Capt. Richard Percy Lewis

Richard Percy Lewis was born on March 10, 1874 in Paddington, London to Richard and Eliza Mary (nee Kinglake) Lewis. Richard Lewis was a successful barrister and his son Richard Percy Lewis had an older sister, Louisa Mary Kinglake Lewis, and a younger brother, John Alexander Kinglake Clayton Lewis. In 1881 the family was living in Gloucester Place, Paddington with four live-in domestic servants.

He was educated at Winchester College (1887-92) and then University College, Oxford (1894-96) and was said to be one of the finest wicket-keepers of his generation, playing for Oxford University, Surrey and Middlesex.

Lt Col Richard Percy Lewis

During the Boer War he was commissioned as Second-Lieutenant in the 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps, on August 4, 1900. In October 24, 1900 he was awarded a commission in the Devonshire Regiment, a line regiment when another second-Lieutenant was killed in action, thus creating a vacancy. He was promoted to Lieutenant on April 4, 1903.

After the war, he was attached to the 1st Battalion King’s African Rifles January 12, 1904 to June 24, 1907, and took part in the Nandi Expedition of 1905-1906 where he was mentioned in despatches (of Edgar G. Harrison, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Nandi Field Force, February 28, 1906).

Lieutenant R. P. Lewis, (The Devonshire Regiment), 1st K.A.R., as Signalling Officer to the Field Force, by his keenness and hard work was able with slender means and in spite of many difficulties to obtain excellent results. Many of the signallers employed were recruits with but little training, but even with such material Lieutenant Lewis was able to keep numerous posts going and to link up the various units of the force by helio and lamp.

After his spell in Africa, he was seconded for service with the Egyptian Army, on 20th August 1908, and stationed as an intelligence officer in Cairo. Whilst serving in Egypt he suffered a succession of personal blows as his sister, brother and mother all died in 1911, 1912 and 1913 respectively, (his father having died many years before). Meanwhile his career progressed and he was promoted to Captain on December 16, 1911.

The 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment landed in Egypt on September 25, 1914 and spent the next six months training for war. They landed at Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 but were short of senior officers, two majors having died in Egypt.

Captain Lewis joined the 42nd Division in Gallipoli on May 31, 1915 and was initially posted to the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment but four days later, on June 4th, he was made a temporary Major and attached to the 1/9th Battalion.  He was wounded about a month later, on July 6th, and subsequently left the 9th at that time.  But during his short spell with them he was involved in the bloodiest month of the Gallipoli campaign for the 9th Battalion when they were involved in two separate bayonet charges against the Turks.

On November 4, 1916 he was appointed Brigade-Major, leaving the position on April 24, 1917. And on May 8, 1917 was made acting Lieutenant-Colonel while commanding the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He was not to hold this position long because he died of wounds at Ypres on September 9, 1917 during a heavy bombardment between the village of Frezenberg and Westhoek. He is buried in Grave I.A.57 of the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

“It was during one such bombardment that Lt-Colonel Lewis was killed. Battalion HQ was housed in a cellar of a ruined farm house known as Kit and Kat. The position lay on what in more peaceful times had been the minor road running between Frezenberg and Westhoek. Lewis was hit by a shell splinter when giving orders to a runner and died shortly afterwards. His body was taken back to Ypres and buried in the burgeoning cemetery near to the tumbled central square.”

Excerpted from “Amateur Soldiers” by K. W. Mitchinson. ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0951809891.

Perhaps because he no longer had any living immediate family members, he made a number of bequests to the Devonshire Regiment including £2,000 for the “benefit and comfort of the officers and men during the war, and thereafter for the widows of the men”.  The rest he left to his cousin Evelyn, the daughter of his mother’s younger sister. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Percy Lewis was 43 years old.

Lieutenant William Thomas Forshaw

William Thomas Forshaw was born in Barrow-in-Furness on April 20, 1890. His father, Thomas Forshaw, was an engineering pattern maker and by 1915 had become the head foreman pattern maker at Vickers Naval Shipyard in Barrow.

William Thomas Forshaw, V.C.
From The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division; by Frederick P. Gibbon, published 1920.

A pattern-maker was a highly skilled job, their task was to make wooden replicas (so called patterns) of a finished product. This required engineering, joinery and carving skills coupled with precision and experience in the manufacturing process. From the patterns, a sand mould was made and then iron was poured into the mould to form the finished product. By 1911, William’s younger brother, Frank Forshaw, was an apprentice engineering pattern maker at Vickers and was later employed at Vickers’ London office as a draughtsman.

William’s father, Thomas Forshaw, was also a locally well-known Rugby Union three-quarter playing for Barrow in his younger years, (the position normally filled by the fastest players in the team). William Forshaw inherited his father’s speed and strength and was a good all round athlete, playing Rugby and Tennis and competing in field athletics meetings at school and college. He ran in the final of the 100 yards sprint at the Westminster College Inter-Year Sports competition in 1909,1 competed in the Weight Throw competition at London Inter-Collegiate Sports meetings and won a solid silver champagne cup at the Territorial sports day on Boxing Day, 1914 at Gezireh Sporting Club, Cairo.

William was educated at Dalton Road Wesleyan School, and later at Holker Street School, from where he won a scholarship for the Barrow Municipal Secondary School, (1900-1906). At 18 he entered Wesleyan Westminster Training College, (1908-1910), and studied in London for two years before returning home to prepare for, and sit, his inter B.Sc. exam 12 months later. While completing his studies he taught evening classes at his former secondary school and at the Barrow Technical School. Curiously, while he was teaching at the Barrow Technical School he taught a small group of Turkish military officers who were stationed in Barrow to monitor the construction of a naval warship for the Ottoman Government.2

After he passed his intermediate B.Sc. he obtained a permanent teaching position at Dallas Road School, Lancaster, and also taught an evening class at the Storey Institute. William was then hired to teach Physics and Mathematics at the North Manchester Preparatory School for the Manchester Grammar School, at Higher Broughton, and consequently moved to Manchester.

William was a keen amateur singer and was a member of Mr. Aldous’ prize winning choir while he was teaching in Lancaster and joined the Ashton Operatic Society after he moved to Manchester, appearing in the comic opera the “Duchess of Dantzic” at the Ashton Empire Hippodrome in February 1914. Newspaper reports indicate that William was still performing publicly in the 1920’s after his return to England from Egypt.

Forshaw joined the Ashton Territorials primarily due to his friendship with George Makin, a fellow teacher at the North Manchester Preparatory School, and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society. George, and his older brother Frederick Arthur Makin, both joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment as second lieutenants in 1913 after serving as cadets in the Officers Training Corps of Manchester University. Forshaw was himself commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 9th Battalion on March 13, 1914, three months after his friend George joined. Forshaw’s connection to the Makin family was evidently quite strong because he was staying with Richard Harold Makin (the middle of the three Makin brothers and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society) on a private visit to Ashton in October 1915 when he received notice to proceed immediately to London to receive his Victoria Cross medal from the King.

After war broke out, William sailed with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment to Egypt in September 1914 and on November 13, 1914 was promoted to Lieutenant along with four of his brother officers. In Egypt, Forshaw drew the short straw and instead of commanding an infantry platoon was instead assigned as the assistant Quartermaster under the leadership of Major M. H. Connery.

Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant George Bookcock indicated in an interview with the Ashton Reporter that Forshaw filled that position “for practically nine months” before moving into a combat roll with A Company. This implies that he switched sometime in late June 1915, probably as a result of the casualties the battalion registered that month. In fact, by the end of June 1915 the 1/9th Battalion was down to half the number of officers who deployed to Gallipoli from Egypt having lost 16 Officers in Gallipoli killed, wounded or sick and had replaced them with just one junior officer.3 Seeking to boost their low numbers, 4 new junior officers from the 10th South Lancs and 11th Yorks & Lancs Regiments were temporarily assigned to them on July 2nd and 5 officers from the 2/9th Manchester Regiment joined on July 22nd but despite these additions the battalion had lost another six officers by the end of July.4

The battalion moved into the trenches on July 2nd and remained there (spending 4 days in the firing line) until they were relieved and returned to bivouac on the 18th. Consequently, by early August, Lieut. Forshaw had spent just over two weeks of time in the trenches, under relatively quiet conditions, before he was once again called upon to lead his men at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard where he won the Victoria Cross.

W. T. Forshaw's Victoria Cross Citation
London Gazette, September 9, 1915

When Forshaw rejoined the battalion on the morning of August 9th he was badly bruised in his side from shrapnel, weak from exhaustion, with no voice and suffering from headaches and problems with his vision. Initially he was prescribed rest but after a few days with little improvement regimental records indicate that Forshaw was medically evacuated to hospital in Cairo on August 25, 1915.

Lt. W. T. Forshaw in Cairo 1915
Copyright Imperial War Museum

Staff Nurse Mollie S. Lee-Heppel joined the Queen Alexandria’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve), (Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R)), in late August 1914 and although she was initially assigned to Caterham Military Hospital, Surrey, by 1915 she had been re-assigned to work on the Hospital Ship Goorkha.

HS Goorkha
Built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots.

Meanwhile, William Forshaw had been recovering in hospital in Cairo but by mid-September had cabled his parents “Doing well: may come home”.  William was invalided back to the UK from Egypt on His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Goorkha,5 embarking at Alexandria on September 26, 1915 and arriving at Southampton in the early hours of Friday October 8th. It was on this two week voyage where he met and fell in love with Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel.

Captain Forshaw and unidentified QAIMNS Staff Nurse on the Hospital Ship Goorkha, 1915
Photo Courtesy of Stephen Snelling

After arriving in the UK, Lt. Forshaw left the Goorkha. Spending the night, and making a speech, at his old school, Westminster College, before returning to his parents’ home at Barrow-in-Furness, arriving there on Tuesday evening. Needless to say, Lt. Forshaw was heavily engaged with public appearances in the Northwest throughout October and November at Barrow, Ashton, Manchester, Lancaster and Southport. The newspapers of the time dubbed him the “Cigarette VC” for the fact that he had constantly smoked cigarettes throughout the 41 hour ordeal, using them to light the fuses of the 800 improvised bombs they had been throwing, which were made of jam tins filled with explosive and small pieces of scrap metal.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 8 Gave a speech and spent the night at Westminster College.
Tue, Oct 12 Arrived at his parents’ home in Barrow in the evening.
Wed, Oct 13 Visited Barrow Secondary School and was later received by the Mayor of Barrow.
Thu, Oct 14 Interviewed by the Guardian Newspaper.
Sat, Oct 16 Private visit to Ashton staying with R.H. Makin.
Mon, Oct 18 Investiture with the King at Buckingham Palace.
Wed, Oct 27 Given the freedom of the city of Barrow and presented with a Sword of Honour. Was later that day presented with watch, card case and binoculars by Barrow Secondary School.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 29 Visit to North Manchester Preparatory School and presented with an illuminated address and a silver tea service.
Sat, Oct 30 Visit to Ashton-under-Lyne. Awarded Freedom of the Borough and presented with a scroll in a polished silver casket.
Fri, Nov 5 Visit to Southport and received by the Mayoress. Dinner with the Mayor and speech to the cadets. Note that the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment were in training at Southport and Forshaw’s good friend Capt. George Makin was with them.
Fri, Nov 20 Attended a dinner of the Westminster Club in his honor. At the Holborn Restaurant, London.
Mon, Nov 22 H. S. Goorkha, having earlier docked at Southampton on the 19th, underwent repairs. Medical staff disembarked.
Wed, Nov 24 Visit to Lancaster and sang with Mr. Aldous’ choir in the evening at the Mayoress’ fund raiser for the war.
Mon, Nov 29 Medical staff re-embark on the H. S. Goorkha.

With much of the initial fuss behind him, on November 20, 1915 Forshaw was back in London when the Westminster Club held a dinner in his honour at the Holborn Restaurant. Meanwhile, the Goorkha had arrived back at Southampton on November 19th and from November 22-29 the medical staff disembarked while the ship underwent repairs. There can be little doubt that Lt. Forshaw and Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel spent much of that week together, possibly traveling to Lancaster together and meeting his parents, and sometime during that week, he proposed to her.

Shortly after she re-boarded the Goorkha, on December 4, 1915, Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel wrote a letter to her direct supervisor, Matron Christopherson6, requesting permission to marry and to be allowed to continue working onboard the Goorkha. The Matron and the Medical C.O. (Lt.-Col. Haig, IMS7) both agreed, but the final decision was to be made by the military authorities in England. Although they gave permission for the wedding, they denied the request to remain onboard, instead offering a transfer to home service. Nurse Lee-Heppel was notified of this decision in a letter dated January 20, 1916.

On January 31, 1916 the Goorkha once again arrived at Southampton and, during its short stay, Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel married William Thomas Forshaw in a registry office in Barnet on February 5, 1916. On Nurse Lee-Heppel’s application for the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) she gave her home address as “Moss Bank”, North Finchley, London (in the borough of Barnet) which is undoubtedly why they married in a registry office there.8

There wasn’t to be much of a honeymoon though because the Goorkha, with Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel on-board, embarked the baggage of 32 British General Hospital and sailed for Marseilles on February 8, 1916. In her subsequent letters to the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R), before she resigned for “urgent personal reasons” in August 1916, she referred to herself with her maiden name and provided a contact address “c/o Mrs. S. M. Forshaw”. The obvious conclusion is that she did not inform the authorities that she had married in February. Indeed, later in 1918, when she enquired about rejoining the service, while her husband served in India, she went so far as to state that she had left the service in September 1916 to get married.

When Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel left the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) in September 1916, (she arrived in England from Malta on the Acquitania on September 27, 1916), she gave her address as Kilworth, County Cork. Although Captain Forshaw, (and Lieut. Cooke,  his subaltern at the Vineyard), was at Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in mid-March 19169, by September 1916, Captain Forshaw was an instructor at the 7th Officer Cadet Battalion, Kilworth, County Cork, Ireland10 and he remained there until October 1917 when he transferred to the Indian Army and was attached to the 76th Punjabis, (and by 1918 was stationed at Dera Ismail Khan, North West Frontier Province, India).

Forshaw was promoted to Captain in the Territorial Force in 1916 but in October 1917 he was seconded to the Indian Army and attached to the 76th Punjabis as a Lieutenant, on probation. The 76th Punjabis were forming a second battalion at this time and it is possible he was recruited for this purpose. He was quickly made acting Captain whilst commanding a company and eventually finished his probationary period and was subsequently promoted to Captain on May 5, 1919. From November 9, 1919 to July 26, 1920 he was appointed Staff Captain on the Waziristan Force and was appointed General Staff Officer with the Southern Command (Education) 1st Battalion, 76th Punjabis on September 14, 1921.

In 1922, the 76th Punjabis were consolidated with the 62nd, 66th, 82nd and 84th Punjabis, and the 1st Brahmans to form the 1st Punjab Regiment, and were re-designated as the “3rd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment”. Perhaps related to this regimental re-organisation, Forshaw formally resigned his commission with the Indian Army on November 3, 1922, retaining the rank of Captain (although immigration records show that he and his wife, along with several of his brother officers, arrived in Liverpool from Bombay earlier than that, in August 1922).

For his services in India he ultimately received the India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf (for operations in Waziristan, 1919-20, by General Sir C. C. Monro, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., in his despatch dated August 1st, 1920).

Back in England, Forshaw had difficulty finding suitable employment as a schoolmaster and so he spent some time in Egypt in educational posts with the Royal Air Force. Immigration records show that he and his wife returned to England from Egypt on April 15, 1925. Upon their return they settled in Ipswich, later moving to Martlesham Hall, in Woodbridge, a few miles east of the city.

Martlesham Hall
Copyright Attribution: Andrew Hill / Martlesham Hall

In September 1927, he purchased an old golf clubhouse building and used it to start an all boys junior school called “Rushmere Heath School”, in the nearby village of Rushmere St. Andrew.11 However, the school was not successful and just one year later he was forced to sell the school building at auction, in November 1928. Shortly thereafter, his creditors started legal proceedings against him which eventually forced him into bankruptcy in the middle of 1929. Forced to leave Martlesham Hall, he subsequently gave his parent’s address in Barrow as his residence in court documents.12 13

Forshaw was invited to, and attended, the Victoria Cross dinner, held at the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on Saturday, November 9, 1929. The dinner was chaired by the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales, with 319 holders of the Victoria Cross present. Following a ballot held to determine place-settings, Captain W. T. Forshaw, V.C. was allocated seat 199, on Table 7, (this table seating 28 people including newspaper reporters from the Daily Express, Daily Sketch, Morning Post, and the Australian Press Association)14. Interestingly, his medal index card shows that his Victory, British and 15 Star medals, along with his India General Service Medal (with Waziristan 1919-21 clasp), were issued to him that month and since Forshaw’s original Victoria Cross medal had been lost, he was presented with an official duplicate, from Hancocks of London, on the same day as the dinner so that he could be properly attired.

Forshaw's Medals as worn to the VC Dinner
Courtesy of the Manchester Regiment collection (Tameside MBC)

[Victoria Cross; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaves; India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf.]

After the setback of personal bankruptcy, he switched his focus to educational writing and film production. In July and August of 1930, after visiting Gallipoli himself, the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a series of nine short articles of his, published weekly, titled “Gallipoli Revisited”, which was also featured on the radio. And in September 1930 he published an article in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News describing a Gymkhana on the North-West Frontier of India that he attended while serving there. This work eventually led to him, in 1933, being appointed as the Midlands representative for Industrial Film Productions of Gaumont-British Equipments, Ltd., a subsidiary of Gaumont-British. A short article in a trade magazine at the time reported that he:

“has had considerable journalistic experience. He has written scenarios and produced several commercial films. For some time he conducted Trade tests in the Royal Air Force, and has made a study of the application of films to the needs of industry and commerce.”

Evidently, he was still reasonably fit and athletic because he won the “100 yards veterans’ handicap” at the Gaumont-British Sports Day in June 1934. Despite this new sporting accolade, by September 1939 he had left Gaumont-British, but remaining in the midlands, and was employed as a representative for a Shadow Aircraft Factory in Birmingham.

On the evening of Tuesday 14th May 1940, Sir Anthony Eden, The Secretary of State for War, made an urgent appeal on the radio for all men aged between 17 and 65, not already serving in the armed forces, to become part-time, unpaid soldiers and join the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). Within 24 hours of the radio broadcast a quarter of a million men had volunteered and by the end of July this number had risen to over a million. On 22 July, 1940 the LDV was officially renamed the Home Guard and by the end of 1940 the Home Guard was organized into 1,200 battalions, 5,000 companies and 25,000 platoons. In February 1941, nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, to match those of the regular Army.

At 50, being too old to enlist in the Army, Forshaw joined the Home Guard in 1940 and was for some time stationed at the Murex Works at Rainham, Essex with the 11th City of London (Dagenham) Battalion. It was here that he was later involved in a tragic car accident that injured the driver and killed the pillion passenger of a motorcycle, when his car collided with it at the end of 1940. In February 1941, when nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, Forshaw was appointed Major. And in September 1941, he successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement as he was hoping to take up a paid commission with the Army, although there is no evidence that he actually did so. In fact, by March 1942 he was still in the Home Guard assigned as a Staff Officer, (general branch, responsible for operations, intelligence and training), for the London North East Sub Area, K Zone, of which the 11th, 12th and 13th City of London Battalions were part of.

On November 11, 1942 his 86 year old father died and he traveled up to Barrow for his funeral that weekend, his mother Elizabeth Forshaw, (née Preston), having died earlier in 1936. Just six months later he was himself to die, suddenly, of a cerebral hemorrhage, while working in the garden at Foxearth Cottage in Holyport, Berkshire where he and his wife had recently moved. Major William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., died on May 26, 1943. He was 53 years old. Sadly, William’s younger brother Frank would also die of a cerebral hemorrhage, 7 years later, when he was just 55 years old.

The newspapers of the day carried short desultory obituaries of just a few sentences focused on the briefest of details regarding his award and resurrecting the ‘Cigarette VC’ nickname. Nothing more. In keeping with his Wesleyan roots he was buried in the graveyard attached to the Anglican Holy Trinity church at Touchen End Cemetery, at Bray, Berkshire. Sadie Forshaw died just under 10 years later in 1952, aged 72.15

Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

On November 16, 1964 his Victoria Cross was put up for auction by Glendining & Co, London. Despite strong interest from other institutions that he had been associated with in his pre-war years, the medal was purchased by the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment for a price of £1,150 and is today held by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, in Tameside.

Due to the war, Major Forshaw was buried without any official commemorative headstone and as a consequence the grave was for many years unknown to the public and the graveyard fell into disrepair.

Original Condition of Forshaw's Gravesite at Touchen End
Copyright Iain Stewart
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But 51 years later, after the church had been deconsecrated and converted into a private residence, the grave was “rediscovered”, through the efforts of researchers in the Tameside area, and a new headstone was dedicated and provided by the Manchester Regiment in 1994.

W. T. Forshaw's Headstone, Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

In November 1996, a blue plaque commemorating the life of William Forshaw was unveiled at the entrance to Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton.

Ashton Town Hall VC's Blue Plaque

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And in 2005, on the 90th anniversary of the action in which Lieut. Forshaw won his Victoria Cross, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the private residence Foxearth Cottage, Holyport where he and Sadie had lived.

Roy Johnson & Terry Nicolson Unveiling of the Plaque at Foxearth Cottage on August 12, 2005
Copyright Bayliss Media, Ltd.

Notes:

[1.] Westminster College Archives. Programme, ‘Westminster Training College, Fifth Inter-Year Athletic Sports, Tuesday, February 15th, 1910’. Link here. William was beaten in the final by another Victoria Cross winner from Westminster College, Donald Simpson Bell, who was a noted athlete and went on to be a professional footballer for Bradford AFC. [back]

[2.] In 1911, there was no vessel in the Turkish Navy that could match the recently acquired Greek Navy cruiser Georgios Averoff. Consequently, Turkey resolved to buy dreadnoughts and the Ministry of the Navy placed an order with the British shipyard Vickers Ltd, in Barrow. The 27,500-ton ship was to be named Reşadiye and its price-tag was 2.3 million liras, to be paid in installments. In Turkey, a commission was appointed to monitor the construction of the dreadnought and this commission, led by Maj. Vasıf Ahmet Bey, went to Britain in 1912. More information here. [back]

[3.] From May 9 – June 30, 6 officers were killed, 4 were wounded & evacuated and 6 were evacuated sick to hospital. Additionally, Lt.s Shaw and Hyde went to Kepha on June 15 and Lt. Lillie transferred to Brigade in June. Although Lt.-Col. Egerton was attached to replace Lt.-Col. Wade as battalion CO, Egerton only lasted 2 weeks and so Major Nowell assumed command from June 9 – July 16. Major RP Lewis was attached to the battalion on June 4th and 2/Lt. Balmford arrived from the UK on June 22nd. [back]

[4.] Four officers joined on July 2nd and one officer was killed, three were wounded and evacuated and two were evacuated sick to hospital. Major RP Lewis was wounded and left the battalion on July 6th. On the plus side, Lt.-Col. Falcon arrived on July 16 freeing up Major Nowell. [back]

[5.] Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis describes Forshaw as a passenger from Alexandria to England. Link here. Although Wallis does not name the ship directly, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence pointing to the Goorkha such as: the “Norwegian Matron” (Matron Fredrikke Christopherson was born in Lyngor, Norway), the Scottish Colonel with “the Kaiser-i-Hind decoration, wears the colours for the South African and North-West Frontier campaigns”, the gross tonnage referenced in the book, and the fact that the dates from the book match the dates in the war diary. [back]

[6.] Matron Fredrikke Wilhelmine Christopherson’s service record can be found at the National Archives here Link here. [back]

[7.] Lt. Col. Patrick Balfour Haig. Ancestry link here. [back]

[8.] “Moss Bank”, North Finchley was the home address of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Houle French and on her QAIMNS (R) application papers Ms. Lee-Heppel listed Mrs. (Dolina) French as her “nearest relative”. [back]

[9.] 1205 Corporal Samuel Eyre, was invalided to the UK from Gallipoli due to enteric. After he recovered, he was posted to Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment where, on March 15, 1916, he was court martialed for smoking on parade. Lieut. Forshaw and 2/Lieut. Cooke were listed members of the court martial panel. Cpl. Eyre was found guilty and lost his stripe; a little harsh considering his service record. Ancestry link here. [back]

[10.] Westminster College Archives. A/4/a/i, Roll of Men in the King’s Forces. Link here. [back]

[11.] In 1895, Ipswich Golf Club was formed when it leased some common land on Rushmere Heath. In 1927, Ipswich Golf Club moved to Purdis Heath but some members wished to remain at Rushmere, and so formed the Rushmere Golf Club. The original clubhouse, standing next to the heath, was sold to William Thomas Forshaw of 19 Fonnereau Road, Ipswich on September 29, 1927 for £1,200. It was advertised as being suitable for an institution, school, club, etc. On November 29, 1928 it was again advertised at auction but now as Rushmere Heath School, a boys school. It was sold for £1,450 to the Rushmere Golf Club and became their new clubhouse. [back]

[12.] A petition of bankruptcy was filed against him by an unnamed creditor on April 20, 1929, (a bankruptcy petition is an application to the court for someone’s assets to be taken and sold to pay their debts). A receiving order was subsequently issued on June 14, (a receiving order places the debtor’s property under the control of the official receiver). The official receiver in this case being Harry Scotchmer Gotelee, the Official Receiver of Ipswich. The Adjudication Order was issued on July 6, 1929 making him legally bankrupt from that date forward. [back]

[13.] In September 1941, when William Forshaw successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement, he told the judge that his financial troubles began when he borrowed money from a native firm while serving in India. [back]

[14.] Information regarding the seating arrangements at the 1929 VC dinner is available here. [back]

[15.] The Civil Registration Death Index record from 1952 indicates Sadie’s age at death to be 72. This squares with her 1881 and 1891 census records which also infer that she was born in 1880. However, in her Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R) application in 1914 she gave her date of birth as May 25, 1884 and passenger records from ships she sailed on in the 1920s consistently infer her year of birth to be 1888. Thus, by her own account, the older she got, the younger she became. If we assume that she was not Benjamin Button then we have to stick with the official numbers. [back]

References:

  1. Collected newspaper articles for William Thomas Forshaw. Link here.
  2. Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis. Link here.
  3. Lines of Communication Troops, Hospital Ship, Goorkha (WO 95/4145/5), National Archives. Link here.
  4. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, Name Heppel, Mollie (WO 399/3768), National Archives. Link here.
  5. Victoria Cross details of Forshaw, William Thomas (WO 98/8/196), National Archives. Link here.
  6. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk

Other Biographies:

  1. VCs of the First World War: Gallipoli, by Stephen Snelling. (October 4, 2010). ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0752456539.
  2. VCs of the North: Cumbria, Durham & Northumberland, by Alan Whitworth. (October 30, 2015). ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0189PTX82.
  3. Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-Under–Lyne, by Robert Bonner. (2005) ISBN-10: 1873907141.
  4. Key Military, The Chain Smoking VC. by Stephen Snelling.
  5. Museum of the Manchester Regiment, Men Behind the Medals.
  6. The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History (OCMCH), Archives & Library – William Thomas Forshaw, V.C. (1890-1943).
  7. The VC Online, William Thomas Forshaw VC.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank the author Stephen Snelling for providing permission to use the photograph of Lt. Forshaw and (what I believe to be) Nurse Lee-Heppel on the hospital ship Goorkha, Iain Stewart for permission to reproduce two newspaper articles and for supplying the photos of Touchen End Cemetery as it was when Forshaw’s grave was discovered. Thanks also go to Mike Crane for his photographs of Touchen End cemetery as it is today.

2/Lt. Alfred Gray

Alfred Gray was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force), from the 13th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment, on August 21, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

On December 19, 1915 he lead 26 men of B Company in a diversionary frontal attack on the Turkish positions at the North East corner of Fusilier Bluff. A large mine, followed by 5 smaller mines, were detonated and the plan was for the men to advance and shelter in the crater for cover. The mines failed to create any meaningful cover for the men and they were mercilessly fired upon by the Turks. Four men were killed and 11 wounded before Lt. Gray was compelled to order the men to retire.

He somehow managed to survive Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. He attended a course of instruction in February and on October 10, 1916 left the Battalion for 47 days home leave in the UK, rejoining them on November 26, 1916.

He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving on March 11, 1917. He was a platoon commander in B Company and is briefly mentioned in the Battalion war diary. He was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917 and shortly after proceeded to Paris for 6 days leave on July 13-19, 1917 . He was sent sick to hospital on July 11, 1917 and eleven days later was invalided to the UK and struck off the strength of the Battalion.

After he recovered he continued to serve, now with the 8th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment in Filey, and was awarded the Military Cross on May 5, 1919 for continuous good service. He  resigned his commission on February 22, 1921 retaining the rank of Lieutenant.

2/Lt. John Reginald Tommis

John Reginald Tommis was born in Wilmslow on July 14, 1892 the oldest son of Richard and Annie Tommis (ne Mills). By 1911 John was working as a salesman for a rubber boot company and living with his parents and his younger brother, George Harold Tommis, in Wilmslow within walking distance of the Wilmslow Preparatory School where his father was the headmaster.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment as an enlisted man and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on July 21, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He survived Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. On July 23, 1916 he left for 35 days home leave in the UK where he married Annie Wilson. He rejoined the Battalion in Egypt in late August and on September 2nd he attended a course of instruction. He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving March 11, 1917 and was almost immediately attached to the 42nd Division Signal Company, for instruction, where he remained for two months. He rejoined the Battalion on May 15 but two weeks later went sick to hospital where he remained for almost a month. Upon being discharged from hospital he was attached to the 210th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and shortly thereafter was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917. He remained with the RFA until February 17, 1918 when he transferred to the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment and was struck off the strength of the Battalion.

He resigned his commission on February 22, 1921 retaining the rank of Lieutenant. He moved to Leeds and worked as a salesman. Lt. John Reginald Tommis died on June 10, 1965. He was 63 years old.

2/Lt. Robert Jacomb Norris Dale

Robert Jacomb Norris Dale was born in Kensington in 1884 and was the oldest of four children. His father, Bernard Dale, was a solicitor and managing partner in the firm of Dale & Company of Cornhill. Robert was educated at Haileybury College (1900-02) and joined the Inns Court OTC in 1910 where he served for two years. By 1911 he was working as a solicitor in his father’s firm and living with his parents and two domestic servants in Wimbledon.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the 28th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles), and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester regiment (Territorial Force) on June 18, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He survived Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. He was sent sick to hospital on May 2, 1916 and remained there for 12 days. Two weeks after his return he attended a 10-day course of Instruction and on September 15 was attached to the Royal Flying Corps for instruction in Aviation at 22 Reserve Squadron, Aboukir where he remained for a little over 2 months after becoming sick while with the RFC.

On February 22, 1917 he took 19 days leave in the UK, where he married Irene Rose Mawer, rejoining the Battalion in France on March 13. On April 8 he attended a course of instruction at the Army Telescopic Sights School rejoining the Battalion 9 days later. He was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917 and took an 11-day leave in the UK on July 28, 1917. On August 29, 1917 he was accepted to the RFC and was struck off the strength of the Battalion.

He was accepted as a Balloon Observer on Probation on September 24, 1917 and was attached to No. 33 Kite Balloon Section (9th Balloon Company) on October 20, 1917. He took another home leave in the UK from December 8-22, 1917. Lt. Robert Jacomb Norris Dale was killed in action on January 31, 1918 in Italy when his balloon was attacked by an enemy aircraft and he was shot whilst in the basket. He is buried at Giavera British Cemetery, Italy and remembered on the Haileybury College Cloister Wall Memorial, Hertford Heath. He was 33 years old.

2/Lt. Frederick Beard

Frederick Beard was born in Manchester on April 6, 1890. His father, James Hogg Beard, was a Chemist and Druggist (a pharmacist). Frederick was the youngest of 3 boys and he also had a younger sister, Lucy. His father, James Hogg Beard, died in 1910 and by 1911 he was living in Marple with his mother, Jessie Ellen Beard (ne Wraight), his brother Edward, his sister Lucy his aunt and a domestic servant. He was employed as a foreign correspondent for a metal and hardware merchant.

He was commissioned from the 6th Manchesters as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on March 11, 1915. He joined the 2/9th Battalion in training at Southport and moved with them to Pease Pottage in June 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He survived Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. On October 4, 1916 he was awarded 45 days home leave in the UK returning to Egypt in November. He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving on March 11, 1917.

He was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917 and on July 29th left for 16 days home leave in the UK where he married Isabel May Ferguson. Upon his return he was immediately attached to the 126th Infantry Brigade and on September 13, 1917 left for the UK and was struck off the strength of the Battalion. He was forced to resign his commission on June 22, 1918 on account of ill-health contracted on active service, but retained the honorary rank of Lieutenant.

After the war, he lived in Marple with his wife and became a company director. In 1920 they had a son, John Knowler Beard. He retired and moved to Buxton but his wife died in 1955 and sometime later he moved to Chipping Campden where he died on July 24, 1982. Lieutenant Frederick Beard was 92 years old.

2/Lt. Francis Cyril Hampson

Francis Cyril Hampson was born in West Didsbury on June 4, 1896. His father, Frank Hampson, owned a business that manufactured ladies’ blouses.  By 1911, Francis was at school and living in Stockport with his parents, Frank and Emily Hampson (ne Midgley), his older sister Doris, his younger brother, Harry Midgley, his two younger sisters Hilda and Irene, and a domestic servant.

He was commissioned from the 6th Manchesters as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on February 18, 1915. He joined the 2/9th Battalion in training at Southport and moved with them to Pease Pottage in June 1915. He was made temporary Lieutenant on August 9, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He was sent sick to hospital in Alexandria on November 29, 1915 where he remained for 84 days before rejoining the battalion in Egypt on February 21, 1916. He didn’t stay with them long, because on March 14, 1916 he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and was struck off the strength of the Battalion. He was appointed temporary Lieutenant September 1, 1916 and promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917.

After the war he remained in the Territorial Reserve as Lieutenant and in 1925 married Helen Clarkson. They lived in Stockport, where he became a company director, and in 1931 they had a daughter, Helen Patricia Hampson, followed in 1933 by a son, Francis N Hampson.

Lieutenant Francis Cyril Hampson died on the Isle of Man on May 7, 1970. He was 73 years old.

2/Lt. Percy Parker Fielding

Percy Parker Fielding was born in Stockport on November 20, 1885. His father, William Fielding was a designer and manufacturer of Jacquard Machines used in Textile Manufacturing. Percy was the youngest of three children and he lived with his parents, his brother and sister, a governess and a domestic servant in Wilmslow.

By 1911, after the death of his father, the family moved to Newton Heath, Manchester where he was living with his widowed mother, Annie Fielding Fielding, his brother, Arthur Fielding Fielding, and sister, May Fielding. His brother worked as an engineer and assistant to a Jacquard Machine Maker while Percy managed the design business.

He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on January 20, 1915 and joined the 2/9th Battalion in training at Southport. In June 1915 he married Doris Stacey Birchenall, the sister of Lieutenant Arthur Gordon Birchenall of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment. On October 13, 1915 he embarked for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He came through Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. On May 19, 1916 he was sent to hospital in Alexandria sick and on August 26 was invalided to the UK. After he recovered sufficiently he joined the 8th Reserve Battalion Manchester Regiment and was appointed acting Lieutenant on February 1, 1917 and promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917. On January 1, 1918 he was Appointed Adjutant and acting Captain of the 8th Reserve Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, relinquishing the position of Adjutant and the acting rank of Captain on May 29, 1919.

His son Geoffrey Fielding was born in June 1919. A daughter, Dreena Margaret Fielding, followed in 1922 and Anthony Brichenall Fielding was born in July 1927. Percy was a textile machine factory works manager and the family lived in Stockport. He remained with the Territorials after the war and was promoted to Captain on February 5, 1921 but on November 30, 1935 was forced to relinquished his commission having attained mandatory the age limit, but retaining the rank of Captain.

Captain Percy Parker Fielding died in Stockport on February 10, 1960. He was 74 years old.

2/Lt. Oscar Stockton Needham

Oscar Stockton Needham was born in Didsbury in 1893. His father, Herbert Needham, was a buyer of cotton and woolen for a shipping merchant. Oscar was the youngest of 3 children and he lived with his family and a domestic servant in Withington, Manchester. By 1911 he was working as a clerk in the office of a shipping merchant while his brother, Herbert Sidney Needham, attended Manchester University.

In 1914 he joined the Officer Training Corps of Manchester University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on October 12, 1914. He joined the 2/9th Battalion in training at Southport and moved with them to Pease Pottage in June 1915. He was made temporary Lieutenant on August 9, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915. Upon arrival it was found that two Officers already serving at Gallipoli were of a junior rank and so he relinquished his temporary appointment.

He came through Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916. On February 26, 1916 he was made temporary Lieutenant and was promoted to Lieutenant on June 1, 1916. On July 23, 1916 he was awarded 35 days home leave in the UK. Two months after rejoining the Battalion he attended a course of instruction at Zeitoun for just over 3 weeks. On January 31, 1917 he left the Battalion for Port Said as part of the Advance Party, under Major RB Nowell, tasked with making all necessary preparations for the Battalion’s imminent departure to France.

He disembarked in France on February 10, 1917 and rejoined the Battalion a month later on March 17th. He left the Battalion to attend the 42nd Division Bombing School on May 30, 1917 and rejoined them 18 days later after spending an extra week sick in hospital. He attended a course of instruction in August and on September 7, 1917 left for 11 days home leave in the UK. On February 16, 1918 he transferred to the 1/5th Manchesters and was struck off the strength of the Battalion.

After the war, in 1921, he sailed to South Africa and was at that time employed as a Manufacturer’s Representative. While in South Africa he met and married Mary Barkley Denne, the daughter of a Major in the Royal Artillery who had emigrated to South Africa putting his knowledge of explosives to use in the mining industry. Oscar Needham lived in South Africa, with his wife, working as a salesman in the mining industry until his death in Johannesburg on July 22, 1965. Lt. Oscar Stockton Needham was 72 years old.

2/Lt. Benard Harold Brister

Bernard Harold Brister was born in Dublin on September 14, 1887. His father, Joseph Charles Brister, was a stockbroker. Bernard was the youngest of 3 sons and also had 3 younger sisters. The family and a domestic servant were living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy by 1901. He was educated at William Hulme’s Grammar School, Manchester from April 1899 to December 1903. In 1910 he traveled to Brazil and resided there for 4 years before returning to the UK in May 1914. While in Brazil he had been employed as a bookkeeper.

He enlisted in the Duke of Lancasters Own Yeomanry, in Manchester, on September 1, 1914 and was discharged after 100 days when he was given permission to transfer to the King Edward’s Horse, a cavalry regiment. He joined the 1st Battalion King Edward’s Horse on December 9, 1914, in Watford, as an enlisted man and was subsequently discharged to a commission on June 9, 1915. He was commissioned into the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force) on June 10, 1915.

On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

He sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving on January 18, 1916 and temporarily became acting Transport Officer when Lt. Shatwell reported sick. He came down with Malaria on March 5, 1916 and went to the Government Hospital at Suez for treatment. He became dangerously ill with suspected typhoid in April and, although recovered, the medical board found him to be unfit for general service. While waiting to return to the UK he contracted “Malta Fever” (Brucellosis) and was admitted to the Nasreih Schools Hospital in Cairo on May 18th. Sufficiently recovered to sail, he embarked HS Letitia on May 29, 1916 in Alexandria bound for the UK. Once in the UK he was granted leave to convalesce at home until August 19, 1916.

In August he was medically assessed and sent to the 9th Reserve Battalion Manchester Regiment for home service. Bernard Harold Brister was fluent in Portuguese, having spent 4 years residing abroad prior to the war, and so was assigned as a translator to the British Mission attached to the Portuguese Expeditionary Force in France. During his time in France, he was promoted to Lieutenant, effective July 1, 1917 and mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch of November 7, 1917.

Unfortunately, on October 8, 1917 he was injured in France when he fell from his horse. He was evacuated to the UK on October 21st and admitted to 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge on October 29, 1918 suffering from a contusion to the right hip. He was granted leave from October 21, 1917 to January 1, 1918 to recover at home. He was medically assessed again on January 21st and found to be fit enough to return to France. He rejoined the British Mission on February 13, 1918.

On October 23, 1918 he was taken sick to hospital and evacuated to the UK. Assessed on November 6, 1918 he was once again given leave to recover at home. He was re-assessed on March 18, 1919 and found to be permanently unfit for further military service. He relinquished his commission, retaining the rank of Lieutenant, due to ill health contracted on active service, on May 24, 1919.

After the war he worked as a commercial traveler and traveled internationally. Lt. Bernard Harold Brister died in Manchester on July 25, 1977. He was 89 years old.