointments. I was promoted to Lieutenant the following year for saving a crewman from drowning. I then joined battleships Vanguard, the destroyer Amazon and in 1914, appointed to the Orion.

For the first couple of years of war the Germans were reluctant to engage with the Grand Fleet, which meant little action for me. Sadly, my brothers were heavily involved. Thomas, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order medal in 1916, James, in the 18th Durham Light Infantry, died of his wounds in 1917, two months after earning the Military Cross medal, the most outstanding of all, was Roland.

He was awarded the MC in 1915 and a VC on the Somme a year later, at 25 he was the youngest Brigadier in the British Army before his death in action on 30 November 1917.

On one night in  April 1918 I was in command of the Naval Storming Parties on HMS Iris II. We were trying to land at Zeebrugge in Belgium when we went up alongside the Mole (a stone pier), but it was very difficult to place the anchors because of the motion of the ship – and we were under fire.

Before the ship was fully secured we tried to land by using ladders. Lieutenant Hawkings managed to get one ladder in position and got over just in time as the ladder was crushed to pieces just as he stepped off. This very brave young officer was last seen defending himself with his revolver – he was killed on the parapet.

I climbed up the derrick and tried to secure the ship, all while it was surging up and down and the derrick was crashing onto the Mole. I jumped on to the Mole with the anchor and placed it in position.

Immediately after, George was riddled with bullets from machine guns and fell into the sea between the Mole and HMS Iris II. His body was not recovered until it washed up a few days later three miles down the coast at Blankenberghe. He was buried by the Germans in the Communal Cemetery.

George’s medals, the VC, the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 were eventually sold at auction in 1988 and purchased by Michael Ashcroft and form part of the Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021   

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #8 RICHARD STANNARD

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Richard Stannard was awarded the VC on 3 September 1940 by King George VI at Buckingham Palace for his command of the armed trawler HMS Arab at Namsos, Norway. This is his story.


I was born on 21 August 1902 in Blyth, Northumberland, I was the eldest of five, my parents were George and Elizabeth. We were living in Cowpen Quay, Blyth, when my father’s ship, Mount Oswald was lost on a voyage from USA in 1912. Then I was educated at the Royal Naval Merchant School for orphans of merchant seamen in Berkshire.
 
In 1918 I went to sea as an apprentice and ten year later joined the Orient Line and was appointed sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. A few year later they promoted me to Lieutenant. In 1928 at West Ham, East London I married Phyllis May, we had two daughters.
 
I was awarded a VC because of the events between 28 April and 2 May 1940. I was in command of the armed trawler HMS Arab at Namsos, Norway. The vessel was subjected to 31 bombing attacks, during one of them Namsos jetty was hit and set on fire, so I ran Arab’s bows against the wharf and for two hours tried to extinguish the fire. I succeeded in saving part of the jetty which was invaluable in the evacuation of Namsos.
 
Then I established an armed camp under the shelter of a cliff where off duty seamen could rest with safety. When another trawler was hit and about to blow up, I and two others boarded Arab and moved her 100 yards to safety. We were leaving the fjord when Arab was attacked by a German bomber who ordered me to steer east or be sunk.
 
I kept on course, and held my fire till the enemy was within 800 yards and then shot the aircraft down. With a damaged rudder, propeller and cracked main engine castings, I sailed back to England.

Richard was also captain of the destroyer Vimy which with the Beverly, sank U18 in the Atlantic 1943. He was also promoted to Commander in 1947 and Captain in 1952. In 1947, he re-joined the Orient Line and in 1955 was appointed Marine Superintendent in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

He became Marine Superintendent of the P&O Orient Lines of Australia in 1960, and until 1973, served on the Council of the Royal Humane Society of New South Wales.

Richard Stannard died on 22 July 1977 in Sydney, New South Wales, and was cremated at the Rookwood Crematorium, Sydney.

Research:. Commonwealth War Graves

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #7 JOHN SCOTT YOULL: FIGHT ON THE ITALIAN FRONT

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Youll was only 21 year old when he was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th September 1918. He was also one of just eight men from County Durham to receive the VC in the Great War. This is his story.

I was born at home on 6 June 1897, my parents were Richard and Margaret of Thorncroft, Thornley, County Durham. I was educated at Thornley Council School and later a student at the Wingate technical classes. I started work at Thornley Colliery as an apprentice electrician at 15.

Then in 1915 I enlisted as a sapper in the Royal Engineers of 1st Durham Field Company. We trained for a year before leaving for France on 11th August 1916. Six month later I returned home for officer training then gazetted to the Northumberland Fusiliers and returned to France at the end of summer. Later that year I was made second lieutenant and our battalion was transferred to the Italian Front.

I was commanding a patrol near Asiago, north of Venice, Italy, when we came under heavy fire so I sent my men back to safety and I remained to watch the situation. Then I reported to a neighbouring unit where I took command of some men and we held our position against enemy attack.

But behind me a machine-gun opened fire. So I rushed in and captured the gun, then opened fire killing most of them. I carried out three separate counterattacks, and drove the enemy back each time.

Tragically, just over a month later, on 27 October 1918, John was killed during an attack across the River Piave. In the attack, Youll was first slightly wounded in the arm, the Army Chaplain arrived and advised him to stay where he was.

Later the Chaplain found his body laid out on a stretcher – he had been struck by a shell. His last words were “It’s all right, we got them stone cold.”

John’s family were notified of his death on 10th November 1918, the day before the Armistice was signed. He was first buried at Spresiano, north of Venice, and later, in June 1919, reburied at Giavera British Cemetery, Veneto, Italy.

In 1997, his medals were sold for £36,000, they included the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and Italian Silver Star. They were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021

VICTORIA CROSS WAR HEROES #6 CAPTAIN JAMES JACKMAN: FIRE ON TOBRUK

The 50th Northumbrian Infantry was a division of the British Army that saw distinguished service in the Second World War. The two T’s in the divisional insignia represent the main rivers of its recruitment area, the Tyne and Tees.

The division served in almost all major engagements of the war from 1940 until late ‘44, and served with distinction in North Africa, the Mediterranean and Middle East.  The 50th Division was one of two British divisions – the other being the 3rd Infantry, to land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

Four men of the division were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

One of those brave soldiers was Captain James Jackman. This is his story.

I was born on 19 March 1916, my father James was a doctor, and my mother Elizabeth lived in Glenageary, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland. I was educated at Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire and on the outbreak of the Second World War, was enlisted with the 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

I was posted with the Regiment to North Africa and at 25 year old was given command of a machine gun company. It was November 1941 when I was commanding Z Company during Operation Crusader when we launched an attack near Tobruk in Libya.

As our tanks reached the crest of the rise they were met by extremely intense fire from a large number of guns. The fire was so heavy that it was doubtful whether the Brigade could maintain its hold on the position. Our tanks settled to beat down the enemy fire and I pushed up the ridge leading the machine gun trucks. I saw anti-tank guns firing, as well as rows of batteries that the tanks were engaging.

I immediately got our guns into action and stood up in the front of the truck leading our trucks across the front between the tanks and guns.

James’ devotion to duty regardless of danger not only inspired his men but clinched the determination of the tank crews never to relinquish the position they had gained. He directed guns to their positions and indicated targets, inspiring everyone with confidence, but was later killed in action.

James Jackman died 26 November 1941 and was buried with full military honours in Tobruk War Cemetery, Libya. His posthumous VC was presented to his parents by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

The medal was placed on long term loan to his former school, Stoneyhurst College, Lancashire.

Research: Commonwealth War Graves.

Comprehensive Guide to Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  May 2021

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #5 – Thomas Young VC (1895-1966).

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Thomas was recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

As a stretcher bearer Thomas saved countless lives of army colleagues on First World War battlefields. He was presented with his VC on the 29th June 1918. This is his story.

My name is Thomas Young although I was born Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, North East England. When I was young my father was killed in a mining accident so my mother remarried a man form Whitburn called Surtees Young.

We lived at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. I left school early to become a miner. When I was 18 I joined up with the Gateshead Territorials then in 1914 transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I was a stretcher bearer.

At the start of the War, I was posted to the Western Front and reached Boulogne in April 1915. We were immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. I also served on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele.

At the Somme I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh and was evacuated to England. That put me out of action for a while but went back to France a few month later.

I was awarded my VC after a day on a battlefield in March 1918. It was all going off in broad daylight – rifles, machine-guns, shell fire, it was pretty heavy let me tell you. There was a number of casualties but I managed to bring back wounded comrades. Some I couldn’t move because they were badly injured, so I dressed them right there. When the wounds were dressed as much as I could I carried my marras back. I saved nine lives that way.

I went back to Durham for a spell of leave and they laid on a surprise for me. Officials from the coal mine took me home along the Scotswood Road in a pony and trap. My home was dressed with flags and bunting.

I met The Earl of Durham who gave me a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. A civic reception was laid on in Saltwell Park in Gateshead. There must have been thousands turned up that day.

After the war I went back to work in the mines but couldn’t keep my job because of my war wounds. I took on a new job at the mine as bath attendant and got £9 a week. But due to my health problems and financial worries I sold my VC medal, luckily a DLI officer saw it in a pawnbroker’s shop so the Regiment bought it back.

Thomas Young died at a hostel in Whickham on 15th October 1966, and buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen, Durham with full military honours.

A memorial to Thomas Young was unveiled in July 2007 and can be seen in the grounds of High Spen primary school. In 2018 a commemorative memorial stone at Cotswold Lane in Boldon Colliery was unveiled to honour the memory of First World War hero Thomas.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources : Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #4 – Henry Howey Robson (1894-1964)

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

In this series of Tyneside VC medal recipients, was this man the youngest ? At the age of 20, Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 14th December 1914. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 27th May 1894. We had a home in Hampden Street where my da’ Edward was a coal miner and my ma’ was called Mary Morris, they first came from Sunderland.

It was a big family. I had six brothers and a sister. I went to Mortimer Road School in the town and after I left I joined da’ in the mines.

When war started I joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots and went to France. I was awarded the VC after being on the battlefield in Belgium.

What happened was we attacked a German position and I saw one of our men wounded so went out and brought him back. Guns were going off all around. It was really heavy fire. I done the same for another soldier but got shot. I didn’t give up and went out again but got hit again. I was in a bad way so they took me back to camp and I was evacuated to England.

I went back home to South Shields where I had a good time. I met the Mayor at a civic reception in the Town Hall. I got the Freedom of the town and was presented with £73 raised through a Shilling Fund. Then I visited my old school and was presented with a gold watch by the kids. I returned to war but was wounded in France and never returned to the front.

After the war I worked a couple of jobs. I was in the shipyards and as a steward on oil tankers running between Britain and South America. I wanted to go to Canada so I sold my medal to a doctor for £80. This paid my way and I arrived in 1923, a new life started.

I started work as a streetcar conductor with Toronto Transportation. Then in 1924 got married to Alice Maude and we had a son and four daughters. Then I became a civil servant working in the Parliament Buildings in Ontario, then done six years as a Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature.

Before retirement in 1954 I was an information clerk, showing visitors around Parliament.

Civic reception with the Mayor at South Shields Town Hall for Henry.

In the ‘50s Henry returned to England a couple of times for the VC celebrations. His VC had been bought by a solicitor from Dunfermline, who lent him the medal to wear at the 1956 VC Centenary in Hyde Park, London. It’s reported that the medal was never returned to the solicitor.

On 4th March 1964 Henry died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto. He was buried in the Veteran’s Section of York Memorial Cemetery, Toronto.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were presented to the Royal Scots Museum in Edinburgh Castle by his daughter, Mrs Patricia Gaskin of Toronto.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 a commemorative stone to mark Private Henry Robson’s bravery, was unveiled in Robson Way, South Shields.

Sources: Ancestry, Durham at War, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #3- Richard Wallace Annand VC (1914-2004)

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

I’m writing this on the day BBC TV are showing a service remembering the victory over Japan that brought an end to the Second World War.

During the war, massive acts of heroism were shown by young men who were rightly awarded for their courage and bravery. Some hailed from the North East and in this post we focus on one young man from South Shields. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 5th November 1914. My father was Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Annand of the Royal Naval Division, he was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. My mother was called Dora and I was their only child.

After leaving school and working in a bank, I joined the Tyne Division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. They promoted me to Sub-Lieutenant and I completed both, navigation and gunnery course.

When the war came I was a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion DLI and we headed off to battle.

On May 12th 1940, the company set up headquarters south of Paris. Three companies moved down into the valley with A on the right, B in the centre and D defending a road bridge on the left. C Company was sent to watch for any movement. There was a rumour that the Germans were hiding in the woods, so C Company withdrew and blew the bridge. This halted any German advance long enough to withdraw across the river.

The next morning, with the enemy on the opposite bank, the assault began with heavy mortar fire hitting D Company’s position beside the ruined bridge. I led two counter-attacks – I was wounded on the second.

The Germans crossed the river over-running a platoon of B Company. After desperate fighting we were unable to push the enemy back across the river and our position was raked with fire. A further attack was inevitable and, shortly after dark under cover of intense fire, the enemy again struck D Company’s position. Armed with grenades, I again went forward, inflicting significant casualties.

We were holding on, but elsewhere the Germans broke through, so a withdrawal was ordered. I realized Private Joseph Hunter was missing so I went back and found him wounded.

I was bringing him back in a wheelbarrow and making good progress until my path was blocked by a fallen tree. I was feeling very weak because I’d lost a lot of blood, so didn’t have the strength to lift Hunter over the tree. I decided to leave him and set off for help. That was a hard decision. Soon after I collapsed but fortunately taken to safety and evacuated.

For his rescue attempt and courageous actions, Annand was presented with the Victoria Cross on 3rd September 1940. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was also made of Freeman of his hometown, South Shields.

Annand served in Britain for the rest of the conflict and much of his service involved training young soldiers, members of the Home Guard and commandos. Plus a spell at the War Office. As a result of permanent damage to his hearing, he was invalided out in 1948 with the rank of captain.

Annand worked at a training centre for disabled people, near Durham, and for the next 30 years devoted his life to helping disabled people. He maintained close links with his regiment, and was president of the Durham Branch of the Light Infantry Association until 1998.

Richard Annand passed away on Christmas Eve 2004, and was cremated at Durham City Crematorium. In 2007 a bronze statue of Richard was unveiled in South Shields Town Hall and in 2018 relatives from around the UK, Canada and Cyprus came together to see the memorial to their ancestor, which stands on the grand staircase of the Town Hall.

His medals including the VC, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45,  and Army Emergency Reserve Decoration and Bar.

They were originally held on loan by the Durham Light Infantry, before in 2010 they were purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.

Gary Alikivi   August 2020

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross

 

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #2 – Joseph Henry Collin (1893-1918)

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy, that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

In a series about Tyneside recipients of the VC, this story features Joseph Collin who was born in Jarrow, North East England on 11th April 1893.

My father Joseph was a rail worker, and my mother was called Mary. I lived at 12 Drury Street and was baptised at St Bede’s Church in Jarrow before I went to St Patrick’s School in Harraby, Carlisle.

I  won prizes for running, I also loved playing football. Then I got a job in Leeds at the clothiers Hepworth & Son.

It was 1915 when I enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a Private. I must have done good because during training they promoted me to Sergeant. Then in 1916, we went to France and fought in the Battle of the Somme.

I took more training and returned to France in 1917 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

We went to the front line at Givenchy. The Germans were pressing us hard with bombs and machine-gun fire. They were really close.

We had to withdraw because we only had five men remaining, but still fought for every inch of ground. Then I went out and attacked their machine gun, firing my revolver first then threw a grenade putting the gun out of action. I killed four of their team and wounded two others. I saw another machine gun firing, so I took a gun and found a high vantage point, and kept them at bay until they wounded me.

Joseph died soon after from his injuries and was buried in Vielle-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Lacouture, France. His parents were presented with the Victoria Cross for Joseph’s bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice.

In 1956 the medal was presented to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regimental Museum where it is displayed. In the chapel is a plaque which commemorates Joseph, and each year schools in Carlisle compete for the ‘Collin Shield’, a trophy for a 1 mile race presented in his memory by his family.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 Carlisle City Council displayed a blue plaque commemorating Josephs heroic gallantry at the Battle of Givenchy. A memorial stone to honour the memory of World War One hero Joseph was laid in 2018 at Joseph Collin House in Jarrow.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.