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Celebrity Drawings by John Moss

Manchester Military & Civilian Heroes

Local people of courage, self-sacrifice and valour

Mark Addy AM

Mark Addy

Mark Addy was one of Salford's most legendary sons, famed in his lifetime for rescuing no fewer than 50 persons from drowning in the River Irwell. Born at the Parsonage in Blackfriars Street in 1838, as a young lad he assisted his father in the running of his boat hire company, so that, though he could not swim, was no stranger to water. His first rescue was at the age of 13, when he waded in up to his chin to drag a small boy to safety. After 33 rescues over a period of 25 years he was awarded the Albert Medal First Class by Queen Victoria in 1878; he had already been awarded the Bronze and Silver Medals of the Royal Humane Society, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Humane Society of the Salford Hundred. As an adult he owned the riverside Boathouse Inn. Eventually he succumbed to the River Irwell, when, after his last rescue he suffered a fatal illness brought on by swallowing the heavily polluted waters and he died on the 9th June 1890.
A pub bearing his name exists today on the Salford Bank of the River Irwell.

Bill Speakman VC

Bill Speakman VC

(Born 1927)
Altrincham born Bill Speakman was a tall man of 6 feet 6 inches who began a military career as a drummer boy in the local Army Cadet Corps. He later joined the King's Own Scottish Borderers, and went on to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry in 1951 during the Korean War. The award was given as a result of his repeated charges against a heavily defended enemy hill position without regard for his personal safety, and despite being wounded and out of ammunition, pelted the enemy positions with tin cans, stones and beer bottles. Speakman was the first to receive the VC from Queen Elizabeth II, and was dubbed the "Beer Bottle VC" by the press.
A shy and retiring man, he returned from the war to Altrincham to be greeted by throngs of well-wishers and civic dignitaries. After demobilisation, Speakman grew unhappy with civilian life, and later after remarrying he went to South Africa in 1972 where he worked as a Security Officer in Durban.
Bill became a Chelsea Pensioner on the 1st November 1993 and was among the Pensioners that marched across the Royal Albert Hall arena at the Festival of Remembrance ceremony on 13th November 1993. He became an out pensioner the following year and returned to South Africa. He returned to take part in the Queen's Golden Jubilee Parade in London on the 4th of June 2002.
Bill Speakman's Victoria Cross and his other medals reside in the National War Museum of Scotland, The Castle, Edinburgh, formerly known as the Scottish United Services Museum. Further details are available on the Victoria Cross Awards website at:
Our latest information is that he now goes by the name of Bill Speakman-Pitt.

We are indebted to Mr Terry Hissey, who is a researcher for the Victoria Cross Society, for providing material and verifying the information we have here on Bill Speakman.

Ensign Charles Ewart

Ensign Charles Ewart

Charles Ewart was known as the "Most Illustrious Grey" after he had led the Scots Greys in a cavalry charge to capture French Eagle and battle standard at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was born in Kilmarnock in Scotland and grew to be almost 7 feet tall.. At the time of Waterloo, aged 46, he was a sergeant in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons and an excellent swordsman. As a result of his dashing bravery he was given the King's Commission and rank of ensign by the Prince Regent and awarded the Waterloo Medal. He was married to Margaret Geddes from Stockport. In 1821, Ewart left the army with a �100 a year pension and moved with his wife to live in Salford, where he taught swordsmanship and fencing to supplement his income. In 1830 the Ewart's moved to live in Davyhulme, where Charles was to spend the remainder of his life. He died in 1846 at the age of 77 and is buried beside the New Jerusalem Church in Salford. The church was later demolished and the graves pave d over. In 1936 the Scots Greys had his body removed to Edinburgh Castle, where it now lies buried

George Peachment VC

George Peachment VC
George Peachment
This photographic image courtesy of Roger Hebblethwaite

Born in a barber's shop in Manchester Road, Bury on the 5th May 1897, Bill Peachment was one of the youngest soldiers ever to receive the Victoria Cross in the First World War. In September 1915, at the age of 18, Rifleman Private Peachment No 11941 was enlisted in King's Royal Rifle Corps, when they were engaged in the Battle of Loos. During the offensive at Hulluch on the 25th September, Peachment saw his commanding officer, Captain Dubs, lying on the ground wounded a short distance from the German trenches. Despite heavy fire, Peachment crawled towards the officer and attempted to dress his wounds when he was hit by shrapnel from an exploding shell nearby, and suffered a rifle bullet to the head. Peachment died instantly, though Captain Dubs survived to recommend him for the Award. Peachment had been one of the youngest men in his battalion, and gave this splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice.

William Horace Taylor GC MBE

William Horace Taylor GC MBE
William Horace Taylor.
This photographic image courtesy of Roger Hebblewaite

Born on 23rd October 1908, Lieutenant Commander William Horace Taylor, a former pupil of Manchester Grammar School was one of several Mancunians who were awarded the George Cross. Taylor was a bomb disposal engineer and was given the award for work done in disposal of mines in September and October 1940. He had worked at Manchester Docks (now Salford Quays) and had joined the Admiralty at the outbreak of war in 1939. He suffered from many bomb blasts, but survived them all and spent his post-war years in the Scouting Association, and became a property manager in Glasgow. He died on 16th January 1999 at the age of 90. He had also been awarded the MBE. Further information on George Cross awards can be found at the new website at:

Percy Walton GM

Lieutenant John Percy Walton was a member of the Royal Engineers occupied in bomb disposal work during the Second World War. He had just graduated from Manchester University at the outbreak of war and immediately joined the 110th East Lancashire Company of the Royal Engineers. He was involved in many disposals in France and on the beaches at Dunkirk. During his short career, he successfully defused over 100 bombs and other ordinance from 1940 until his death while defusing a bomb on the 1st April 1942. He was awarde the george medal for "Non-Combatant Gallantry".

Joanna Toff QGM

Joanna Toff

On the 22nd of August 1985 a Boeing 737 aeroplane caught fire on the tarmac at Manchester Airport, killing 55 people. The fire began when the Corfu bound aircraft's engine blew up while it was taxiing to the runway. Two of the air hostesses, Jacqueline Urbanski and Sharon Ford, died tragically while trying to rescue trapped passengers.
A third, Joanna Toff crawled on her hands and knees down the smoke filled aisle of the aircraft feeling her way towards other passengers and helping them escape from the inferno. The three hostesses were awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, two, of course, posthumously, and Joanna, who was highly praised for her courage and had happily survived the tragedy.
In 1988, Sharon Ford and Jacqueline Urbanski (posthumously), as well as Joanna, were the recipients of the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award. The FSF Heroism Award was established in 1968 to recognise civil aircraft crew members and ground personnel whose heroic actions exceeded the requirements of their jobs and, as a result, saved lives or property.
Joanna is currently stil involved in aviation but mostly in training. She is married and lives in Singapore and develops courses for schools, crew and the public - mostly safety stuff. She appeared on the National Geographic Air Crash Investigations but apart from that have never spoken in public about the incident.
She was not only awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, but also the Ross McWhirter Award , the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award (, and the Graviner Sword,

We are grateful to Terry Hissey for providing additional information on Joanna Toff, as well as other Military heroes contained on these web pages.
as well as updated information from Joanna herself.

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This page last updated 21 Dec 11.