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FIRST WORLD WAR: Our brave soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross

Published date: 05 August 2014 |
Published by: Aimee Jones
Read more articles by Aimee Jones


The Victoria Cross (VC) is is Britain's highest military accolade 

JOHN VAUGHAN CAMPBELL

ONE of Oswestry’s most famous recipients of the highest military honour for bravery was John Vaughan Campbell.

As major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Battalion Coldstream Guards, Mr Campbell, of Broom Hall, was honoured with a Victoria Cross in recognition for “most conspicuous bravery and able leading in an attack”.

His achievements, of which the Victoria Cross was just one of many, are on display for posterity in Oswestry Museum.

The museum proudly displays how much he deserved the honour: “His personal gallantry and initiative at a very critical moment turned the fortunes of the day and enabled the division to press on and capture objectives of the highest tactical importance.”

His valour surfaced when he took command after the first waves of his battalion were decimated.

The display reads: “He rallied his men with the utmost gallantry and led them against enemy machine guns, capturing the guns and killing the personnel.

“Later in the day ... he again rallied the survivors of this battalion, and at a critical moment led them through a very hostile barrage against his objective.

“He was one of the first to enter the enemy trench.”

FREDERICK MAURICE WATSON HARVEY

FREDERICK Maurice Watson Harvey was a former pupil of Ellesmere College, who went on to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Born in Athboy, Ireland in 1888, Harvey was awarded the prestigious medal for what his citation said was for his conspicuous bravery and devotion to his duty.

General Seely who remembered Harvey in his book, Adventure, said: “My orders were to take my brigade round the left flank and encircle the French village of Guyencourt from the side. The operation was entirely successful and I will not describe it in detail, but it was here that Lieutenant Harvey of Strathcona’s horse performed a feat of arms so remarkable that it may be of interest for an eye-witness to recount it.

“Harvey was in charge of the leading troop of the Strathcona’s Horse. Their orders were to gallop over the ridge about half a mile to the left of Guyencourt, right round behind it and establish themselves there.

“Harvey got over the ridge with very few casualties, galloping about 100 yards in front of his troop. I saw him galloping straight towards me and wondered what on earth he was going to do, for I could see a little trench full of Germans firing away with their rifles and one machine gun.

“Still at a gallop, Harvey turned is horse and rode at speed. When he got close to it, still miraculously untouched, he realised his horse would never jump the thin and almost invisible wire.”

The VC winner then jumped the wire and shot the machine gunner and captured the gun.The official report described the act as courageous act which had a decisive impact on the success of the operation.

THOMAS ORDE LAUDER WILKINSON

BORN in Canada in 1894, Thomas Orde Lauder Wilkinson was the grandson of the vicar of Ruyton XI Towns, who moved to Canada shortly before the First World War.

A member of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, Wilkinson arrived in England and transferred to the 7th Bn the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment as Lieutenant Gunnery Officer.

On the morning of July 5, 1916, during an attack on German trenches in La Boiselle, France, a gun crew that was under heavy fire was forced to retreat, leaving its machine-gun behind. Along with two other gunners, Wilkinson dashed forward and used the abandoned weapon to hold off the enemy until they were safe.

Later that day during a bombing attack, Wilkinson pushed his way forward to find five men halted by a solid block of earth over which the Germans were lobbing grenades. Wilkinson mounted a machine-gun on top of the parapet and dispersed the enemy bombers.

While attempting to save a wounded man, Wilkinson was shot through the heart and killed.

The official report of his Victoria Cross citation says it was awarded for conspicuous bravery, adding: “Throughout the day he set a magnificent example of courage and self-sacrifice.

NOEL CHAVASSE

CAPTAIN Noel Chavasse, the grandson of the Reverend Joseph Maude, formerly vicar of Chirk, remains one of the only three men to ever receive the Victoria Cross twice.

Having grown up in Liverpool, Captain Chavasse was a qualified doctor and was 30 when the First World War broke out. Due to his medical background, he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Medical Officer to the Kings Liverpool Regiment.

The soldier was awarded his first VC for ‘the most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty’ in an attack on Guillemont, in the Ypres sailent in August 1916.

He was awarded the second VC for his bravery in the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele, a year later in August 1917.

Captain Chavasse suffered an injury to the head after setting up a first aid post. Despite a suspected fractured skull, he insisted on returning to his post and battled on for two days without food or rest.

After suffering two further serious wounds, Captain Chavasse refused to leave his post, instead searching the surrounding area where he eventually suffered a fatal injury to the stomach when a shell entered his dugout. He died on August 4, 1917.

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