Below are excerpts of articles relating to Captain William Thomas Forshaw, V.C. listed chronologically. Unless otherwise noted, they are from the Ashton Reporter.
What His Mother Thinks of V.C. Hero
Smoked While Raining Bombs on Turks
Saturday September 18, 1915:
Captain W. T. Forshaw, of the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Ashton Territorials, who has been awarded the Victoria Cross, has cabled from Cairo to his parents this week: “Doing well: may come home”.
According to an eye witness of the deed that won him the Cross, Captain Forshaw was magnificent. He treated bomb-throwing as if it were snowballing. Captain Forshaw, they say, looked thoroughly happy all the time. When interviewed, the captain said he was terribly excited and had never enjoyed anything better than the desperate fight, which lasted forty-four hours. All through that time he smoked continuously for the purposes of lighting the fuses of the bombs, which were made out of jam tins. This, coupled with the fumes of the bombs, brought on sickness and a complete loss of voice lasting several days.
“It was a strange feeling suddenly to see large Turks facing you”, declared the young hero. “There is nothing like a revolver in such circumstances”.
“I shot my first man as he was attempting to bayonet a corporal [Bayley], a second as he was running for our ammunition, and a third as he was attempting to bayonet me. All was over in a few seconds, but the Turks had fled”.
When Captain Forshaw came up with his company to the post allotted him he realised that he had to hold on at all costs to his position to save the line.
Captain Forshaw is a native of Barrow, where the announcement of his award caused intense excitement among the town’s seeming thousands of munition workers.
MRS. FORSHAW DELIGHTED
When a representative visited the house of Lieut. Forshaw in Fairfield Lane, Barrow he met Mrs. Forshaw beaming with smiles over the official announcement. At the beginning of last week word was received through the barracks at Ashton-under-Lyne that Lieutenant Forshaw has been recommended for the Victoria Cross, but Mrs. Forshaw particularly requested the representative not to publish any announcement until it was received officially.
It is just twelve months since Lieutenant Forshaw left for Egypt, and in the drawing-room where his mother was seated were trophies from the Near East. On the sideboard was a solid silver champagne cup which Lieutenant Forshaw won at the Territorial sports at Cairo before he crossed over to Gallipoli, and on another table stood a table lamp, with a half-used candle, which he used in his tent in Egypt. On the walls were two fine pictures of Egyptian scenes which had also been sent from Egypt.
“We have had no word beyond what appears in the morning papers,” said Mrs. Forshaw, “but we now know that it is true”.
Mr. T. Forshaw, the father, is head foreman pattern maker at Messrs. Vickers’ Naval Construction Works at Barrow, and is well known in the town. He won fame on the sports and football fields of Lancashire in his younger days. He comes of a Preston family, and his wife used to reside at Kirkby-in-Furness.
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw is the elder of two sons, the second being a draughtsman in the employ of Messrs. Vickers in their London office. He was an assistant master at a preparatory school at Broughton, Manchester, when the war broke out, but some months prior to that he had joined the local Territorials. He was a second Lieutenant and in November last year was promoted lieutenant. Since then he has been acting as captain, but this promotion has not yet been gazetted. Unfortunately, he is now in hospital in Cairo. He is, however, not wounded, a telegram received the other day by his parents intimating “Not wounded, nearly fit again.” Previously, an official report stated that he was in hospital suffering from shock. A letter was anticipated from him to-day, but at the time of writing one had not arrived.
The Mayor of Barrow is particularly gratified at the high honour which has fallen on a townsman, and when Lieutenant Forshaw returns home he will receive a very warm reception.
Mrs. Forshaw, whose husband is the head foreman pattern maker at Messrs. Vickers Limited, lives at Hillside, Fairfield Lane, a charming residential quarter of Barrow. She showed to a representative of “Thompson’s Weekly News” a telegram which had just arrived that morning from her son, briefly saying, “Not wounded; nearly fit”.
“You can say anything good about him,” she told me, “but you can’t say anything wrong.” Such is the spirit in which this national hero is held by a loving mother.
“As an infant,” she said, “he went to Dalton Road Wesleyan School, and later to Holker Street School. From there he won a scholarship for the old Higher Grade School in Barrow (now the Municipal Secondary School). He was a boy who was always full of life and fond of mischief, like most boys, but all the same he was a very good boy.”
“He was healthy and active, and seemed to take naturally to study. The first time he left home was about seven years ago, when at the age of 18 he entered Westminster Training College. For twelve months after leaving college he stayed at home, studying for his inter B.Sc. exam, and during this time he taught an evening class at the Higher Grade School, and also had a class at the Barrow Technical School.”
“It is rather a remarkable thing, too, that he should have won this honour for bravery against a Turkish foe. It recalls to my mind the fact that whilst he was teaching during those twelve months at the Barrow Technical School he was instructing about half a dozen Turks, who were stationed in the Town at that time. Messrs. Vickers Limited were building a battleship for the Ottoman Government, and those Turks were here in connection with the work.”
HELPED BY TENNIS PLAYING
“Ultimately he sat for his intermediate B.Sc. examination and he passed. He has not yet sat his final examination. He obtained his first permanent position at Dallas Road School, Lancaster, and here, again, he had an evening class in the Storey Institute. This work he kept on even after he went to Manchester, for he travelled one evening each week from the city to take one of the evening continuation classes at Lancaster.”
“He was always keen on sports, and was a prominent figure in the Higher Grade School sports.”
“No,” said Mrs. Forshaw, in reply to a query, “He has never written anything whatever about the nature of this exploit. He merely told us that he had been recommended for the honour, but that he was not sure of getting it. He kept the whole thing to himself, and the first news we had of it was when it was published in the papers.”
“There is one thing,” she concluded, “about which we are a bit anxious. We are concerned over his health. He is not in perfect health, and we not really know how he is. I have been rather disappointed that I have not had a letter before this.”
Mr. A. C. Foster, president of the Rampside Tennis Club, who knew Lieutenant Forshaw very well, told me that nothing reminded him more forcibly of the saying that “England’s battles were won won on the playing fields of Eton”.
“Young Forshaw was a member of our club,” he said, “and apart from his genial personal disposition, he was well known as a good sport, and one who could play the game with a deal of skill.”
“The use of the racquet on the tennis court in which he was not a little expert has no doubt proved very useful to him in this bomb-throwing feat. The strain on the wrist necessitated in the sport is an exercise which must have helped him to continue with such determination his trying task.”
Returning From the Dardanelles
Saturday, October 2, 1915:
Captain William Thomas Forshaw, the Manchester schoolmaster V.C., is on his way to England in a hospital ship.
This most welcome news to his parents at Barrow was contained in a telegram received on Thursday from the Records Office at Preston. The gallant soldier has enthusiastic receptions awaiting him at Manchester, Ashton and Lancaster, as well as Barrow, where he was born and received his early education.
The Mayor of Barrow intends arranging a fitting welcome on behalf of the borough, whose crowds of munition workers are anxious to do honour to the worthy son of a popular head foreman in Messrs. Vickers’ naval instruction works.
The Captain’s arrival is expected towards the end of next week.
ASHTON PREPARING TO DO HIM HONOUR
Saturday, October 9, 1915:
The General Purpose Committee of Ashton Town Council have appointed a sub-committee with Mayor (Colonel C. R. Wainwright) as chairman, to arrange a civic welcome to Captain W. T. Forshaw, V.C., who will land in England this week from the Dardanelles.
Captain Forshaw, who is an officer in the Ashton Territorial Battalion 1/9th Manchester Regiment is the first V.C. in the East Lancashire Territorial Division. The Ashton Council have marked their sense of the honour he has brought to the town by deciding to make him a freeman of the borough. Saturday, October 30th, has been fixed for the date of the reception, and the freeman’s scroll, which will contain an account of the officer’s heroic deed in bombing the Turks, will be contained in a silver casket.
The Barrow Town Council have decided to present Captain Forshaw, V.C., with a sword of honour and to erect a tablet in the Town Hall setting forth his brave deeds.
LIEUT. FORSHAW V.C.
THE STORY AS TOLD BY HIMSELF
HIS TRIBUTE TO HIS BAND OF ASHTON MEN
The London Guardian, Thursday October 14, 1915:
Lieutenant Forshaw, V. C., who arrived at Barrow from Egypt on Tuesday evening found his first day at home almost as trying as the extraordinary achievement which has brought him fame. All his friends were eager to shower congratulations upon him, and before the end of the day he contemplated a great heap of letters and telegrams with growing doubts about his ability to reply to all of them individually.
In a brief period of relaxation, writes a representative of the “Manchester Guardian”, he talked to me very modestly about the gallant deed in the performance of which, to quote the words of Major General Douglas, he exhibited “magnificent courage, great endurance, and supreme force of character.” Lieutenant Forshaw, who is 25 years of age, would have it that this praise is too high for the work he did, but his friends rightly think otherwise. Although well set up he has not the powerful physical build which one looked for after reading the official story of his prowess in the trenches, and it is obvious from the effects which still remain that he was sustained during those critical hours by sheer power of will and determination not to yield the ground which he and his men were called upon to hold.
He has been described as bronzed and physically fit, but he is still suffering from severe shock to his nervous system, and it is with difficulty that he can recall the episodes of the long vigil and constant bombing by which the attacking Turks were kept at bay. The tenacious and vigorous defence offered by him and his detachment of Ashton Territorials is all the more remarkable because it was their first serious experience of trench warfare. During the previous three months he had been undertaking the duties of quartermaster to his battalion on the peninsula, and although he had been frequently under shell-fire he had not participated in the actual fighting.
What the Resistance Meant
Owing to casualties in his battalion (the 9th Manchesters) he assumed the duties of acting captain, and immediately after the successful attack of August 8 he and his company were hurried up to reinforce the advanced line. The situation at this point was for a time highly critical. Progress had been made along a sap parallel to a gully, and the whole of a trench which ran at right angles from each side of the saphead had been captured and occupied. Lieutenant Forshaw and about twenty men were instructed to hold a barricade at the head of the sap. Facing them were three converging saps held by the Turks, who were making desperate efforts to retake this barricaded corner, and so cut off all the other men in the trench.
The Turks attacked at frequent intervals along the three saps from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning, and they advanced into the open with the object of storming the parapet. They were met by a combination of bombing and rifle fire, but the bomb was the principal weapon used by the Turks and the defenders. Lieutenant Forshaw led the bomb throwing without regard to his own safety, and frequently exposed himself to danger in order to direct the aim of his men.
Ashton Men’s Magnificent Support
“I was far too busy to think of myself or ever to think of anything,” he said. “We just went at it without a pause while the Turks were attacking, and in the slack intervals I put more fuses into bombs. I cannot imagine how I escaped with only a bruise from a piece of shrapnel. It was miraculous. The Ashton men supported me magnificently. They adapted themselves very quickly to this method of fighting, and they stuck to the work doggedly, notwithstanding our losses.”
“The attacks were very fierce at times, but only once did the Turks succeed in getting right up to the parapet. Three attempted to climb over, but I shot them with my revolver. On the Saturday evening a young officer came to the parapet and held up his hands. He seemed to be perfectly dazed, and we took him prisoner. All this time both our bomb throwing and shooting had been very effective, and many Turkish dead were in front of the parapet and in the saps. The attack was not continuous, of course, but we had to be on the watch all the time, so that it was impossible to get any sleep. Thanks to the courage of two of our cooks, the men were kept supplied with hot food. For myself, I could take very little, as I was so chocked and sick with the smoke and fumes from the bombs.”
Refusal to be Relieved
At the end of 24 hours the Ashton men were relieved by a detachment drawn from other battalions, but Lieutenant Forshaw volunteered to continue to lead the resistance. His offer was accepted, and Corporal Bayley remained with him. More attacks were repulsed during the Sunday afternoon and night, and at the end of the struggle Lieutenant Forshaw rejoined his battalion in a condition of almost complete exhaustion. He was afterwards told that the number of bombs thrown by his men and two other detachments in the trench during the weekend was no fewer than 800.
He remained on the peninsula for several days in the expectation that complete rest would restore his strength, but it was soon apparent that the effects of his great ordeal were more serious than mere physical weariness. He suffered intensely from headache, and his eyes were very painful. He was taken to Egypt, and after examination by a medical board he was invalided home. He has benefited considerably from the sea voyage, but is still affected by headache and eye trouble.
Prospective Public Honours
Lieutenant Forshaw is naturally gratified by the numerous letters of congratulation which he has received, but he rather shrinks from the public honours which are being arranged in Barrow, Lancaster, Manchester and Ashton. Yesterday morning, he paid an unexpected visit to the Barrow Secondary School, where he was formerly a pupil, and in the afternoon he was received by the Mayor. The boys of his old school intend to present him with a gold watch, and the Corporation of Barrow will probably ask him to receive a sword of honour. Towards the end of the month he hopes to attend receptions at the North Manchester Grammar School, where he was an assistant master, and also at the Grammar School. The Ashton Council propose to confer the freedom of the borough upon him, and his old college club at Westminster has invited him to a dinner. Before these events, however, he hopes to visit both Manchester and Ashton in order to meet personal friends.
A Letter from General Douglas
The following letter from Major General Douglas was received by Lieutenant Forshaw’s father, Mr. T. Forshaw, a day or two ago: –
“Dear Sir, – I was unable to get your address until today, or I should have written sooner. I hope that I may be allowed to congratulate you on your son’s distinction. The Victoria Cross is the coveted prize of every soldier, and it does not fall to the lot of many to win it. It gave me great pleasure in recommending him for it. He showed the most superb gallantry. The fumes of the bombs, after fighting with them for 41 hours, affected his throat, and this, as well as the strain on his nerves, necessitated he being sent to hospital. I hope we may soon see him back here again.”
Lieut. Forshaw Receives His V.C. From the King
SCENES AT THE PALACE
His Majesty Chats With Ashton Territorial
V.C. HERO’S VISIT TO ASHTON
Accorded Tremendous Ovation at the Hippodrome
Saturday, October 23, 1915:
Lieut. W. T. Forshaw, the Ashton Territorial V.C. hero, paid a private visit to Ashton last Saturday, and was the guest of Mr. R. H. Makin, of the Haddens, Taunton Road. The time of the arrival was known but to his friends. Lieut. Forshaw was met at Charlestown Station by Mr. R. H. Makin, with whom he intended to spend the week-end.
During Saturday evening Lieut. Forshaw called upon Mr. Harold Burgess, the conductor of the Ashton Operatic Society, but unfortunately Mr. Burgess had gone to Hyde, and did not see him. After trying over a song in the shop Lieut. Forshaw, still unrecognized by the many who had thronged Stamford Street, called at the Picture Pavilion, Old Street, just near the close of the first performance, and had a chat with the manager, Mr. Downes.
Together with his friends, Lieut. Forshaw next visited the Ashton Hippodrome, where he was heartily greeted by Mr. Boyle, (the manager), an old friend of Lieut. Forshaw’s. The party occupied a box, but Lieut. Forshaw “took cover”, as it were, and his presence was not made known to the audience until one of the “Mastersingers”, a Mr. Probyn (who had made Lieut. Forshaw’s acquaintance at Morecombe prior to the war) intimated to the audience that the hero of the Ashton Territorials was present.
Instantly there was a scene of enthusiasm. All the soldiers in the audience stood to attention, whilst the people cheered lustily. Lieut. Forshaw acknowledged the ovation, and bowed to the audience.
Shortly afterwards Lieut. Forshaw and his friends returned to The Haddens, and were enjoying a little music when a telegram arrived summoning him to appear before the King at Buckingham Palace on Monday, and he had to curtail his visit, and hurriedly arrange for a taxi, in order that he might get back to Barrow and proceed to London.
A singular coincidence has been recalled. Mr. K. Entwistle, of the Ashton Operatic Society, before Lieut. Forshaw departed with the Territorials from Ashton, said to him “If you come back with the V.C. you shall have the finest part in our next opera”. It is up to Mr. Entwistle to see that his promise is fulfilled, for Lieut. Forshaw has fulfilled his part of the bargain.
The King’s Interest and Congratulations
Lieut. Forshaw had the Victoria Cross pinned on his breast by the King at Buckingham Palace on Monday. Lieut. Forshaw and another V.C. got the function practically all to themselves, and the King was able to chat with them about their exploits in a much more detailed and satisfactory fashion than would have been possible had his visitors been more numerous. Moreover, they got their decoration to the accompaniment of musical honours, and a crowd of several hundred persons thronged the Palace railings when they arrived and departed.
The V.C.’s went to the Palace under the most appropriate circumstances, says the “North Western Daily Mail”, and those who had assembled to watch the military evolutions and listen to the band did not fail to give the young officers a warm welcome when they learned the errand on which they were bent.
Lieut. Forshaw and his companions arrived at about 10-30, and were driven to the grand entrance in the quadrangle. The young heroes were conducted to one of the smaller State Rooms on the ground floor, and almost immediately the King appeared, attended by Captain Bryan Godfrey Faussett, R.N. (Equerry in Waiting) and Major Seymour (Assistant Secretary to the King).
PRESENTED TO HIS MAJESTY
His Majesty, who was not accompanied on this occasion by any other member of the Royal Family, was in civilian attire, and none of those in attendance were uniformed. It was a purely informal ceremony. The C.M.G.’s, D.S.O.’s and Military Crosses were quickly disposed of, and then Lieut. Forshaw was presented.
Although His Majesty had made himself familiar with all the details of this officer’s exploit, an official record was read over to him by Captain Godfrey Faussett. Permission is given to state the following particulars: –
Lieut. Wm. Thomas Forshaw belongs to the 1/9 Battalion Manchester Regiment. He displayed most conspicuous and determined gallantry on the 7th-9th August in the Gallipoli Peninsula.
His detachment was holding the north-western corner of a position known as “The Vineyard”, and they were most heavily attacked by the Turks, who advanced time after time upon the gallant defenders, under cover of three trenches which converged on the point.
Lieut. Forshaw held his own splendidly, and it was largely, if not entirely, due to his pluck and resource a very critical situation was saved. For forty-one hours at a stretch he persistently bombed the foe, and when his detachment was relieved after twenty-four hours’ continuous fighting he continued to direct and participate in the operations. Three separate times during the night of August 8-9 did the Turks attack with the utmost determination and disregard of danger, but all assaults were repulsed. Once, when the enemy got a temporary lodgment in part of the British trenches, Lieut. Forshaw shot three of them with his revolver, and then encouraging and leading his men, regained and held the temporary endangered position. When ultimately relieved, the gallant Lancastrian was sick and giddy with the fumes thrown off by the bombs which had been constantly exploding at close quarters, and could hardly lift his arms, particularly the left, from fatigue of his prolonged exertions. He was moreover, badly bruised by a fragment of shrapnel. Throughout the whole of the trying time he had displayed fearlessness, discretion and determination beyond all praise, and his very important corner was held successfully against all attacks by a foe which has few equals in determination, and fewer, perhaps in valour.
THE KING’S INQUIRIES
The King listened with marked attention to the recital and then stepped forward, pinned the Victoria Cross on to Lieut. Forshaw’s breast, and cordially shook hands with him.
His Majesty started the conversation with the gallant fellow, and asked him many questions. The V.C. hero displayed modesty in proportion to his pluck and endeavoured make as light of his achievement as possible.
The King said he could not understand how it was physically possible to keep up the bomb throwing for so long a period, and the new V.C. contented himself by declaring that it naturally made him very tired, but that “of course it had to be done”.
His Majesty inquired how Lieut. Forshaw felt now, and expressed keen satisfaction at learning that he was fairly fit and well. The King again shook hands at the close of the interview, told Lieut. Forshaw that he and his Army were proud at such gallant and resourceful soldiers, and added that he hoped he would live long to enjoy his well-won honour.
The Lieutenant, who was dressed in khaki, and looked particularly smart and gallant, saluted and withdrew.
LIEUT. FORSHAW V.C. IN MANCHESTER
A WELCOME FROM HIS OLD SCHOOL
The Guardian (London), Saturday October 30, 1915:
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C., of the 1/9th Manchester Regiment, and some time drawing master at the North Manchester Preparatory Grammar School, paid a visit to the school yesterday to rejoice the hearts of the boys and a good many older people as well.
A procession was arranged to escort him from Victoria Station, and it marched, with a band at its head and pipers following, through two miles of streets that were thronged with an admiring and enthusiastic crowd. Troops of Boy Scouts were in the front ranks and the Grammar School’s Officers’ Training Corps was in the rear. As it moved along the procession seemed to typify the stages of the development of the Boy Scout, from the recreative unit to training unit, and from that, through some unindicated degrees, to the final test of valour which wins the Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Forshaw rode in an open brougham drawn slowly along by a pair of horses. It was not exactly a dashing equipage, but it served the purpose of making him conspicuous, provided the crowd could distinguish him from the captain who rode at his side. The cheers provoked an answering salute now and then, and for most people that was the only sure sign that they had seen the right man.
But everyone knew that this fair young man with the amiable countenance and the friendly blue eyes, smiling a universal greeting as he passed along, was the same young man, only three months older, who had held for two days and two nights the corner of a vineyard upon which three lines of Turkish trenches converged. With “most conspicuous bravery and determination”, (as the official account said), and “with the utmost disregard to danger,” he animated the defence which repelled attack after attack. He was throwing bombs continuously for 41 hours, and though he had the chance of being relieved after 24 hours he volunteered to continue the direction of the operations. During the second night the Turks got over the barricade. Lieutenant Forshaw shot three with his revolver and, leading his handful of men in the counter-attack, he recaptured the post. When it was all over he was badly bruised by fragments of shrapnel, so stiff with throwing bombs that he could not raise his arm, sick with the fumes of the bombs, and voiceless. Yet a month afterwards he was saying that he never enjoyed anything better than this desperate fight which lasted 41 hours.
The Value of Games
Yesterday, Lieutenant Forshaw told the boys he used to teach – “those to whom I used to think I spoke so eloquently,” he said, “and before whom I am almost now dumb” – that he was sure it was the games he played with them on the playing field in Broom Lane that enabled him to endure in that fight for so long as he did endure. He did not think it mattered a great deal what game they played. It was the qualities brought out by the game that carried men through the hardest hours at the front. If they “played the game” while they were at school, there would be no doubt about their playing it when they left school. Lieutenant Forshaw was replying to an address which said: “Your heroism has brought on our school high honour and an enviable distinction. You have set an example of loyalty and devotion which will ever remain a priceless heritage of the school and a stimulus to all who teach and all who are taught within its walls.” Along with the address Lieutenant Forshaw received a silver tea service.
Colonel Clapham, the chairman of the Committee of the school, spoke of the double value of Lieutenant Forshaw’s achievement – its value in the military operations of the day and its value in provoking the emulation of others. Mr. J. L. Paten, the high master of the Grammar School, said Lieutenant Forshaw’s deed reminded them of the epic heroes – of stubborn Ajax holding the Trojans at bay, and of the brave three who held the bridgehead –
“A frame of adamant, a soul of fire. No dangers fright him, and no labour tire.”
And when the speakers had finished, and the Dean and Sir Edward Donner were shaping a vote of thanks to the Chairman, a man in the uniform of a military hospital patient stepped forward with a salute and said, very simply, “I am a bomb thrower myself, and I know what it measn. I think Lieutenant Forshaw deserved the Victoria Cross”.
The address presented to Lieutenant Forshaw had been illuminated by T. J. Mansbridge, a pupil who left the school in July last. The full text is as follows: –
“To Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C., we present and past members of this school, desire to offer you our warmest congratulations on the wonderful bravery and endurance you displayed from August 7 to August 9, 1915, in holding trenches at the Dardanelles under conditions of the greatest danger and difficulty, for which service his Majesty King George V. has been pleased to decorate you with the highest military award, the Victoria Cross. Your heroism has conferred on our school high honour and an enviable distinction. You have set an example of loyalty and devotion to duty which will ever remain a priceless heritage of the school and a stimulus to all who teach and are taught within its walls. We therefore ask your acceptance of this address and the gift accompanying it. We wish you many years of happiness, enriched by the knowledge that, in your country’s hour of greatest need, you bore a noble part.”
Engraved one of the pieces presented with the address was the following insertion: –
“North Manchester School to Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C. A memento of August 7 to August 9, 1915, in the trenches at the Dardanelles. “Who comprehends his trust, and to the same; keeps faithful … he is the happy warrior.”
LIEUTENANT FORSHAW, V.C.
PUBLIC WELCOME AT SOUTHPORT
The Guardian, Saturday, November 6, 1915
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C., of the 9th Manchester Regiment, received an enthusiastic welcome on his visit to Southport yesterday. The main thoroughfares through which he was driven were lined by thousands of people, who cheered heartily as he passed by. Troops were drawn up along Lord Street from the Municipal Buildings to Manchester Road. At the Town Hall Lieutenant Forshaw was received by the Mayoress (Miss Willett). He was the guest of the Mayor (Alderman Willett) at dinner in the evening, and subsequently addressed a crowded meeting at the Cambridge Hall in connection with the cadet movement.
LT. W. T. FORSHAW HONOURED
FREEDOM OF ASHTON CONFERRED ON TERRITORIAL OFFICER
THE PROCESSION AND CEREMONY
Saturday, November 6, 1915
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw was feted in Ashton on Saturday, when it was Ashton’s turn to honour him – and through him the Ashton Territorials – for his gallant deed which gained for him the Victoria Cross. Amidst the detonation of a number of fog signals which had been placed on the steps just outside Charleston Station the train carrying Lieut. Forshaw, and his parents Mr. and Mrs. T Forshaw (who had made the journey from Barrow), steamed in the station about 3:45pm on Saturday afternoon. The salvo of fog signals must for the moment have reminded him of the incident in the Vineyard trench, when he and his gallant men upheld the honour of Ashton in a 41 hours’ continuous fight.
The Mayor of Ashton, (Lieut.-Col. C. R. Wainwright) and Mrs. Wainwright were waiting on the platform to welcome Lieut. Forshaw, together with the aldermen and councilors of the borough, the Town Clerk, and Col. D. H. Wade and many officers of the 9th Battalion. There was no ceremony on the platform, and after Lieut. Forshaw had saluted the Mayor and Mayoress and his colonel, Mr. and Mrs. T. Forshaw were introduced to the Mayor and Mayoress, and Lieut. Forshaw shook hands with the members of the Council. A large number of people viewed the proceedings from Albemarle Street, which overlooks the platform, and from the bedroom windows of the surrounding houses.
The Mayor and Lieut. Forshaw led the way down the approach to the door of the station, where carriages were in waiting in readiness to join the procession which had already been formed. When the figure of Lieut. Forshaw, V.C., his breast decorated with the coveted medal of honour and the bit of maroon ribbon, was seen a loud cheer went up from the thousands who were assembled in the open space opposite the station.
Mr. and Mrs. T. Forshaw rode in an open carriage with the Mayoress, and Lieut. Forshaw, V.C., entered a carriage drawn by four horses accompanied by the Mayor and Deputy-Mayor (Alderman H. Shaw) and the Town Clerk.
On one side of the square were the guard of honour furnished by the 143rd battery of Heavy Artillery, in command of Captain J. F. Leacroft, and ready to join in the procession, and the mounted constables (in charge of Inspector Diston), detachments of nurses, boy scouts, girl guides, etc.
The band of the 1st Manchesters struck up a stirring march, and the procession moved away along Wellington Road, Penny Meadow, Mosley Road, Lees Square, Stamford Street, Chester Square, Richmond Street, Katherine Street to the Town Hall, amid cheers from the spectators, and much waving of handkerchiefs and flags, and many appreciative comments regarding the modest demeanor of Lieut. Forshaw, V.C.
Many householders and shopkeepers along the route of the procession had hung out flags, but the most striking display of bunting was seen in the market Avenue and in Wellington Street. Lines of streamers and flags were crossed in a very pretty fashion. Whilst the procession was wending its way along the route, the crowd in front of the Town Hall increased to a large extent, and the arrivals of those who had secured the privilege of witnessing the ceremony inside the Town Hall were the source of much interest.
AT THE TOWN HALL
Speech by Lieut. Forshaw
The presentation of the Freedom took place in the large upper room of the Town Hall. The platform was reserved for the members of the members of the Council and their wives, and for Mr. and Mrs. Forshaw. On the table lay the silver casket, and the Freeman’s Roll open, ready for signature by Lieut. Forshaw. The band of the Manchesters played several harmonious selections pending the arrival of the procession, and when the Mayor appeared, followed by Lieut. Forshaw, the hall rang with the cheers and plaudits. Half the room was taken up with reserved seats, and of the other half a portion was occupied by the band of the Manchester Regiment. The room was crowded.
The Mayor presided, and first called upon the Town Clerk to read letters: –
The Town Clerk read letters of apology for inability to be present from the Lord Mayor of Manchester (Alderman McCabe) and Sir Frank Forbes Adams, chairman of the east Lancashire Territorial Association, and Mr. James Harris, headmaster of the Barrow-in-Furness Municipal Secondary School.
Mr. Harris wrote: “I should like to say how glad I am that you are doing one of my old boys honour in such a worthy fashion. I knew him for five years in this school. I remember well his loyalty and devotion to his school. He always placed the interests of his school first, and if he had to stand down in the footer teams he did it always without a murmur and thought of the position of his side rather than his own. In the gallant deed which has gained him the Victoria Cross I see the same spirit. No sudden spasm or impulse moved him, but the balance of mind was his which saw that his side would lose if he did not hold ‘The Vineyard’. Today his town and school have honoured him. He has borne himself as a modest, high-minded gentleman, and I feel quite sure that our school and Barrow have given Ashton Territorials an officer of the best quality. You Ashton men must have ‘played up’ well, too, to their leader.”
“It is with real sorrow that I cannot be with you just to see how Forshaw bears himself amidst praise and adulation. I wish you successful functions, and may you have many clean-minded, clean-limbed young fellows as he is in your regiment, which Lieutenant Forshaw spoke of with pride this afternoon.”
The proceedings were then for the time being resolved into a meeting of the Town Council in order formally to pass the necessary resolution.
The Mayor moved that the Freedom of the Borough be conferred upon Lieutenant William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., of the 1/9th Manchester Regiment, headquarters, the Armoury, Ashton-under-Lyne, in recognition for which his Majesty the King awarded him the Victoria Cross – (Applause).
The Deputy-Mayor, Alderman H. Shaw, seconded the resolution.
The Mayor having formally put the resolution and declared it carried unanimously, asked Lieutenant Forshaw to sign the Freeman’s Roll. This the gallant officer did whilst the audience looked on with the keenest interest. The band of the 1st Manchesters struck up “See the Conquering Hero Comes”, and the whole assembly sprang to their feet. The young lieutenant, gazing at the hundreds of people in front of him, was deeply touched by this manifestation of enthusiasm.
The Town Clerk read the scroll, which contains the official account of the gallant officer’s stirring defence of the “Vineyard”.
The scroll read as follows: –
BOROUGH OF ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE
Colonel Charles Richard Wainwright, D. L., Mayor
Aldermen Coop, Heap, Heginbottom, Kenworthy, Oldham, Waterhouse, A. Shaw, and H. Shaw.
Councillors Andrew, Baguley, Bickerton, Bowman, Broadhurst, Broadbent, Corns, Crawshaw, Crossley, Cryer, Fisher, Greenwood, Judson, Kitchen, Morison, Pollitt, Price, Rothwell, Scholes, Sheard, Thompson, Wild and Wood.
At a special meeting of the Council of the Borough of Ashton-under-Lyne in the county of Lancaster, held on Saturday, the 30th day of October, 1915 at 4:15pm, it was moved by the Mayor, Seconded by the Deputy-Mayor, Alderman Henry Shaw, and Unanimously resolved: –
That this Town Council heartily congratulates Lieutenant William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., 1/9th Battalion the Manchester Regiment, Headquarters, The Armoury, Ashton-under-Lyne, upon the distinguished honour conferred upon him by His Majesty the King by awarding him the “Victoria Cross” for conspicuous bravery and determination in the Gallipoli Peninsular from 7th to 9th August, 1915 and hereby confers upon him the HONORARY FREEDOM OF THE BOROUGH OF ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE, in recognition of his daring and brilliant feat-of-arms, the official record of which in the “London Gazette” is as follows: –
When holding the north-west corner of the “Vineyard”, he was attacked and heavily bombed by Turks, who advanced time after time by three trenches which converged at this point, but he held his own, not only directing his men and encouraging them by exposing himself with the utmost disregard to danger, but personally throwing bombs continuously for 41 hours.
When his detachment was relieved after 24 hours he volunteered to continue the direction of operations.
Three times during the night of 8th-9th August, he was again heavily attacked, and once the Turks got over the barricade, but, after shooting three with his revolver, he led his men forward and recaptured it.
When he rejoined his Battalion he was choked and sickened by Bomb fumes, badly bruised by a fragment of shrapnel, and could barely lift his arm from continuous bomb throwing.
It was due to his personal example, magnificent courage and endurance that this very important corner was held.
9th September, 1915
In witness whereof the Seal of the Corporation was hereunto affixed in the presence of:
C. R. WAINWRIGHT, Mayor
F. W. BROMLEY, Town Clerk
MAYOR PRESENTS THE FREEDOM
The Mayor, rising amid a deeply impressive silence said: –
Lieutenant Forshaw, V.C., I now ask you to accept the casket containing the scroll which has just been read by the Town Clerk. On two previous occasions only has the Honorary Freedom (the highest honour any borough can bestow) been conferred upon those who this Council wished to honour, and it was conferred for honourable and useful public services extending over a very long series of years. It says much for the tolerance shown in English public life that in each of those cases the honour was conferred by unanimous resolution of the Council when the party in power was politically opposed to the gentlemen who was made an honourary Freeman. Our first Freeman, Thomas Heginbottom – (hear, hear) – has gone over, alas, to the majority, but I am glad to say our second one, William Kendall – (Hear. Hear) – is still with us, and is here today. When I tell you that he is the only man in Ashton who ever gave me a “good hiding” – (laughter) – you will realise, I am sure, what deference I always show him, and in what respect I always hold him. – (laughter). As the “hiding” was the unfortunate result of a contest for municipal honours you will see that had I been successful his continuous service of nearly forty years as councilor, alderman and Mayor would have been broken. Forty years of a man’s life is a long spell to give to public services, and naturally the honorary Freedom is usually conferred upon men full of years and ripe in wisdom. Your case is different – no party politics, no political feelings are present here. You are a young man, and it says much for the faith and confidence which this Council reposes in your character, your worth, and your trustworthiness that it has conferred this honour upon you. As Mayor of this borough and as Honorary Colonel of the battalion which is so proud to have you as one of its officers, I feel sure that that faith and that confidence will not be misplaced – that your honours will not give you an undue perspective of things as they really are – and that no act of yours in years to come will tarnish the brightness of this casket or blot the fair records on this scroll. It is a fine regiment to which you belong – the Manchesters – (Applause). Few have such a record on two campaigns, six V.C.s, many D.S.O.s and many D.C.M.s two of which have been gained by Sergeant Grantham and Corporal Sylvester – (loud applause) – both non-commissioned officers in our Ashton battalion, and last, but not least, our old friend Colonel James, C.B., who is here today. Though you are not an Ashtonian by birth, I think we may claim you as one by adoption and grace, and when you heard the call, for you there was only one answer to be made, and that was made immediately. Of the unprecedented feat which gained you the most coveted decoration in the world it is needless for me to say – never in the history of that decoration do I remember such a splendid example of devotion to duty, of endurance, of sublime courage, and super-human steadfastness as was displayed in your case. I can understand a man in the heat of the fight “seeing red” and for a few moments becoming superhuman and performing heroic deeds – but your achievement was far more than this, and though measured by time your services to this battalion cannot compare with the lengthy services of those whose names precede yours in this roll – yet may I say that you have lived
“In deeds – not years,
In thoughts – not breaths,
In feelings, not in figures on a dial”
And who can deny that in each of those forty-one hours of that terrible fight you lived an eternity of ordinary life?
On behalf of this Council and this borough I congratulate you on your well-merited honour, and I trust you may live many years to enjoy it, and to be a comfort to your parents, who, I am sure, are proud of their boy. We too are proud of our Ashton V.C. – (applause) – the first East Lancashire Territorial to gain this coveted honour, and may God guard and bless you.
At the close of the Mayor’s speech cheers were raised for Lieutenant Forshaw, the band played “For Valour”, and as the young officer, visibly moved by the warmth of the demonstrations, rose to reply there was storm of applause.
LIEUT. FORSHAW SPEECH
“It is quite impossible for me to express adequate thanks for the honour you have conferred upon me this afternoon,” said Lieut. Forshaw when the cheering had subsided, “by awarding so carefully and jealously guarded an honour to a stranger, and apart from the fact that it would be a most difficult thing to attempt to thank you for such an award, I must ask you to remember that this is an incident in a nerve cure – (Laughter). I am indeed a proud man to share an honour with so noble a townsman as Mr. Kelsall. I have not yet met him but hope to do so this afternoon. The freedom of the borough which you have given me this afternoon, so carefully and jealously guarded, is one thing, but long ago the people of Ashton gave me something which I value quite as much, and about which you are infinitely more free, and that is the freedom of your hearts – (Applause). I shall never forget how I entered Ashton to take a small part in your Operatic Society, and I am proud of the reception. It was not the reception of a stranger. I was not a brilliant performer, but you judged my performance for more than it was worth, and gave me a reception in accordance with it. Apart from that I shall never forget the friendship I got from the society, and the good times I have spent with them. The members of the society opened their hearts to a stranger who would never forget it, and then the welcome I received from the regiment. I cannot say enough about my regiment – and your regiment – (Loud applause). I have received nothing but whole-hearted generosity and manliness from the commandant, Colonel Wade – (applause) – right down to the youngest son of Quartermaster-Sergeant Boocock – (Applause). I can assure you all I am proud to belong to the Manchester Regiment – it is a fine regiment as our Mayor has said – and any man ought to be proud to belong to such a fine battalion. If I may be pardoned for another personal note, I hope that when the battalion comes home they will receive as warm a reception as you have given me, and one particularly. I refer to the grand old man of the battalion, who stuck to them when other officers had to go away, the oldest man of the lot, sir, our grand old Major Connery – (Loud applause). It is impossible, sir, to thank you adequately for the honour you have done me. I can only say thank you. I hope I shall never forget the significance of the polished silver of this casket.”
The applause broke out afresh as the gallant lieutenant returned to his seat. The beautiful casket and the scroll were allowed to remain on the table for a short time so that the audience could obtain a good view of them as they left the hall.
The proceedings concluded by the singing of the National Anthem, in which the audience joined.
Refreshments were afterwards served in the adjoining room to those who had reserved seat tickets, Mrs. Lindley catering for about 400.
[In later years, Forshaw’s life was not without its difficulties …]
Gloucester Citizen, Tuesday January 5, 1932:
The problem of the number of V.C.’s who are at present looking for work was brought to my notice yesterday, when I met Capt. W. T. Forshaw, V.C., formerly of the Manchester Regiment, who confided to me some of the difficulties he has encountered in seeking employment. He was decorated in 1915 for one of the most conspicuous acts of bravery in Gallipoli, but that, he says, “is only a matter of history.” In searching for work he is too modest to mention his V.C. I discovered however, a little known fact about how the State looks after its distinguished warriors. A soldier of non-commissioned rank is entitled to an annuity of £50 a year if unable to obtain a livelihood after leaving the service, but the ex-officer gets nothing. Therefore, men like Captain Forshaw, who led his men in one of the most heroic attacks of the War, go on searching in the hope that something will turn up.
Kinematograph Weekly, Thursday November 30, 1933
A further step in the development of the production by G-B Equipments, Ltd. of industrial films is announced by the appointment of Capt. W. T. Forshaw, V.C., to their Industrial Film Production Department. Capt. Forshaw left London on Saturday last to commence activities in the Midlands industrial area.
Capt. Forshaw 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.
V.C. AND EDUCATIONAL FILMS
Capt. Forshaw on Teachers’ Aid
The Era, Wednesday July 25, 1934
CAPT. W. T. FORSHAW, V.C., now the Midlands representative for Industrial Film Productions of G.B. Equipments, Ltd. was formerly a master at Manchester Grammar School. He gained his V.C. at Gallipoli, and afterwards became General Staff Officer for Education for Southern India. He has also held educational posts with the RAF in Egypt.
At a teachers’ demonstration of educational films at Birmingham last week, Capt. Forshaw said during the discussion that he regarded educational sound films as having a great future in supplementing and emphasising, in easily assimilated form, the efforts of teachers.
V.C.’s CAR IN FATAL COLLISION
Essex Chronicle, Friday December 13, 1940:
An inquest was opened at Romford on Dec. 6 on Mr. Edward E. Bromley, aged 30, of Anstead Drive, Rainham, who died in Oldchurch Hospital from injuries received when a motor cycle on which he was pillion riding was in collision with a car driven by Capt. W. T. Forshaw, V.C., a Home Guard officer.
The motor cycle was ridden by Mr. Sidney Middlemiss of Keighton Road, Forest Gate who was also injured, and the inquiry was adjourned for a week to enable him to give evidence.
Mr. Frederick Bromley, a brother of deceased, said that when in hospital the deceased told him a car was being driven behind the motor cycle on which he was riding pillion. A Home Guard shouted to the car driver to slow up, and the next thing he (the deceased) knew was that the car had hit the cyclist, throwing him into a fence.
V.C. CAN DO HIS BIT AGAIN
Daily Herald (London), Friday September 12, 1941:
William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., wants to be doing his bit again. That was the reason he gave in applying at Ipswich County Court yesterday for his discharge from bankruptcy.
Forshaw, then a major, won his V.C. at Suvla bay in 1915, when, with a handful of men, he held a Turkish trench for 41 hours, keeping the enemy at bay with improvised jam tin bombs fired with cigarette ends. He caught Turkish bombs and hurled them back before they could explode.
Back in civil life, Major Forshaw, a schoolmaster, had bad luck. He was 39 at the time of his bankruptcy. Yesterday, at 51, and wearing the Home Guard uniform with a double row of medal ribbons, he told Judge Hildearly, “I must have my discharge if I am to rejoin the Army.”
“And I have no wish to deprive the country of the service of such a man,” said the Official Receiver.
Major Forshaw was granted his discharge.
87th Birthday Burial
Lancashire Evening Post, Monday November 16, 1942
On Saturday, the day that would have been his 87th birthday, Mr. Thomas Forshaw, a famous Barrow Rugby Club wing three-quarter and a retired foreman patternmaker at Messrs. Vickers Armstrongs, Barrow, was buried at Dalton cemetery. Besides his two sons, Captain W. T. Forshaw, V.C., and Mr. Frank Forshaw, and other relatives, those present included Dr. G. H. Patterson, ex-president of North Lancashire Cricket League; Mr. Thomas Morgan, a former player of Barrow Rugby Union Club; Mr. Thomas Walker, of the former Barrow Amateur Cycling Club; Mr. S. Gibb and Mr. Fraser, foremen at Messrs. Vickers Armstrongs Works; Mr. J. R. Green, secretary, and Messrs. R. Helme, A. Paterson and others representing Barrow Working Men’s Club and Institute; and Mr. C. Leece, Pennington.
A NINE YEAR SEARCH TO LOCATE THE GRAVE OF LIEUTENANT WILLIAM FORSHAW VC, THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT, CULMINATES IN THE ERECTION AND DEDICATION OF A HEADSTONE
Monday, 17 October 1994
During the period 7/9 August 1915 at Gallipoli, when holding the north-west corner of the “Vineyard” against heavy attacks by the Turks, Lieutenant Forshaw not only directed his men but personally threw bombs continuously for over 40 hours. When his detachment was relieved, he volunteered to continue directing the defence. Later, when the Turks captured a portion of the trench, he shot three of them and recaptured it. It was due to his fine example and magnificent courage that his very important position was held.
William Forshaw survived WWI and was living in Holyport, Berkshire when he died at the comparatively young age of 53 on 26 March 1943 and was buried in Touchen End Cemetery, Bray, near Maidenhead, in a grave that was not marked with a headstone. It was thought that William Forshaw had been buried in Ashton-under-Lyne and many publications reflected this. But the Victoria Cross historian, Tom Medcraft, was convinced he was not buried in Ashton and after a nine year search, discovered Forshaw was in fact buried in Touchen End. This discovery was made through the efforts of Mrs. Pat Curtis, Senior Librarian at Maidenhead Library, who found the undertaker, Pymm’s of Maidenhead, who had buried William Forshaw and whose records showed he was buried in Touchen End Cemetery. However, the undertaker’s records did not show the exact location of the grave as their original records had been lost when they moved premises some forty years earlier. Further research by Tom Medcraft and Pat Curtis revealed that the churchyard seemed to be laid out in ‘date order’ for the years during which William Forshaw had been buried and his grave was one of five in an area of the cemetery which was seriously overgrown.
As a result of the grave being located and the area cleared, a ceremony was held in Touchen End Cemetery on Monday, 17th October 1994 to erect and dedicate a headstone to Lieutenant William Forshaw VC, by members of the 1st Bn. The King’s Regiment (Manchester & Liverpool) – which was formed from his own Manchester Regiment – who erected the memorial stone. Also present were Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hodges, Commanding Officer of the 1st Bn. The King’s Regiment (Manchester & Liverpool), Brigadier Jeremy Gaskell, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Bray, and the Vicar of Bray, who carried out the service.
The Victoria Cross of William Forshaw resides at the “The Museum of the Manchester’s” Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall, Manchester, together with his other medals. Also on display is a sword presented to him by the Mayor of Barrow – his home town – when he was given the Freedom of the City in 1916, and a beautiful silver tea service which was presented to him by the Headmaster of North Manchester Grammar School in October 1915, where he had served as a teacher prior to going to war. The room in the museum which houses his medals and other presentation gifts, is called “The Forshaw Room”.
Kings Honour Gallipoli VC
The lost grave of one of The Manchester Regiment’s 13 VCs has been re-discovered near Maidenhead and its headstone dedicated.
The regiment lives on in the form of The King’s Regiment, which sent 50 men with Regimental Colonel Brig. Jeremy Gaskell and Lt. Col. Clive Hodges, CO of the 1st Battalion, to honour Lt. William Forshaw VC with a firing party and a service of dedication.
Painstaking research by the Manchesters’ Museum chairman Capt. Bob Bonner established the grave at Touchen End churchyard, near Maidenhead, after the site had been discovered by VC historians Tom Medcraft, an ex-RAF armourer, and Mrs Pat Curtis. Lt. Forshaw was awarded the supreme gallantry medal after holding the “Vineyard” in Gallipoli with the 1/9th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment against attacks by an overwhelming Turkish force.
He died in May 1943 and, because of the war, it was not possible for the regiment to honour him as it would have wished. In time, the grave was forgotten.
A regimental wreath placed at his headstone echoed the exhortation to the modern soldiers as they answered: “We will remember them.”
War Hero’s Valour is Set in Stone
Plaque Honours Lieutenant’s Bravery in World War One
Maidenhead Advertiser, Friday August 12, 2005
A memorial plaque honouring a war hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery was unveiled in Holyport on Sunday.
The dedication ceremony was the culmination of months of planning and fundraising and coincided with the 90th anniversary of the action in World War One, which saw Lieutenant William Forshaw awarded the military’s highest ward for valour.
Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Forshaw and the men in his command successfully defended their position at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, for 41 hours against Turkish soldiers.
At one point in the battle Lt. Forshaw and his men were reduced to throwing bombs made of jam tins.
The vicar of Bray, the Rev George Redpath, conducted the ceremony at the former home of Lt Forshaw, who went on to become a major.
Roy Johnson, 52, of Pymm and Hooper funeral services was one of those who helped organise and raise funds. He said: “This is wonderful, William Forshaw was in the same regiment as my father. There were too many links for me not to help.”
Terry Nicolson, a volunteer with Berkshire War Memorials Trust who organised the event, thanked all those who donated time and money to the project.
He added: “We would still welcome any donations towards the funding of the plaque.”
The plaque itself, which was also in honour of Lt. Forshaw’s wife, Sadie, for her work on hospital ships in the Middle East, was created by Neil Johnson, of Lamb and Co Stone Masons.
Mr. Johnson said: “We have worked on other VC memorials and it is always a pleasure considering what people went through to earn them.”
The current owners of the house in Gays Lane, Julian and Sheelagh Evans, were represented at the unveiling by their 21-year-old son Dominic, who said: “When we moved into the house we had no idea of the history of it. When we found out about William Forshaw we were very happy to have the plaque on our house. It’s very important we all remember the sacrifices made during times of war,” he said.