Manchester people of courage,
self-sacrifice and valour
Kelly VC MC
Henry Kelly was born on July 10th 1887 in Collyhurst, into
an Irish Catholic family. Much decorated and ever the perennial
soldier, Henry was to take part in many of the wars of the
20th century and to earn distinction in all of them. By the
age of sixteen, Henry was working at the Post office as sole
support to his widowed mother and her ten children.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Henry was quick to volunteer
and initially joined the Cameron Highlanders before later
moving to the Manchester Regiment, where he quickly rose to
the rank of Sergeant Major. He later gained a commission as
a Second Lieutenant in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.
By 1915 he was on active service on the Somme where, showing
outstanding bravery, he saved the lives of a number of his
comrades for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Later
he was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the French
Medaille Militaire. In Italy he was awarded the Military Cross
and a Bar to Military Cross at Piave. In 1918 he rose to the
rank of Major. During his army career he’d been wounded on
After the war, he and his brothers opened grocery shops on
Rochdale Road and Upper Chorlton Road. Later Henry was landlord
in a number of local Manchester pubs. Henry went on to join
the ‘International Brigade’ as a foreign volunteer fighting
against Fascists in the Spanish Civil War and was ranked Commandente
Generale. Here he was awarded the Grand Laurelled Cross of
San Fernando. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939
he rejoined the British army.
Henry Kelly died in Prestwich Hospital 18th January 1960 and
is buried in Southern Cemetery, Wythenshawe. His medals can
be seen at the Duke of Wellington’s Museum in Halifax.
Issy Smith VC JP
Much decorated Issy Smith was actually born in Egypt at Ishroulch
Shmeilowitz on 16th September 1890, where his father served
in the French Consulate. At the age of 11 Issy stowed away on
a ship for London and in 1904 he enlisted in the 1st Battalion
of the Manchester Regiment where he took on the anglicised version
of his name – to be known henceforth as Issy Smith. In 1912
he was discharged and emigrated to live in Melbourne in Australia.
However, in August 1914 he was recalled to the Manchester Regiment
and in April 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres, Corporal
Smith was to gain several major awards for bravery and heroism.
With little regard for his own security, he carried a severely
wounded comrade some 250 yards to a place of safety and later
returned, despite heavy German gunfire, to bring back many more
of his wounded comrades. For this action he was awarded the
Victoria Cross. Later, as Sergeant Smith, he served in Mesopotamia
where he was awarded the Russian Cross of St George for the
heroic rescue of a Russian soldier. He was also awarded the
French Croix de Guerre.
During the First World War he was severely gassed and wounded
After the war he was married in London and in 1925, with his
wife and young daughter, he returned to Melbourne where in 1930
he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. Issy Smith died on
the 10th September 1940 and was buried with full military honours
in the Hebrew section of the Fawkner Cemetery in Melbourne.
Since writing the original account on Issy Smith, I subsequently
received an email from broadcaster James H Reeve, which throws
much of my information concerning Issy Smith into question.
His email read:
looking into the fascinating Issy Smith, and I have to report
that he didn’t get the Order of St. George for rescuing a Russian
soldier in Mesopotamia. He did serve there, but contact between
Russian and British troops was minimal. He actually received
the decoration before he left for Mesopotamia in recognition
of the VC he won for his deeds in Flanders. This is stated in
the London Gazette supplement of 24 August of 1915, three months
before he was posted to the Middle East. Lots of references
to Issy make the claim about the Russian, but I’m afraid it’s
a myth. In fact, a great deal of Issy’s story seems to be questionable,
but the VC is genuine. All the best, James H. Reeve.” (7 December 2007).
Colquhoun Charlton VC
The very last Victoria Cross awarded to a soldier in the European
theatre of World War II was to Edward Colquhoun Charlton of
the Irish Guards for actions on the 21st April 1945. Charlton
was born on 15th June 1920 and had lived at 12 Basford Road,
Old Trafford in Manchester since the age of 15, though he
was actually born in County Durham. He was conscripted in
September 1940 into the Guards Depot in Caterham and later
went on to join the 2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards.
He died as a result of wounds received as a tank driver in
action at the village of Wistedt in Northern Germany on the
21st April 1945 and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross
by King George VI. During the action, he was reported to have
grabbed the Browning machine gun from his damaged tank and
advanced single-handed against a division of German Panzers,
continuously firing, despite numerous wounds, and inflicting
heavy casualties on the enemy until his left arm was completely
shattered. He continued fighting with his one good arm but
eventually fell as a result of his wounds and loss of blood.
Later, even captured German prisoners of the action praised
his valour. He is buried at the British Military Cemetery
near Becklingen in Germany.
John Henry Code was born on 16th February 1869 in Audenshaw.
As a young man he had been employed by Manchester Corporation
as a carpenter at the Clayton Gas Works. Like many others
at the time, he was released to serve in annual Territorial
Army camps. In 1886 he enlisted in the 5th Ardwick Volunteer
Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was promoted to the
rank of sergeant in 1890.
Code soon demonstrated that he was a highly skilled rifleman
and actually won the Singleton Trophy for sharp shooting.
Code also served during the Boer War in the Imperial Yeomanry
where he was promoted Colour Sergeant in December 1902 – here
he attracted increasing recognition for his excellent marksmanship.
In 1914 the Ardwick Battalion was posted to Egypt and later
on to Gallipoli where Code was appointed Regimental Quartermaster
Sergeant. His service at Gallipoli gained him the Distinguished
Conduct Medal for “…conspicuous gallantry, devotion
to duty and continuing good services, courage and skill”.
He spent the remainder of the War serving in France.
After the First World War, John Henry Code left the army and
found work with his former employer at Clayton Gas Works.
In 1920, he founded St. Andrews Ladies Hockey Team based at
Edge Lane, Droylsden, where both of his daughters played for
Code retired from the Council’s employment in 1934 and he
died of natural causes on the 27th February of the same year.
James Kirk was one of many young local men to have been awarded
the Victoria Cross posthumously for their gallantry. Kirk was
born on 21st January 1897 and grew up in Cheadle Hulme, though
later his family moved to live in Droylsden, where James distinguished
himself as a keen and successful sportsman.
At the outbreak of the Great War he enlisted in the Manchester
Regiment and was posted to the Dardanelles in 1915 as a Private
in the 10th Battalion. He served later in France and in June
1918 he was made Second Lieutenant.
On 8th October 1918 he carried out an act of the most conspicuous
bravery and devotion to duty north of the village of Ors whilst
his Company were attempting to lay a bridge across the Olse
Canal. Lieutenant Kirk, armed with a Lewis Gun, and under intense
enemy fire, paddled across the canal on a hastily constructed
crude wooden plank raft to give covering fire to his comrades.
Ammunition was paddled across to him so that he was able to
continuously maintain covering fire for the bridging party from
his very exposed position. Ultimately, he was wounded in the
face and arm and died as a result of a head wound on 4th November
This act of supreme heroism and self-sacrifice prevented many
casualties and enabled two platoons to cross the bridge before
it was destroyed. Lieutenant James Kirk is featured in the Museum
of the Manchesters in Ashton-under-Lyne. Kirk’s remains are
buried at the English Communal Cemetery at Ors. Seven days later
the Armistice was signed, marking the end of the war.
Norton Schofield VC
Harry Norton Schofield was born on 29 January 1865 in Audenshaw,
the son of a chemist who had a shop on Ashton New Road, Clayton.
Later, after a time living in Ardwick, his father’s prospering
business enabled them to move home to live in the (then) more
desirable area of Whalley Range. Schofield went to the Royal
Military Academy at Woolwich and passed out as a Lieutenant
in the Artillery in 1884. By 1893 he had attained the rank
In 1899, during the Boer War campaigns in South Africa, Schofield
was Aide-de-camp to General Buller, who commanded British
forces during the siege of Ladysmith. It was during this action
that Schofield would be awarded the Victoria Cross. On 15th
December of that year British forces at Colenso railway station
came under heavy fire from entrenched Boer positions across
the Tugela River. Butler ordered various field artillery units
to move up in support of the British advance. However, heavy
enemy gunfire quickly downed gun battery drivers and horse
teams. Survivors took cover in a nearby water course about
five hundred yards to the rear. Seeing their plight, Captain
Schofield gathered a number of men and gave the order to make
a dash toward the stranded gun batteries. Under heavy fire
they succeeded in limbering up two of the guns and saved them
from capture. Captain Schofield sustained six bullet wounds
in the action. Later he was promoted to Major and was also
awarded the South African Medal with six clasps. In 1911 became
a member of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms. He
died on the 10th October 1931 in London and his funeral was
held at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace.
Albert Hill was born in Hulme on 24th May 1895, one of ten
children. In 1907 his family moved to live in Peacock Street
in Denton. After leaving school he began work at the Alpha
Mill and then became an apprentice planker at Wilson Hat Manufacturers
on Wilton Street.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Hill enlisted in the
10th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, with whom he
served in France and Flanders. He was awarded the Victoria
Cross for his gallantry and “…most conspicuous bravery”.
On 20 July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, Private Hill’s
battalion advanced under heavy gunfire to assault an enemy
position in Delville Wood. When the order to charge was given
Hill confronted two German soldiers and bayoneted them both.
However, finding himself cut off from the rest of his battalion
in the confusion, and, being surrounded by the enemy, he fought
them off with hand grenades, killing and wounding about eighteen
and scattering the remainder. He then rejoined his company
and fought his way back to the lines.
Later, on discovering that his Company Officer and a scout
were lying wounded in no man’s land, he went out, without
any thought of his own safety and helped bring in the mortally
wounded Officer, two other men bringing in the scout. Finally,
Hill single-handedly captured two enemy soldiers and took
Hill returned to Denton as a public hero in October 1916.
In November he was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George
V at Buckingham Palace. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre
and the Russian Cross of St George of the First Class and
three campaign medals.
In February 1919, Hill returned to work at Wilson’s Factory.
He and his wife lived in Denton until 1923, when they emigrated
to the United States.
In 1956 Hill made a brief return to England for the VC Centenary
Celebrations. He died 17th February 1971 and was buried with
full military honours at Highland Memorial Cemetery in Johnston,
Rhode Island. His medal is in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regimental
Born in Middleton on 29th December 1881, Lance Corporal Joel
Halliwell was to be awarded the Victoria Cross for “Conspicuous
bravery and devotion to duty”.
On 27 May 1918, Halliwell was captured by the Germans and
remained a prisoner with them for a short time before he managed
to escape. On his way back to the British lines, seeing many
wounded comrades lying on the ground, he mounted a stray German
horse which he rode back to pick up a wounded man and brought
him back to safety, in spite of heavy shellfire. He went on
to repeat this process, back and forth, through heavy enemy
gunfire, with no thought for his own safety, some ten times,
until his horse received a severe wound and he could no longer
Lance Corporal Halliwell was a modest man, maintaining that
he had simply done as he was told and that any other man in
his battalion would have done what he had done if they had
the chance, as they never thought of anything but their duty.
He returned to Middleton amid public jubilation and a civic
welcome by the Mayor and Mayoress of the borough. Joel Halliwell
died on the 14th June 1958.
Edgar Leach VC
Second Lieutenant James Leach of the 2nd Battalion. Manchester
Regiment was born on 27th July 1892 at North Shields in Northumberland.
He lived in Manchester as a boy and later joined the 1st Northamptonshire
Regiment, to serve in France from the outbreak of the First
World War. On the 1st October 1914 he was promoted to Second
Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment.
Leach distinguished himself while serving near Festubert in
France on 29th October 1914, when, after two abortive attempts
to retake an Allied trench that had been captured by the enemy,
Second Lieutenant Leach, together with Sergeant John Hogan
and a party of ten volunteers went to recapture it themselves.
They completely overwhelmed German troops by their sudden
bayonet attack. Fighting hand-to-hand at extremely close quarters
and with great bravery, they retook the trench, killing eight
of the enemy, wounding two others and making 16 prisoners.
For their contribution to the defence of the Manchesters’
trenches, Second-Lieutenant Leach and Sergeant John Hogan
were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Thomson Lyall VC
Graham Thomson Lyall was born in Chorlton, Manchester on 8th
March 1892, though after qualifying as a mechanical engineer
he went to live in Canada, enlisting in the
19th “Lincoln” Regiment (a Canadian militia regiment)
in August 1914 and served with it doing duty with the Welland
Canal Force. He
transferred to the 81st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary
Force in September 1915, and went overseas with the Battalion
in April 1916. When that unit broke up in June 1916, he was
transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, which was
designated a battalion of the Central Ontario Regiment.
Lyall gained rapid promotion through the ranks until, for
conspicuous bravery in action, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant
in April 1917.
In 1918 Lieutenant Lyall was awarded the VC for “Conspicuous
bravery and skilful leadership” north of Cambrai while
serving with the 102 North British Columbia Battalion. On
the 27th of September he had captured an enemy fortified position
as well as attacking a German machine gun position single-handed,
killing the commanding officer, and succeeded in capturing
many prisoners. Just four days later he virtually repeated
the whole episode, capturing yet another strong point and
taking some 47 prisoners as well as machine guns. During two
days of operations Lyall captured in all, three officers,
182 other ranks, twenty-six machine guns and one field gun,
exclusive of heavy casualties inflicted. He was decorated
with the Victoria Cross on 15th March 1919 at Buckingham Palace.
In the 1930s Major Lyall continued to serve in various military
functions, including as an Ordnance Mechanical Engineer, commanding
a Territorial Company of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Lyall
was also a member of the Loyal Orange Lodge No 720, St Catharines,
Ontario. In early 1940 Major Lyall was promoted to Lieutenant
Colonel and volunteered for overseas service. He was promoted
further to the rank of Colonel later in the same year. Lyall
eventually took his discharge in the UK and was married here.
Colonel Graham Thomson Lyall died whilst on active service
in the Western Desert on 28th November 1941, aged 49, and
is buried in the Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery.
We are indebted to Sir William
Smy of Ontario, Canada, for supplying updated information
to this entry.