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Men Who Have Won The Victoria Cross Twice

16 Dec

The Victoria Cross takes precedence over all other medals for bravery. For over a hundred years out of all the millions of men who have served in the British and Commonwealth military services. The Victoria Cross was only awarded 1356 times, three of which were awarded twice to three men.
The first to receive the Victoria Cross twice was Arthur Martin- Leake, who was at Standen near Ware, Hertfordshire. He was educated at Westminster School and went on to study Medicine at University College Hospital. After his qualification he joined the Imperial Yeomanry. Later he joined the South African Constabulary as a Surgeon Captain attached to the 5th Field Ambulance. He won his first Victoria Cross at the age of 27 during the second Boer War on the 8th February 1902 at Vlakfontein. During all the fighting at Vlakfontein on the 8th February 1902. Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went out to a badly wounded man to give him aid under a hail of heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. Not content with this he then went on to give assistance to a wounded officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a safe and comfortable position. He himself was shot three times, but although in considerable pain he stayed with the injured men until relieved. Martin-Leake while convalescing from his wounds he qualified as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in1903.
On the outbreak of World War I he returned to service, as a lieutenant with the 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, on the Western Front. It was here on the Western Front that he won his second VC, at the 40 years of age. The Citation reads Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period 29th October to 8th November, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches. He was promoted captain in March 1915and major in November of the same year. In April 1917 he took command of 46th Field Ambulance at the rank of lieutenant Colonel. He retired from the army after the war and resumed his company employment in India until he retired back to England in1937. During the Second World War he commanded an ARP post
He died, aged 79, at High Cross, Hertfordshire on the 22nd June 1953, and was cremated with his remains buried in St John’s Church, High Cross. He is commemorated with a plaque and a tree at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. What a very brave man
The second double Victoria Cross winner was Noel Godfrey Chavasse, born in Oxford on the 9th November 1884. He was the younger Identical twin of the Rev Francis Chevasse who later became the Bishop of Liverpool. Noel was educated at Magdalen College School in Oxford then went on to Trinity College Oxford where he graduated with first class honours and stayed on at Oxford to study medicine. In 1912 Noel Chavasse passed his final exams and became a qualified surgeon working in Liverpool. In 1913 he applied and was accepted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant. One year later the First World War had broken out and he was attached to the 1/10th (Scottish Battalion) of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) At Hooge in Belgium in June 1915, Captain Noel Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. At Guillemont in France on the 9th and 10th of August He received the Victoria Cross for tending wounded soldiers in the open all day under heavy fire from the German lines. Although wounded in the side by a splinter from a shell, he still carried on helping and carrying wounded men back to safety. Sometimes these brave deeds were just 25 yards from the enemy trenches. The bar to his Victoria Cross came at Wieljte, in Belgium during the period 31st July to the 2nd August 1917 1907 for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Although severely wounded Captain Chavasse continued to perform his duties and went out repeatedly to tend wounded soldiers. Many of these soldiers would have died of their wounds in the bad weather conditions if it hadn’t have been for the brave actions of Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse. Later in the day he was so exhausted and badly wounded, that he died in a medical dressing station. It is strange that the doctor tending to Captain Chavasse when he died was Martin Leake the other double VC winner. Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge Belgium. One can only visualize what a brave man he was.
The third and last man awarded a double Victoria Cross was Charles Upham, born at 32 Gloucester Street in Central Christchurch on 21 September 1908. He was educated in private schools before going to Canterbury Agricultural College (now known as Lincoln University) where he earned a diploma in agriculture in 1930. At the age of 30 when war loomed in September 1939 Charles Upham Upham enlisted in the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force and was posted to the 20th Canterbury-Otago Battalion, which was part of the New Zealand Division Despite the fact that he already had five years experience in New Zealand’s Territorial Army, in which he held the rank of sergeant, he signed on as a private. He was promoted to Lance Corporal but at first declined a place in an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). In December, he was promoted to Sergeant and a week later sailed for Egypt for further training. In July 1940, he was finally persuaded to join an OCTU. In March 1941 Charles Upham no a 2nd Lieutenant left with his battalion to Greece then withdrawn to Crete it was here at Crete that he gained his first Victoria Cross.
German paratroopers were dropped on the Maleme airfield and after a desperate situation of close fighting they took the airfield. During this fighting Upham led his platoon and soon silenced an enemy machine gun post. A cottage nearby taken over by the Germans fired a stream of bullets at Upham. He made use of the scanty cover and lobbed two hand grenades through the window and the German guns went quiet after the explosions. Lt Upham and his platoon attacked another machine gun post and again Upham from 30 yards lobbed two grenades into the machine gun nest scoring a direct hit. During the next 48 hours of non-stop fighting against the enemy, Upham was blown up by a mortar shell, shot in the foot and wounded in his shoulder. Despite these wounds Upham fought on. The following day he saw a neighbouring company in danger of being cut off by the advancing Germans. He single handedly fought through to them and escorted them back to safety. Later that day two enemy machine gunners were causing trouble, Upham twisted and fell to the ground. The Germans with machine pistols at the ready and certain that he was dead. How wrong they were Upham shot them dead at close range with his rifle. With his wounds, fever and fatigue which had drained his strength Charles Upham was evacuated back to Egypt on a British Destroyer where he spent time in hospital. It was here that Lt. Charles Upham learned he had been awarded his first Victoria Cross.

A year after Charles Upham was evacuated to Egypt; he was promoted to a Captain and sent with his battalion for operations against the Axis forces in the Western Desert. During operations with his company, they were involved in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of 14th-15th July, 1942. In spite of being twice wounded, when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding the British mine-fields and again being wounded when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades. Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault. During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham’s company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down, he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack. Captain Upham went out himself armed with a Spandau gun, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts he succeeded in bringing back vital information needed. Just before dawn the rest of the New Zealand reserve battalion was ordered forward, but just before reaching their objective they came under heavy fire from strongly defended machine gun posts and tanks. Captain Upham saw the seriousness of the situation and without hesitation led his Company in a determined attack on the two nearest strongpoints on the left flank of the sector. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men and, in spite of the fierce resistance of the enemy and the heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership. Exhausted by pain from his wounds and weak from loss of blood, Captain Upham was then removed to the Regimental Aid Post Not content in what he had endured, immediately after his wound had been dressed, he returned to his men, staying with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire. He was again severely wounded and being now unable to move. He was finally captured by the enemy when his gallant company now reduced to only six survivors was overrun by superior enemy forces. Captain Charles Upham, for his actions over the two days was awarded a bar to his Victoria Cross. During his captivity he attempted to escape on numerous occasions before being sent to the notorious Colditz Castle where he remained until the liberation. After the war he returned to New Zealand and became a successful farmer. When poor health forced him to retire in 1992 he went to live in Christchurch. He died in Canterbury on 22 November 1994 and his burial service in Christchurch Cathedral was conducted with full military honours and was buried in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church Papanui. Again, here was another very brave man who had total disregard for his own life, to help others


2nd Lieut Joseph Henry Collin 4th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regt)

7 Jun

There was one officer in the 4th King’s Own, named 2nd Lieut. Joseph Henry Collin who through an act of outright bravery won a Victoria Cross at Orchard Keep in Givenchy June 1918.
After offering a long and gallant resistance against heavy odds in the Keep held by his platoon, this brave officer with only five of his men remaining they slowly withdrew in the face of overwhelming numbers of German infantry. The enemy were pressing him hard with bombs and machine-gun fire from close range as he contested every inch of the ground. Single- handed 2nd Lieut. Collin attacked the enemy machine gun and team. After firing his revolver into the enemy, he seized a mills grenade and threw it into the hostile team, putting the gun out of action killing four of the team and wounding two others.
Observing a second hostile machine gun firing, he took a Lewis gun and selecting a high point of advantage on a parapet. 2nd Lieut. Collin unaided engaged the enemy gun with fire keeping them at bay until he fell mortally wounded.
The heroic self- sacrifice of 2nd Lieut. Collin was a magnificent example to all. For his most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty and self-sacrifice he was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross.
As you the reader can see 2nd Lieut. Joseph Henry Collin was a very brave man indeed

All sixteen members of the party led by 2nd Lieut. Collin were killed barring one man Lance/Cpl J Pollitt, who was badly wounded and taken prisoner. Although J Pollitt badly wounded as he was, he killed his escort and fought his way back to British lines. Lance/Cpl Pollitt was unlucky that he did not receive any official recognition for his valuable service on this and other occasions. It is interesting to note at Givenchy, Lance/Cpl Pollitt was involved in both the actions that men of the 4th King’s Own regiment won the Victoria Cross. Lance/Cpl Pollitt survived the war which in itself was a bonus in life.


Two First World War Heroes From The 4th Battalion King’s Own

28 May

During the First World War the local regiment in the Furness area of England was The 4th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
This regiment at the time was made up of men from North Lancashire and South Cumberland. Two NCOs from the regiment won the Victoria Cross for bravery.
The first being Corporal (L/Sgt) Tom Fletcher Mayson from Silecroft Cumberland
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when with the leading wave of the attack at Ypres his platoon was held up by machine gun fire from a flank. Without waiting for orders, L/Sgt Mayson at once made for the gun, which he put out of action with bombs, wounding four of the team. The team of three men fled being pursued by L/Sgt Mayson to a dug out into which he followed the enemy and disposed of them with his bayonet
Later when clearing up a strong point, this non-commissioned officer again tackled a machine gun post single handed, killing six of the enemy team
Finally during an enemy counter- attack, he took charge of an isolated post, and successfully defended it until ordered to withdraw as his ammunition was exhausted.
There is no doubt throughout is ordeal L/Sgt Tom Fletcher Mayson remarkable Valour and initiative

The second man came from Coniston in the Lake District; his name was Lance Corporal James Hewitson.
At Givenchy in a daylight attack on a series of crater posts, L/Cpl Hewitson led his party of men to their objective with dash and vigour. Clearing the enemy from trench and dug- outs. In one of the dug- outs, six of the enemy would not surrender and were therefore killed. After capturing the final objective, he observed a hostile machine-gun team coming into action against his men. Working his way round the edge of the crater he attacked the team, killing four and capturing one. Shortly afterwards he engaged a hostile bombing party, which was attacking a Lewis- gun post He routed the party killing six of them.
The extraordinary feats of daring performed by Lance Corporal James Hewitson crushed the hostile opposition at this point.
I am sure you the reader will acknowledge both men were very brave indeed. What they and the thousands of troops went through in the First World War was unbelievable.
Both men survived the War James Hewitson is buried in Coniston cemetery, in shadow of Coniston Old Man


The Padre

29 Apr

Padres in the British forces are of all denominations and apart from their normal duties; they are there to help service men and women with any personal problems.
Many Padres won the Victoria Cross, particular in the First World War Two men come to my mind. The first being, Theodore Bayley Hardy who was attached to the 8th Lincolnshire Regt and the 8th Somerset Light Infantry. He won the D.S.O and the Military Cross in 1917. The Following year in April 1918 he was awarded the Victoria Cross and was presented with the medal by King George V in France. One month before hostilities ended in October 1918 He was wounded and died of his wounds in Rouen France. He was 54 years of age
The other Padre was The Reverend Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy who was nicknamed Woodbine Willie. He won the Military Cross at Messines Ridge for rescuing men in Gas attacks in 1917. He died at the age of 46 in 1929.
During My National Service with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, we had a Padre name Rev G.G Holman CF; I.V. He would visit platoons out on schemes or in the camp on a regular basis. A popular man, who would always tell us not to salute him which we always did, because of the respect we had for him. He came out to the Cameroons with the regiment and would visit the various camps up and down the country. I must say he was a friendly sight due to his easy going attitude and topics of conversation. One day on a road block, in the middle of a jungle area, smack in the middle of nowhere. Who turned up, the Padre with the words “I knew something would happen on this road”.
A few years back I received a letter from a man who was born in Banso in the Cameroons 1960. He wrote saying he was baptised by the Chaplain of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. He said he was getting married in France and needed his certificate of baptism because his original one had been lost over the years. He didn’t know the name of the Chaplin and he had contacted the army Chaplains department who said they had no records for Africa.
He asked if I could help him. I gave him the name of our Padre G.G.Holman with details etc. and told him to again get in touch with the Chaplin’s Department. I told him not to be fobbed off and wished him the best of luck. A week later I received a thank you letter telling me the information I gave paid off. The Reverend Holman was alive and well living in York. This is a few years ago and I hope he is still in the best of health.
I am sure ex and present service men and women have a tremendous amount of respect for their Padres. It does not matter if one is not religious; because there are no barriers when you talk to the Padre.

Colonel John Brough DSO. MC. MBE.

22 Feb

When, square bashing and training was finished at Fulwood Barracks Preston. I along with my platoon we were sent to Barnard Castle County Durham to join up with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment.
At the time the regiment had just been amalgamated from two famous northern regiments the King’s Own and the Border Regiment hence The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment.
At Barnard Castle the regiment was split between two camps (B) (C) and (HQ) Company at Humbleton Camp and (A) and (Support) Company at Westwick Camp. I was sent to Support Company at Westwick.
It was there at Westwick I learned that the O.C. of (A) Company was a man named Major Brough. The men of (A) Company thought the world of him. I never heard a bad word said about him. In my opinion they were the best Rifle Company in the Battalion, because Major Brough made them that way. They called themselves Brough’s Chindits
I knew from chatter around the camp and since what I have read that Major Brough had a good war record and I have investigated further
John Brough was born in Carlisle in 1920 where his parents were farmers. He joined the Army and served in the Coldstream Guards before taking a commission in the Border Regiment. He then went on to command a company in Burma. In the Arakan In March 1944 Major Brough commanded (C) Company of the 11th Sikh Regiment part of the 7th Indian Division.
On the night of March 6, his company was ordered to capture a strategic hill near Buthidaung in the Kalapanzin valley. The only way to approach the hill was up a narrow track, they came under murderous machine gun fire as they attacked the Japanese positions, which wer held by 40 men well dug in. The leading section was led by Naik Nand Singh who although wounded attacked three trenches and killed all the occupants. His platoon followed up with the rest of the Company and thirty seven of the enemy were killed in taking the position. Nand Singh serving under Major Brough was awarded the Victoria Cross.
A few nights later a Japanese platoon had infiltrated the battalion position and moved on to a hill overlooking the main Maunndaw-Buthidaung road. The position was of vital importance and Major Brough was ordered to drive them off. He organised an attack with the support of tanks and directed it himself. The offensive was carried out with great boldness, consequently the hill was retaken and the Japanese positions annihilated. Major Brough who killed six of the enemy himself was awarded an immediate D.S.O.
During the month of May 1945 Major Brough now in command of (D) Company, was ordered to attack the entrenched enemy on an organised diversion over 500 yards of open rice fields. Behind a barrage of mortars they took the Japanese by surprise. The Company went in with the bayonet and completely overrun the enemy’s position to take the strong point. Major Brough for his action was awarded an immediate M.C.

After the end of the campaign in Burma and the Second World War, Major Brough re-joined the Border Regiment, later to be named The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment
It was in 1960-61 while in the Cameroons West Africa I came off a patrol that had overrun a terrorist camp which I have written about in my book. Major Brough was there to meet the patrol on our return. He told us to gather round him and said “we had done a good job and were a credit to the regiment”.
Coming from him it meant a lot to each and every one of our patrol. I also knew why the lads of (A) Company held him in such high esteem. A true warrior and man
He was appointed an MBE and retired as Colonel in 1969 and died in 2009.

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