Frederick Birks VC, MM

Frederick Birks (31/08/1894 – 21/09/1917) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 21 September 1917 during the Battle of Menin Road

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 30372  Page: 11568 reads:

His Majesty The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Offices, Non-commissioned Officers and Man: —

2nd Lt. Frederick Birks, Late Aust. Imp. Force.

For most conspicuous bravery in attack when accompanied by only a corporal, he rushed a strong point which was holding up the advance. The corporal was wounded by a bomb, but 2nd Lt. Birks went on by himself killed the remainder of the enemy occupying the position, and captured a machine gun.

Shortly afterwards he organised a small party and attacked another strong point which was occupied by about twenty-five of the enemy, of whom many were killed and an officer and fifteen men captured.

During the consolidation this officer did magnificent work in reorganising parties of other units which had been disorganised during the operations.

By his wonderful coolness and personal bravery 2nd Lt. Birks kept his men in splendid spirits throughout. He was killed at his post by a shell whilst endeavouring to extricate some of his men who had been buried by a shell”

He is buried in Perth Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.

© DRW 2017-2018. Image courtesy of Mark Green.

Harold Ackroyd VC, MC

Harold Ackroyd (18/07/1877 – 11/08/1917) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions as a temporary captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, (Princess Charlotte of Wales`s) during the First World War. 

The Citation, Recorded in the London gazette, of Supplement: 30272 Page: 9259 reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery. During recent operations Capt. Ackroyd displayed the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty. Utterly regardless of danger, he worked continuously for many hours up and down and in front of the line tending the wounded and saving the lives of officers and men. In so doing he had to move across the open under heavy machine-gun, rifle and shell fire. He carried a wounded officer to a place of safety under very heavy fire.

On another occasion he went some way in front of our advanced line and brought in a wounded man under continuous sniping and machine-gun fire. His heroism was the means of saving many lives, and provided a magnificent example of courage, cheerfulness, and determination to the fighting men in whose midst he was carrying out his splendid work. This gallant officer has since been killed in action.”

He was killed in action on  11 August 1917 at Glencorse Wood, Ypres, and is buried at Burr Cross Roads Cemetery, Zillebeke, Belgium. 

 © DRW 2017-2018. Created 24/04/2017. Image courtesy of Mark Green.

Lewis McGee VC

Lewis McGee (13/05/1888 – 12/10/1917) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the First World War.

The Citation reads:

“As part of the third phase of the Passchendaele offensive, the 10th Australian Brigade—of which McGee’s 40th Battalion was part—was detailed to execute an attack on Broodseinde Ridge. The brigade was allocated four primary objectives to seize during the assault, one for each battalion, with the 40th Battalion to take the final target located on the ridge itself. The advance commenced at the predetermined time of 06:00 on 4 October 1917, under the cover of an artillery barrage. The first three battalions were able to seize their objectives, though the fighting intensified with each stage. As the 40th Battalion set to advance towards the final objective, its progress became hampered by increasingly heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, as well as by barbed wire entanglements and sectors of impassable swamp.

With McGee’s B Company heading the 40th Battalion’s advance, the unit was able to progress to a point approximately 270 metres (300 yd) in front of the crest, where it was confronted by a thick line of barbed wire and another bog, while simultaneously subject to the fire of ten machine guns in trenches and heavily defended pillboxes. The men of B Company struggled to within 90 metres (98 yd) of the battalion’s objective, when the severe fire of the German machine guns pinned them down in shellholes.

McGee’s platoon was suffering heavy casualties from a particular machine gun 50 metres (55 yd) in front of his position, which was set in a recess atop a concrete pillbox and firing directly at his men. Armed solely with a revolver, McGee dashed alone towards the post across the fire-swept ground. Shooting the gunners, he captured the remaining soldiers in the garrison as prisoners and seized control of the pillbox. On returning to his unit, he reorganised his men and led a bombing party in the capture of a second machine-gun post. McGee’s actions reignited the 40th Battalion’s advance, with McGee himself “foremost in the remainder” of the action. By 09:12 on 5 October, the 40th Battalion had seized its objective and held complete control of the Broodseinde Ridge, having captured 300 Germans as prisoners in the process.

As a result of his actions at Broodseinde, McGee was awarded the Victoria Cross, one of two Australians to be so decorated that day. However, he never saw the announcement of the award. On 12 October 1917—eight days after McGee’s Victoria Cross action—the 40th Battalion returned to the frontline, in an attempt to exploit the success of the previous week. The battlefield was drenched in rain, turning the ground into a quagmire that was additionally dominated by several German pillboxes. McGee—who had been appointed acting company sergeant major of B Company that morning—led his unit into the attack. As the men of the company advanced forward, a machine gun began firing upon them from the front, before a second opened up on their flank. Men ran to take cover in shellholes as the German fire inflicted several casualties. McGee, however, made a rush towards the guns in an apparent effort to silence them. As he ran towards the pillbox, a bullet struck him in the head, killing him instantly. McGee was later buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery; he was one of 248 members of the 40th Battalion killed or wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele. McGee’s fellow Australian Victoria Cross recipient from Broodseinde, Lance Corporal Walter Peeler, was also severely wounded on this day, receiving a bullet wound to his arm.”

He is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium.

Lewis McGee VC.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 19/01/2016. Image courtesy of Mark Green.