Category: Heritage

Commando Winners of the Victoria Cross

The Commando Winners of the Victoria Cross Plaque may be found at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Lt Col Geoffrey Keyes VC, MC.
Lt Col Charles Newman VC
Sgt Thomas Durrant VC
Maj Patrick Porteus VC
L/Cpl Henry Harden VC
Lt George A Knowland VC
Cpl Thomas Hunter VC
Maj Anders Lassen VC, MC**

DRW © 2018. Created 21/08/2018

Updated: 21/08/2018 — 07:00

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas GC

Forest Frederick Edward “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas (17/06/1902 – 26/02/1964) was a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent in the Second World War and was awarded the George Cross for his clandestine work behind enemy lines.  Yeo-Thomas was known by the Gestapo as “The White Rabbit”. 

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37468, Page: 961 reads: 

“The KING has been graciously pleased to award the George Cross to Acting Wing Commander Forest Frederick Edward YEO-THOMAS, M.C. (89215), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer was parachuted into France on 25 February 1943. He showed much courage and initiative during his mission, particularly when he enabled a French officer who was being followed by a Gestapo agent in Paris to reach safety and resume clandestine work in another area. He also took charge of a U.S. Army Air Corps officer who had been shot down and, speaking no French, was in danger of capture. This officer returned to England on 15 April 1943, in the aircraft which picked up Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas undertook a second mission on 17 September 1943. Soon after his arrival in France, many patriots were arrested. Undeterred, he continued his enquires and obtained information which enabled the desperate situation being rectified. On six occasions, he narrowly escaped arrest. He returned to England on 15 November 1943, bringing British intelligence archives which he had secured from a house watched by the Gestapo.

This officer was again parachuted into France in February, 1944. Despite every security precaution, he was betrayed to the Gestapo in Paris on 21 March. While being taken by car to Gestapo Headquarters, he was badly “beaten up”. He then underwent 4 days continuous interrogation, interspersed with beatings and torture, including immersions, head downwards, in ice-cold water, with legs and arms chained. Interrogations later continued for 2 months and Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was offered his freedom in return for information concerning the Head of a Resistance Secretariat. Owing to his wrist being cut by chains, he contracted blood-poisoning and nearly lost his left arm. He made two daring but unsuccessful attempts to escape. He was then confined in solitude in Fresnes prison for 4 months, including 3 weeks in a darkened cell with very little food. Throughout these months of almost continuous torture, he steadfastly refused to disclose any information.

On 17 July, Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was sent with a party to Compiègne prison, from which he twice attempted to escape. He and 36 others were transferred to Buchenwald. On the way, they stopped at Saarbrücken, where they were beaten and kept in a tiny hut. They arrived at Buchenwald on 16 August and 16 of them were executed and cremated on 10 September. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas had already commenced to organise resistance within the camp and remained undaunted by the prospect of a similar fate. He accepted an opportunity of changing his identity with that of a dead French prisoner, on condition that other officers would also be enabled to do so. In this way, he was instrumental in saving the lives of two officers.

Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas was later transferred to a work kommando for Jews. In attempting to escape, he was picked up by a German patrol and, claiming French nationality, was transferred to a camp near Marienburg for French prisoners of war. On 16 April 1945, he led a party of 20 in a most gallant attempt to escape in broad daylight. Ten of them were killed by gunfire from the guards. Those who reached cover split up into small groups. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas became separated from his companions after 3 days without food. He continued alone for a week and was recaptured when only 800 yards from the American lines.

A few days later, he escaped with a party of 10 French prisoners of war, whom he led through German patrols to the American lines. Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas thus turned his final mission into a success by his determined opposition to the enemy, his strenuous efforts to maintain the morale of his fellow prisoners and his brilliant escape activities. He endured brutal treatment and torture without flinching and showed the most amazing fortitude and devotion to duty throughout his service abroad, during which he was under the constant threat of death.”

He survived the war and died in 1964 at the age of 61 in his Paris apartment following a massive haemorrhage. He was cremated in Paris and then subsequently repatriated to be interred in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, where his grave may be found in the Pine Glade Garden of Remembrance. 

DRW © 2018. Created 21/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 21/08/2018 — 06:31

James Hendry GC

James Hendry (20/12/1911 – 13/06/1941) was was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his self sacrifice  on 13/06/1941 Loch Laggan, Scotland.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 35962, Page: 1511 reads: 

The KING has been graciously pleased, on the advice of Canadian Ministers, to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, 
to: — B.28593 Corporal Jame Hendry.”

No.1 Tunnelling Company of the  Royal Canadian Engineers was tasked with digging the tunnel between Loch Spey and Loch Laggan to supply water to the British Aluminium works at Fort William, when a fire broke out in an explosives store near Loch Laggan.  Corporal Hendry  ordered his colleagues to run to safety and attempted to extinguish the blaze, rather than attempt to escape the inevitable explosion that would have killed more men and stopped work on the tunnel. However it was in vain as the ensuring explosion killed him and Sapper John MacDougall Stewart. Seven more were injured.

James Hendry was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery (grave reference 31. F. 9.) in Surrey. 

DRW 2018. Created 16/08/2018, image courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 16/08/2018 — 06:37

William Hope VC

William Hope (12/04/1834 – 17/12/1909) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Crimean War  on 18 June 1855 at Sebastopol,

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 21997,  Page: 1578, reads:

“7th Regiment, Lieutenant William Hope, Date of Act of Bravery, 18th June, 1855.

After the troops had retreated on the morning of the 18th June, 1855, Lieutenant W. Hope being informed by the late Serjeant-Major William Bacon, who was himself wounded, that Lieutenant and Adjutant Hobson was lying outside the trenches badly wounded, went out to look for him, and found him lying in the old agricultural ditch running towards the left flank of the Redan. He then returned, and got four men to bring him in. Finding, however, that Lieutenant Hobson could not be removed without a stretcher, he then ran back across the open to Egerton’s Pit, where he procured one, and carried it to where Lieutenant Hobson was lying.
All this was done under a very heavy fire from the Russian batteries.”

William Hope passed away on 17th December 1909 in London, aged 75. He was buried in the family grave in Brompton Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 13/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:34

Lachhiman Gurung VC

Lachhiman Gurung (30/12/1917 – 12/12/2010), a member of the 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles of the Indian Army, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in May 1945 at Taungdaw, Burma.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of 24 July 1945, Supplement:37195, Page: 3861 reads:
“No. 87726 Rifleman LACHHIMAN GURUNG, 8th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

At Taungdaw, in Burma, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, on the night of I2th/I3th May, 1945, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon. At 0120 hours at least 200 enemy assaulted his Company position. The brunt of the attack was borne by Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s section and by his own post in particular. This post dominated a jungle path leading up into his platoon locality.

Before assaulting, the enemy hurled innumerable grenades at the position from close range. One grenade fell on the lip of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench; he at once grasped it and hurled it back at the enemy. Almost immediately another grenade fell – directly inside the trench.

Again this Rifleman snatched it up and threw it back. A third grenade then fell just in front of the trench. He attempted to throw it back, but it exploded in his hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his right arm arid severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded and lay helpless in the bottom of the trench.

The enemy, screaming and shouting, now formed up shoulder to shoulder and attempted to rush the position by sheer weight of numbers. Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung,  regardless of his wounds, fired and loaded his rifle with his left hand, maintaining a continuous and steady rate of fire. 

Wave after wave of fanatical attacks were thrown in by the enemy and all were repulsed with heavy casualties. For four hours after being severely wounded Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung remained alone at his post, waiting with perfect calm for each attack, which he met with fire at point-blank range from his rifle, determined not to give one inch of ground.

Of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman’s section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung’s trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.

This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last, that, although surrounded and-cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.

His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy. “

Lachhiman Gurung VC died at the  Chiswick War Memorial Homes on 12th December 2010  aged 92 of pneumonia, and was buried in Chiswick New Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 12/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 12/08/2018 — 19:38

Alfred Kirke Ffrench VC

Alfred Kirke Ffrench (25/02/1835 – 28/12/1872) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16 November 1857 at Lucknow, India during the Indian Rebellion.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 22212, Page: 5513, reads:

“53rd Regiment, Lieutenant Alfred Kirke Ffrench. Date of Act of Bravery, 16th November, 1857.

For conspicuous bravery on the 16th of November, 1857, at the taking of the Secundra Bagb, Lucknow, when in command of the Grenadier Company, being one of the first to enter the building. His conduct was highly praised by the whole Company.
Elected by the Officers of the Regiment.”

He fell ill while on service in Bermuda in Autumn of 1872, and was invalided back to London to recuperate, but died on 28th December and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 11/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 12/08/2018 — 06:37

Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn VC

Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn (27/11/1870 – 04/07/1913) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions the at Elandslaagte during the Anglo Boer War.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 27212, Page: 4509, reads: 

“The Gordon Highlanders, Captain Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn:

At the Battle of Elandslaagte on the 21st October, 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some men of the Gordon Highlanders, when about to assault a kopje in advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire and, having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example, he rallied the men and led them  against the enemy’s position, where he fell, desperately wounded in four places.”

Matthew FM Meiklejohn VC

He died in hospital following an incident in Hyde Park, and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 11/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green. Taddy cigarette card by Card Promotions © 1997, first issued 1902

Updated: 12/08/2018 — 06:10

Wallace Duffield Wright VC, CB, CMG, DSO

Wallace Duffield Wright (20/09/1875 – 25/03/1953) was awarded the Victoria Cross on 26 February 1903 while serving with the 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) attached to the Northern Nigeria Regiment, during the Kano-Sokoto Expedition in Nigeria.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 27596, Page: 5663, reads:

“The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) Northern Nigeria Regiment. 

Lieutenant (now Captain) Wallace Duffield Wright

On the 24th March, 1903, Lieutenant Wright, with only one Officer and 44 men, took up a position in the path of the advancing enemy, and sustained the determined charges of 1,000 Horse and 2,000 Foot for two hours, and when the enemy, after heavy losses, fell back in
good order, Lieutenant Wright continued to follow them up till they were in full retreat.
The personal example of this Officer, as well as his skilful leadership, contributed largely to the brilliant success of this affair.
He in no way infringed his orders by his daring initiative, as, though warned of the possibility of meeting large bodies of the enemy, he had purposely been left a free hand.”

He died at Westways Farm, Cobham, Surrey, on 25th March 1953, aged 78 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 10/08/2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green

Updated: 10/08/2018 — 12:45

William Reynolds VC

William Reynolds (1827 – 20/10/1869) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 20 September 1854 at the Battle of the AlmaCrimean Peninsula,

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 21971, Page: 657, reads:

“Scots Fusilier Guards, No. 3308 Private Wm. Reynolds.

When the formation of the line was disordered at Alma, for having behaved in a conspicuous manner in rallying the men round the Colours. “

He passed away aged just 42 at his home in The Strand on 20th October 1869 and was buried in a common grave in Brookwood Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 10/08/2018, Image courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 10/08/2018 — 12:45

Ross Lowis Mangles VC

Ross Lowis Mangles (14/04/1833 – 28/02/1905), a civilian,  was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30th July, 1857, during the Indian Mutiny at Arrah.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 22283, Page: 2629, reads:

“Mr. Ross Lowis Mangles,  of the Bengal Civil Service, Assistant Magistrate at Patna,
Date of Act of Bravery, 30th July, 1857

Mr. Mangles volunteered and served with the Force, consisting of detachments of Her Majesty’s 10th and 37th Regiments, and some Native Troops, despatched to the relief of Arrah, in July, 1857, under the Command of Captain Dunbar, of the 10th Regiment. The Force fell into an Ambuscade on the night of the 29th of July, 1857, and, during the retreat on the next morning, Mr. Mangles, with signal gallantry and generous self-devotion, and notwithstanding that he had
himself been previously wounded, carried for several miles, out of action, a wounded soldier of Her Majesty’s 37th Regiment, after binding up his wounds under a murderous fire, which killed or wounded almost the  whole detachment  and he bore him in safety to the boats.”

He died at Pirbright in Surrey, aged 71 on 28th February 1905. He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

DRW © 2018. Created 10/08/2018, Image courtesy of Mark Green.

Updated: 10/08/2018 — 12:46
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