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Celebrity Drawings by John Moss

Manchester Military & Civilian Heroes

Characters of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice and valour

Ernest Sykes VC

Ernest Sykes VC

Ernest Sykes was born in Mossley on 4th April 1885 and educated at St George's School in Stalybridge. He later worked as a platelayer for the London & North Western Railway Company at Micklehurst.
Sykes was living with his wife and two sons on Bank Street in Mossley when the First World war was declared in 1915, and he immediately joined as a volunteer in the 7th Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment.
He was posted to Gallipoli, where he suffered severe injuries to the foot - several operations succeeded in saving the limb. He then returned to England where he was passed as fit to serve in the Tyneside Irish Brigade of the 27th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, with whom he served in France and Flanders. It was here that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for "...most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty near Arras, France, on 19th April 1917" . During the conflict, when his battalion was held up some 350 yards in advance of the main allied lines and bombarded by intense fire from all sides, Private Sykes went forward with little regard for his own safety and brought back four wounded men. He made a fifth journey to bandage all those of his comrades who were too badly wounded to be moved. Sykes received his Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace in July 1917.
His return to Mossley was met by public adulation, people turning out in their thousands to greet him and to witness the presentation of a commemorative gold watch by the Mayor in Market Square.
He later went on to be awarded the 1914-19 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and was demobilised prematurely in May 1918 due to sickness.
He returned to work for the local railway company where one a locomotive was named after him. In 1937 he was awarded the Coronation Medal. During the Second World War Sykes returned to serve with the 25th Battalion West Riding Home Guard. Ernest Sykes died at his home in Lockwood near Huddersfield the 3rd August 1949 and is buried with honours at Woodfield Cemetery in Lockwood. His Victoria Cross is on display at Alnwick Castle, and a Blue Plaque to honour his memory is located at the George Lawton Hall in Mossley.

William Thomas Forshaw VC

William Thomas Forshaw VC

William Thomas Forshaw was actually born in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria on 20th April 1890, the son of a manager at the Vickers Shipyard. His family came to live in the Tameside area when William was a young boy. He went on to train as a teacher and was eventually employed at the North Manchester High School for Boys in Moston.
At the outbreak of the First World War Forshaw volunteered to serve in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment Territorials and by May 1915 he had been promoted to Second Lieutenant and was serving in the Dardanelles. It was here that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for "... most conspicuous bravery and determination at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, from 7th to the 9th of August 1915" .
Lieutenant Forshaw was attacked and heavily bombed by Turkish forces, repeatedly advancing through trenches and continually driven back by Forshaw, who directed and encouraged his men, exposing himself with the utmost disregard to danger, casually lighting bomb fuses with his cigarette, and throwing them at the enemy lines for forty one hours. This action also earned him the nickname "the Cigarette VC". Later, during the night of 8th-9th of August he led his men, armed only with his revolver, forward and recaptured the trenches which they had taken.
In October 1915 Ashton-under-Lyne Council made William Forshaw a Freeman of the Town in recognition outstanding leadership and bravery. Later he served as a Major in the Indian Army, from which he retired in 1922. He went back into the teaching profession after returning to England, and lived for a time in Ipswitch where he opened two preparatory schools - both of which failed, leaving him bankrupt.
During the Second World War he served with the Home Guard.
William Forshaw died on the 26th May 1943 at his home in Maidenhead, Kent. Forshaw is honoured in the Museum of the Manchesters in Ashton Town Hall. His Victoria Cross is on display and a gallery is named after him.

John Buckley VC

John Buckley VC

John Buckley was born at Cocker Hill in Stalybridge on 24th May 1813. His life was marked throughout by personal tragedy and heroism. As a young man he worked in the textile industry at the local Harrison's Mill and then Bayley's Mill. At the age of eighteen Buckley joined the Bengal Artillery in Manchester, and was posted to India in June 1832 as a gunner.
In 1835 in India he was to meet and marry fourteen year old Mary Ann Broadway and to live in Calcutta, where they had three children. However as a result of repeated illness his wife and two of the children died in 1845. Buckley remarried in 1846 but in 1852 he lost the surviving child of his first marriage and in 1853 two sons by his second marriage also died.
In 1857 Buckley moved his surviving family to live in Delhi . Here he was appointed as Assistant Commissionary of Ordnance and was employed at the Delhi Magazine where guns and ammunition were stored. It was here that he was to be awarded the Victoria Cross
for his "...gallant defence of the magazine at Delhi" . During the 1857 Indian Mutiny against British rule, mutineers attacked the Magazine Store, while Buckley and eight other soldiers defended it against vastly superior numbers. Rather than let the ammunition fall into enemy hands they decided to blow up the building and themselves. Miraculously four, including Buckley, survived only to be captured by the enemy. Buckley's family had meantime been ruthlessly murdered by the rebels, but they refused to kill him on account of his bravery at the Magazine.
Buckley later escaped and rejoined the British army where he oversaw the execution of one hundred and fifty rebels who were strapped to the muzzle of a cannon and blown apart.
Shortly after being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1858, Buckley fell ill and returned to England where he received his Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria. He returned for a time to live in Stalybridge before returning to India with the rank of Major in October 1861.
His last years were spent in London. John Buckley died on the 14th July 1876 and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Tower Hamlets Cemetery.
A memorial tablet at the Delhi Magazine commemorates his heroism and his Victoria Cross is at the Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Deepcut. A blue plaque to commemorate his life is to be found at the Traveller's Call Pub in Wakefield Road, Stalybridge.

Andrew Moynihan VC

Andrew Moynihan VC

Born on 1st January 1830, as a small child, Andrew Moynihan moved with his family from Wakefield in Yorkshire to live in Crescent Road in Dukinfield, where he attended the Wesleyan Methodist School in Ashton-under-Lyne. Later he went on to work at Flash Hall Mills on Old Street before moving to James Ogden's Mill at Hall Green.
At 17 years he enlisted in the 90th Regiment the Perthshire Volunteers who were stationed in Ashton. In 1853 he married Ellen Parkin at Ashton Parish Church.
With the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854 Moynihan was sent to fight and in September 1855 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallant actions. As a sergeant in the 90th Light Infantry during an attack on the Redan fortress at Sebastapol on 8th September 1855 "...he personally encountered and killed five Russians and rescued a wounded officer under heavy fire" .
An initial attack on the fortress by British forces had already failed but in September 1855 Moynihan's actions were to make an advance possible. Despite heavy defensive Russian fire and being repeatedly driven back, Moynihan re-entered the building to rescue a wounded officer and was bayoneted twice before being taken prisoner. A renewed British attack helped him escape, but Russian forces repeatedly pushed the British back to their trenches. Here, once more, Moynihan helped save a wounded colleague despite his own injuries. By the end of the day he had suffered twelve wounds.
On his return to Dukinfield in 1856 he was afforded a hero's welcome and a special reception was held in his honour at the Astley Arms. Here presentations were made to him, including an inscribed watch from the local people. In 1857 he received his Victoria Cross personally from Queen Victoria.
Moynihan later served during the Indian Mutiny and in Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta. By the 1860s he held the rank of Captain.
In 1867 Moynihan contracted 'Malta Fever', probably from untreated or unsterilised goat's milk and died on the 19th May of that year. He is buried in La Braxia Cemetery.
A blue plaque to commemorate his life can be found at the Astley Arms, Chapel Hall in Dukinfield.

Wilfred Wood VC

Wilfred Wood was born on the 2nd February 1897 in Stockport and as a young man enlisted as a Private in the 10th Battalion The Northumberland Fusiliers.
His citation reads that "...on 28 October 1918 near Casa Vana, Italy, when the advance was being held up by hostile machine-guns and snipers, Private Wood on his own initiative worked forward with his Lewis gun, enfiladed the enemy machine-gun nest and caused 140 men to surrender".
Later when another enemy machine gun opened fire at near point-blank range, it was reported that Wood charged forward, firing his Lewis gun from the hip at the same time and killing the enemy machine-gun crew. Further, acting entirely on his own initiative, he advanced further and attacked a German-held ditch - three officers and 160 men subsequently surrendered to him.
Wood was gazette on 27th November 1918. Memorials to Wilfred Wood's heroism can be found at the Regimental Museum of The Northumberland Fusiliers at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland where a Name Plate from a London Midland & Scottish Railway engine bears his name.
Wilfred Wood died on the 3rd January 1982 at his home in Hazel Grove near Stockport, Cheshire.

Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory DSO DFC

Air Vice-Marshal, Air Officer Commanding 12 Group

Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Air Vice Marshall

Born the son of a local vicar on 7th November 1892, at Mobberley, Cheshire, Trafford Leigh-Mallory joined the Territorial Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment in 1914, shortly after the start of the First World War. While serving with the British Army in 1915 he was wounded at Ypres. He was soon given a commission in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps in July 1916. He was promoted to the rank of Major when it became the Royal Air Force in April 1918. While flying in France he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He continued after the war in the RAF with the rank of squadron leader and in 1921 he joined the School of Army Co-operation, which he later went on to command. He later served at the Air Ministry and overseas service as a senior staff officer in Iraq, he was given command of No 12 Group in 1937.
During the Battle of Britain in 1940, his outspoken and controversial views on operational procedures brought him into conflict with Vice-Marshal Keith Park and later with Sir Hugh Dowding, Head of Fighter Command. He would eventually replace both men and by 1942 he had been promoted to Air Marshal and appointed Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command.
He was knighted in January 1943 and later that year became commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Forces for the proposed Normandy landings on D-Day. His methods immediately brought him into conflict with Arthur ("Bomber") Harris and following pressure from General Eisenhower, he was forced to resign from his post.
Leigh-Mallory and his wife died in November 1944 when their plane crashed on route to his new post as Air Commander-in-Chief in Burma, South-east Asia.
Trafford Leigh Mallory was brother to the celebrated mountaineer, George Leigh Mallory.

Chris Finny GC

Trooper Christopher Finney GC

(Born 1984)
Trooper Christopher Finny of the Blues and Royals was awarded the George Cross to mark his outstanding courage during an incident in Iraq in March 2003. Finny, from Marple in Stockport, was just 18 years old at the time of the incident, and is the youngest serving soldier ever to be awarded the George Cross. He had only joined the Army in September 2000, where he attended the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, before going on to join the Household Cavalry Regiment at Windsor in January 2002.
On 28 March 2003, during his very first operational deployment, while Trooper Finney was a Scimitar armoured vehicle driver, his Squadron of the Household Cavalry Regiment were probing forward north of Basrah in exposed desert conditions, when they encountered the Iraqi 6th Armoured Division. Without warning, they were almost simultaneously engaged by a pair of Coalition Forces ground attack aircraft - a so-called 'friendly fire' situation ensued, the aircraft firing on both vehicles, which were hit and immediately caught fire. While ammunition began exploding inside the vehicle, Trooper Finney saw his comrade, the vehicle's gunner, trapped in the turret and he climbed onto the burning vehicle, at great personal risk and pulled out the injured gunner, moving him to a safer position, where he bandaged his wounds. During this time the vehicle continued under heavy fire from aircraft above. Thereafter, Finney returned to his vehicle which was still burning, and calmly sent a situation report by radio to his own headquarters. Notwithstanding the impending danger, he continued to help his injured comrade towards a position of safety and was himself wounded in the buttocks and legs. Despite his wounds he returned to the second Scimitar to rescue others of his comrades but was beaten back by heat, smoke and exploding ammunition. He collapsed exhausted and was eventually recovered by the crew of the Royal Engineers' Spartan. During these attacks
Finney displayed clear-headed courage and devotion to his comrades acting courageously and with complete disregard for his own safety throughout the entire episode.
Further information on George Cross awards can be found at the new website at:

John Beeley VC

John Beeley VC

John Beeley was a Rifleman in the 1st battalion, the King's Royal Rifle Corps of the British Army during the Second World War when, on the 21 November 1941 at Sidi Rezegh in Libya, he carried out an act of heroism that resulted in his death and the prestigious posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.
During an attack on an airfield, progress was held up by opposing short range fire and most of his company's officers were wounded . On his own initiative Beeley charged forward over open ground without regard for his own safety, firing his Bren gun and putting an anti-tank gun and two machine guns out of commission. He was killed in the action, but his bravery inspired his comrades to further efforts to reach their objective, which was eventually captured, together with 100 prisoners.
In 2003 a ceremony to mark over 100 local war graves with poppies was held outside the gates of Gorton Cemetery, attended by local schoolchildren, and accompanied by Tom Beeley, (John Beeley's second cousin). A wreath was presented by the Royal British Legion, and laid by Rifleman Beeley's old school, Wright Robinson High School in Gorton, in his honour. It read:

"In remembrance of John Beeley V.C., who died while performing an outstanding act of heroism, which cost him his life, while serving in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, Libya in November 1941 at the age of 24. He is buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya. RIP."

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester.

2nd Lieutenant Edward Deakin Ashton

Edward Deakin Ashton

Edward Deakin Ashton, was the son of H D and Louisa Ashton of ‘Ellerslie’, located off Bury Fold Lane in Darwen. Educated at Sedbergh School and Balliol College, Oxford.
Edward Deakin Ashton was a second lieutenant in the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers when at 9.30 pm on the evening of 30th June 1916 the battalion left billets at Senlis and proceeded to Blackhorse Bridge Shelters, arriving there in the early hours of the 1st July. We were assembled as part of the right column consisting of the 1st Dorset Regiment, the 14th Brigade TM Battery (less 2 sections) 4 Stokes Guns, the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers and a half section of the 206th Field Company Royal Engineers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J M A Graham, DSO, also of the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers. There were many casualties in this battle, and Ashton was killed while leading an assault against the German redoubt of Thiepval, north-east of Amiens, by the 15th, 16th and 19th Batallions of the Lancashire Fusiliers (known as the 'Salford Pals') on German lines at 7.30am on Saturday 1st July 1916, one of many killed in this engagement. He was aged 27 at his death and is buried in Aveluy Communal Cemetery Extension, (Grave F38), in the Picardy Region of the Somme. His portrait is held in the Gallipoli Room at the Fusiliers Museum in Bury. A memorial to him is on the family grave in Darwen Cemetery. He was the last of that branch of the Ashtons family.

Lietenant Colonel J Elisha Grimshaw VC, DCM

Lietenant Colonel J Elisha Grimshaw

John Elisha Grimshaw was born on the 23rd January 1893 at Abram near Wigan. Originally working as a local coal miner, in 1912, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was soon posted to India.
During the First World War, when the regiment was sent to Gallipoli he was by then a Lance-Corporal and a signaller, ordered to maintain contact between headquarters on board HMS Euryalus and ground troops on land. Despite intense fighting, Grimshaw was a survivor of early engagements allegedly remaining calm and collected throughout, despite many near misses and continuined to get his signals through against all odds.
As a result of his conduct during this engagement he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal, (the highest award then possible for enlisted men and conscripts); this was presented at Abram Parish School Church; Later, award rules were changed, and on 25 April 1915 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action in the Gallipoli Campaign, and in particular in the landings at Helles (W Beach). He was one of six VCs awarded during these landings - one of the so-named "Six VCs before Breakfast".
In 1916 we went to France with the Lancashire Fusiliers and was there given a field commission. In 1918 he served with the Carnatic Infantry in India and rejoined the Fusiliers in 1921. Later he was appointed Chief Recruiting Officer in Northumberland was later promoted to the rank of Liutenant Colonel. He died on the 20th July 1980.

Francis Arthur Jefferson VC

Francis Arthur Jefferson

Francis Arthur Jefferson was born in Ulverston on the 18th August 1921 was just 22 years old when he found himself fighting at Cassino in Italy during the Second World War with the 2nd Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers.
On 16 May 1944, during an attack on the Gustav Line at Monte Cassino, as one of the leading company of Fusiliers he had to dig in without protection under heavy enemy short range gun fire, when Jefferson, on his own initiative, seized a PIAT gun (Projector Infantry Anti Tank gun - a British anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War), and, running forward under a hail of bullets, fired on the leading enemy tank. It burst into flames and all the crew were killed. The Fusilier then reloaded and went towards the second tank which withdrew before he could get within range. By this time British tanks had arrived on the scene and the enemy counter-attack was smashed.
Francis (always known as Frank) went on to be promoted Lance Coprporal, and was awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for his gallantry at Monte Cassino. His award was announced in the London Gazette on the 13th July 1944. Frank died in Bolton on the 4th September 1982 and was cremated at Bolton, and his ashes spread on the War Memorial at Wellington Barracks in Bury.


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This page last updated 21 Dec 11.