Military & Civilian Heroes
of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice and valour
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
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.
Thomas Forshaw VC
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Wood was born on the 2nd February 1897 in Stockport and as
a young man enlisted as a Private in the 10th Battalion The
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.
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.
Wood died on the 3rd January 1982 at his home in Hazel Grove
near Stockport, Cheshire.
Leigh-Mallory DSO DFC
Vice-Marshal, Air Officer Commanding 12 Group
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.
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.
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.
information on George Cross awards can be found at the new
website at: http://www.gc-database.co.uk.
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:
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."
Cross is displayed at the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester.
Lieutenant 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,
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.
Colonel J Elisha Grimshaw VC, DCM
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
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.
Arthur Jefferson VC
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
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.