Lt Alfred Victor Smith VC
Lt Frederick Brooks Dugdale VC
Pte Thomas Whitham VC
Lt Hugh Colvin VC
Violette Szabo GC
Alfred Victor Smith, 2nd Lieutenant, 1/5th Bn East Lancashire Regt
Born: 22nd July 1891 in Guildford, Surrey, son of William Henry & Louisa Smith
Address: from the cwg site the Chief Constables Office, Town Hall Burnley, in 1901 the family were living in Cambridge
Died: aged 24y, 22nd December 1915, Gallipoli
Buried: Twelve Tree Coopse Cemetery, Gallipoli
VC at Towneley Hall, Burnley
Awarded the VC for bravery 23rd December, 1915, at Helles, Gallipoli
Extract from London Gazette, 3rd March 1916
"For most conspicuous bravery. He was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell to the bottom of the trench, close to several of our officers and men. He immediately shouted out a warning, and himself jumped clear and into safety, but seeing that the officers and men were unable to get into cover, and knowing well that the grenade was due to explode, he returned without any hesitation and flung himself down on it. He was instantly killed by the explosion. His magnificent act of self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives."
Remembered on the Memorials at St Matthews Church, Burnley and Burnley Grammar School.
Frederick Brooks Dugdale, Lieutenant 5th Lancers (Royal Irish)
Born: 21st October 1877 in Burnley, son of Colonel James & Alice Dugdale
Address: They had homes at Ivy Bank, Habergham Eaves, Burnley and in Gloucestershire
Died: 13th November 1902
Buried: St James Churchyard, Longborough, Gloucester
VC is at The Queens Royal Lancers Museum at Belvoir Castle
He was awarded his VC during the Boer War for bravery at the age of 23.
Extract from London Gazette, 17th September 1901
“On 3rd March 1901 near Derby, South Africa, Lieutenant Dugdale was in command of a small outpost when, having been ordered to retire, his patrol came under heavy fire at a range of about 250 yards, and a sergeant, two men and a horse were hit. Lieutenant Dugdale dismounted and put one of the wounded men on his own horse. He then caught another horse, galloped up to another wounded man and took him up behind him, then brought both men safely out of action.”
He survived and returned to England but was killed in a riding accident whilst out hunting in Gloucestershire in November 1902
Thomas Whitham, Private, 1st Bn Coldstream Guards
born: 11th May 1888 at Worsthorne near Burnley, son of John & Catherine Whitham from Scotland.
died: 22nd October 1924, Oldham
Buried: Wheatley Lane Inghamite Burial Ground near Burnley
VC at Towneley Hall, Burnley
He was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery on 31st July 1917 at Pilkem Belgium, aged 29.
Extract from the London Gazette, 6th September 1917
“ For most conspicuous bravery when, during an attack, an enemy machine gun was seen to be enfilading the battalion on the right. Pte Witham, on his own initiative immediately worked his way from shell-hole to shell-hole through our own barrage, rushed the machine gun, and, although under a very heavy fire, captured it, together with an officer and two other ranks.
The bold action on the part of Pte Witham was of great assistance to the battalion on the right, and undoubtedly saved many lives and enabled the whole line to advance.”
He survived the War and returned to Burnley and was awarded a gold watch by the Town Council, but times were hard and he had a wife and six children to support and was forced to pawn his medals and watch. He died in poverty in 1924 following a bicycle accident.
In 1931 the medals and watch were redeemed from the pawnbrokers by Burnley Council and are on display at Towneley Hall.
Hugh Colvin, 2nd Lieutenant, 9th Bn The Cheshire Rgt, he later became a Major.
born: 1st February 1887, Burnley, son of Hugh and Jane Colvin from Scotland
address: In 1901 they were living in Bredbury, Cheshire
died: Carnmoney Cemetery, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim
VC at Cheshire Regiment Museum, Chester
Awarded the VC for bravery 20th September 1917 near Ypres, Belgium.
Extract from the London Gazette, 8th November 1917
"For most conspicuous bravery in attack. When all the officers of his company except himself - and all but one in the leading company - had become casualties and losses were heavy, he assumed command of both companies and led them forward under heavy machine gun fire with great dash and success. He saw the battalion on his right held up by machine gun fire, and led a platoon to their assistance.
2nd Lt Colvin then went on with only two men to a dug-out. Leaving the men on top, he entered it alone and brought up fourteen prisoners.
He then proceeded with his two men to another dug-out which had been holding up the attack by rifle and machine gun fire and bombs. This he reached and, killing or making prisoners of the crew, captured the machine gun. Being then attacked from another dug-out by fifteen of the enemy under an officer, one of his men was killed and the other wounded. Seizing a rifle he shot five of the enemy, and, using another as a shield he forced most of the survivors to surrender. This officer claered several other dug-outs alone or with one man, taking fifty prisoners in all.
Later, he consolidated his position with great skill, and personally wired his front under heavy close range sniping in broad daylight, when all others had failed to do so.
The complete success of the attack in this part of the line was mainly due to 2nd Lt Colvin's leadership."
Violet Szabo, born Violette Bushell
born: 26th June 1921 in Paris, her mother was French and her father English.
She grew up in Stockwell, south London
She married Etienne Szabo, a Captain in the French Foreign Legion. He was killed in 1942 soon after their marriage and as a consequence she volunteered as an agent in Special Operations Executive (SOE). She had one daughter.
She had two spells in France but was captured along with two other agents during her second trip.
She was executed at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, after refusing to give away any information in 1945 at the age of 23.
She was awarded the George Cross in 1946 and also the French Croix de Guerre, she was the first woman to receive the George Cross.
From the London Gazette of December 1946:
“The King has been graciously pleased to award the George Cross to: Violette, Madame Szabo (deceased), Women's Transport Service (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry)
Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April, 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the southwest of France. Resistance appeared hopeless but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten-gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement, she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances or told the enemy anything of any value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.”
I’m not sure why Violet Szabo is named in the annual display of remembrance crosses as I haven’t been able to find a link with Burnley.
Websites used for the information on this page include:
London Gazette online at www.gazettes-online.co.uk
Ian Stewarts Victoria Cross site at www.victoriacross.org.uk/vcross.htm
The Victoria Cross Research site at www.victoriacross.co.uk
The Special Forces site at www.specialforces.co.uk/violette.htm link appears broken