Tag Archives: Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross Trust

Victoria Cross Trust at Ashworth Barracks

After wanting to visit Ashworth Barracks for quite a while, I finally visited earlier this month armed with a small file with information about one of my two distant family members who had been awarded the Victoria Cross..

Ashworth Barracks

Set within a disused school, the museum is surrounded by houses and feels part of the community. Access is easy. I arrived via the A1, exiting at junction 36 and heading towards Doncaster where there were a few signs pointing the way.

After paying my entrance fee, I was already to go, but it was suggested that if I wait a few minutes I would be on the next guided tour……..am I glad I waited!

Paul, one of the volunteer guides arrived and as I was the only visitor at the time, I had a personal guided tour.

I had mentioned at reception that I had a distant connection to two V.C holders and as my guide and I walked across to the museum entrance, he commented to a couple of men about my connection. One of the men had heard of my recipient – I was surprised as it is hard to find any mention of him in books connected to either the Victoria Cross or Victoria Cross recipients. Could my day get any better………………yes, it could and it did.

The museum depicts the story of the Victoria Cross from its early days to modern times by the use of static displays, individual displays and representation. Paul and the other volunteer guides have a vast knowledge of the recipients, all men, and their deeds. Although women have been eligible to receive the Victoria Cross since 1921 there have been no female recipients since then.

During my visit one of the stories I heard was that  of Stanley Elton Hollis VC, who served in the Green Howards who had the distinction of receiving the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day. My father served in the Green Howards and like Stanley landed on Gold Beach.

One of the exhibits is a living room and backyard depicting a house during the time of WW2, with a welcoming fire, chair and outhouse with a bath hanging on the wall. Other exhibits include a mound of army desert boots under a draped Union Flag – the exhibit has no explanation, no photographs, it doesn’t need anything, the boots and the flag say all that needs to be said.

Another section of the museum houses a collection of German militaria. Some may not agree or feel comfortable that German artefacts are kept within the walls of a museum focusing on Commonwealth forces. But, and there is always a but! To have a war or conflict there has to be an enemy. Without the enemy would there be the Victoria Cross? Without the Victoria Cross would there be the Ashworth Museum? There are always two sides – and you can’t have one without the other. Artefacts included in this small section are letters, documentation and militaria.

A guided tour normally take around two hours – I think mine lasted a little longer than that. Did I mind?  No, as I was fortunate enough to hold a medal worn by one of my distant relatives. Paul, my guide was as surprised as I, when we learnt that the medal was part of the museum’s collection. I told you my day could only get better and it certainly did.

Did I have a good visit?      Yes.
Was the entrance fee of £7 worth it?      Yes.
Would I recommend the museum?     Yes.
Will I be going back?      Yes, of course I will.

 

Albert Edward Shepherd

A few years ago my cousin and I were jointly researching branches of our family tree.  I was doing the internet side by looking at census, military service records and other online sources.  He was going the ‘old school’ route by visiting the archives and viewing the church records on microfilm.  Normally, on a Sunday morning we would have a long chat on the telephone, compare notes and decide what other routes to go down and people to search out………..It worked for us and we found a lot of information about our joint relatives, their spouses and children.

It was while researching a joint relative – nearer to him than me by just a little, we ventured into the Shepherd line.  There were a few ups and downs and a few hiccoughs along the way but with a joint effort we got there.

And so it was that in 2010, one sunny but cool Sunday afternoon I ventured forth with car keys, camera, spare batteries and music for my journey a few miles down the road.  But before I tell about that day, it may be good to know who Albert was.

Albert Edward Shepherd was the son of Noah Shepherd and Laura Darwin born in 1897 in the small town of Royston near Barnsley.  Albert was not our main interest, it was his brother Jabez born in 1905 that was the direct relative.  But you know how it is with family history, you start of in a nice orderly fashion then off you go at a tangent.  It seemed that Albert was our tangent, but at least some of the information fitted them both.

Noah was a Shropshire man, a miner by trade and it looks like he followed the coal fields ending up in Royston where he met Laura who was from Hoyland Common.   The couple married in 1896 and went on to have 6 children born between 1897 and 1908 in and around Royston.

1901 the family were living at 2nd 5th Hallam Street, Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield.  By the time the 1911 census came around Noah was a widower bringing up his children in Royston.  Not only had he lost his wife but one of their six children had also died.  Albert was working like his father, down the mine.  Also in living in the house was Thurza, Noah’s mother;  Percy his 15 year old brother and Joseph Darwin, his father in law, also a widower.

One source says that while he was working at New Monkcton Colliery, his main sources of recreation were boxing and running.

sheherd a e picAlbert enlisted, but some say it was on the first day of the war, while others say it was  on the 4th of August 1915, but his Medal Card says he enlisited on 18th of August 1915 being drafted into one of Lord Kitchener’s service battalions, the 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps – that regiment all are agreed upon.  Again I seem to be highlighting a member of this regiment, but this time it is not intentional.  During his service he was seriously wounded in the arm and gassed twice – thus qualifying for a Silver War Badge and an Army Pension.

He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on 28 August 1916 and became acting Corporal one month later on 28 September 1916. He was still a young man, but had taken part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917.

His love of running served him in good stead as it was while a company runner that he was awarded the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces – The Victoria Cross.

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

Villers Plouich, France, 20th November 1917-

The citation reads:

No. R/15089 Rflmn. Albert Edward Shepherd, K.R.R.C. (Barnsley).

For most conspicuous bravery as a company runner.

When his company was held up by a machine gun at point blank range he volunteered to rush the gun, and, though ordered not to, rushed forward and threw a Mills bomb, killing two gunners and capturing the gun. The company, on continuing its advance, came under heavy enfilade machine gun fire.
When the last officer and the last non-commissioned officer had become casualties, he took command of the company, ordered the men to lie down, and himself went back some seventy yards under severe fire to obtain the help of a tank.
He then returned to his company, and finally led them to their last objective.

He showed throughout conspicuous determination and resource.

—London Gazette, 13 February 1918
DSCF1794

Rosezillah Shepherd, headstone in Royston Cemetery. Copyright C Sklinar

The Great War, the war to end all wars, came to an end for Albert on the 2nd of January 1919, when he was discharged and he returned home to Royston. He went back to the colliery as a caretaker and on 17th of February of 1919 he married Rosezillah Tillman.  Rosezillah died in September of 1925 and rests in Royston Cemetery.

On the 6th of November 1926 Albert married for the second time, this time to Gladys Maud Lees.

He later joined the Corps of Commissionaires.

croix de guerre

Croix de Guerre

In early 1920 he heard that he had been awarded the French Medaille Militaire, followed a few months later in January of 1921 he had been awarded the Croix de Guerre.

As well as the Silver War Badge, for being injured,  his tally of military and civilian medals added up to quite a few:-

mdaille militaire

Medaille Militaire

 * Victoria Cross
* 1914 – 15 Star
* British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
* Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
* King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
* Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
* Croix de Guerre ( France )
* Medaille Militaire ( France )

In June of 1920 he attended the Buckingham Palace garden party, given by King George V for Victoria Cross Recipients.  His Majesty was accompanied by The Queen and other members of the Royal Family. The recipients assembled at Wellington Barracks and marched to the Palace via Birdcage Walk.  The King inspected the Victoria Cross Recipients who later filed past his Majesty and all had the honour of being presented to The King and Queen. Nine years later was a guest at the Prince of Wales’ House of Lords’ dinner on 9th of November 1929.  He retired in 1945 and the following year attended the Victoria Cross dinner at the Dorchester.  It was his normal practice to attend most of the Victoria Cross / George Cross functions, one of which was the Hyde Park Review in june 1956 and the review f the Corps of Commissionaires in May three years later.

The Imperial War Museum has within its vast collection invitations and souvenir programmes for the Victoria Cross Garden Party.

Albert E Shepherd VC

Albert E Shepherd VC

Albert Edward Shepherd, V.C. died at his home in Oakwood Crescent, Royston on 2rd of October 1966 aged 69.

DSCF1797

Albert Edward Shepherd V.C. copyright C Sklinar

He was given a full military funeral at St John the Baptist Church, Royston.  His cortege as it made its way to the church was given a guard of honour.  The Union Flag was draped across his coffin and his Victoria Cross and Croix de Guerre were proudly laid upon his countries flag.  The Last Post and Reveille were played at his graveside.

In 1968 his second wife, Gladys presented his Victoria Cross and his other medals to the Royal Greenjackets at Winchester.

It is said that a vicar in the 1980’s used part of the DSCF1812archway, which bares Alberts memorial, as part of a washing line – needless to say it did not go down well with the local British Legion.

And so………..back to that day when I ventured forth with keys and camera.  I eventually found the cemetery and proceeded to walk up and down scanning the headstones, but Alberts could not be found. I had found Rosezillah’s headstone, but no Albert.  There were quite a few people around mostly using the cemetery as a short cut.  I asked many of them if they knew where Albert was, after explaining why I was looking for him and why he was special to Royston.  Sadly, not one of them had heard of him or knew where he rested.  Finally, I spoke to a man who suggested I spoke to a couple who were just making there way down the path.  With a quick turn around and the couple in my site – I found him, within feet of where I stood, and therefore, did not need the couple proceeding down the path.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to Barnsley local studies, wondering if they had any information that had eluded me.  I was told that Barnsley were very proud of Albert – my previous experience led me to take that with a very big pinch of salt.  I came to the conclusion that money had been made available in the form of a grant and like a lot of other councils, schools etc., have got on the 100 year bandwagon.  But, how long with they remember after 2015 or even 2018 I ask?

Many groups, associations and individuals have been remembering for much longer and will remember long after 2018 – personal rant over!

DSCF1813

The inscription on the arch ‘This memorial was erected with monies raised by public subscription and by his regiment the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. to the memory of Albert E Shepherd, V.C., Croix de Guerre, Medaille Militaire who died 23rd October 1966.

Although the arch looks a little worse for wear these days, with the varnish crackling and the wood rotting a little, but the memorial stand proud.  If you take a walk to the back of the memorial that now stands to the rear of the War Memorial, you will see the original gate that someone covered over with what looks like plyboard.

shepherd memorial new

Memorial to A E Shepherd V.C. on Royston War Memorial copyright C Sklinar

Morayshire man to get memorial 100 years after his death

 After seeing a link to an online version of the Press and Journal, a Scottish newspaper, I was very interested, as the young man concerned was from the same village as my grandad – Dallas, Morayshire.

Anderson, William V.C.

Anderson, William V.C.

William Anderson was born in 1885 in Dallas, but by 1891, the family consisting of Alexander and Bella, the parents, plus children, James, Maggie, William and Alexander, living at 79 North Road. Alexander snr., worked as a labourer to keep a roof over his family’s head.

He went to Glasgow and was employed as a car conductor with the Corporation Tramways for several years before moving  to Newcastle upon Tyne where an elder brother of the family was serving with the Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) and enlisted in the same battalion in 1905, serving in it for a period of seven years in Egypt and India. After his service expired William returned to Glasgow and was employed in the Elder Hospital in Govan. He had been there only for a year before deciding to emigrate to South Africa. However, before he could leave war broke out and he was called up as a reservist and went to the front in France with the British Expeditionary Force.

Our soldier, William Anderson, served in the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.  He served as Corporal, 8191.

An extract from “The London Gazette”, dated 21st May, 1915, records the following: “For most conspicuous bravery at Neuve-Chapelle on 12th March, 1915, when he led three men with bombs against a large party of the enemy who had entered our trenches, and by his prompt and determined action saved, what might otherwise have become, a serious situation. Cpl. Anderson first threw his own bombs, then those in possession of his three men (who had been wounded) amongst the Germans, after which he opened rapid rifle fire upon them with great effect, notwithstanding that he was at the time quite alone”.

William’s commanding officer wrote him up for his Victoria Cross – he had died within less than 24 hours, his Soldier’s Effects record states ‘on or since 13.3.15’.  The document also mentions his sister, Mrs Margaret Ingram and his brother Alexander, who would receive monies owed to William.  Various payments had been made to his siblings covering the period 10 May 1916 to 2 December 1919.

Anderson, William V.C., Corporal 8191, has no known grave and is therefore, remembered on the Le Touret Memorial, along with over 13400 other men whose final resting place is known only unto their God.

The Memorial commemorates, as I have said, over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September the following year – 1915.

Extracted from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission “Almost all of the men commemorated on the Memorial served with regular or territorial regiments from across the United Kingdom and were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war, including the battles of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November 1914), Neuve Chapelle (10 – 12 March 1915), Aubers Ridge (9 – 10 May 1915), and Festubert (15 – 25 May 1915). Soldiers serving with Indian and Canadian units who were killed in this sector in 1914 and ’15 whose remains were never identified are commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle and Vimy memorials, while those who fell during the northern pincer attack at the Battle of Aubers Ridge are commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial”.

Commonwealth War Graves certificate

Commonwealth War Graves certificate

To read the continuing story of William and his V.C. visit the Press and Journal’s website 

For information on other men from the Yorkshire Regiment you might find this of interest.