There is a memorial in Leeds City Centre to Victoria Cross holders who were either born or died in Leeds. It is situated at the junction of the Headrow and Park Row, near the Henry Moore Institute and The Light. Instituted by Queen Victoria in 1854, the Victoria Cross has been awarded over 1,350 times. Most recently to Corporal Bryan Budd, of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who died in action in Afghanistan in 2006. He displayed ‘inspirational leadership and the greatest of valour’. The metal for the medals are from Russian Guns captured in the Crimean War .
World War Two
Arthur Louis Aaron – Flight Sergeant
Age 21 - No218 Squadron, RAF Volunteer Reserve
Turin Italy - August 12th 1943
To mark the millennium a statue to Arthur Louis Aaron was sited on a roundabout close to the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the start of the Headrow.
Three engines, the windscreen and the elevator controls were hit by gunfire. This made Flight Sergeant Aaron’s bomber unstable and very difficult to fly. Aaron and other crewmembers were injured. The navigator was killed. Aaron’s jaw was broken, parts of his face torn away, his lung damaged and right hand unusable. He still managed to level the aircraft at 3,00 ft. His bomb aimer took control of the aircraft whilst Aaron received medical attention and morphine. Too weak to control the aircraft he wrote instructions with his left hand. Aaron died nine hours after the bomber belly landed in Bone, Italy.
World War One - Europe
Harry M.Daniels – Company Sergeant Major
Age 30 - 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own)
Neuve Chapelle, France – 12th March 1915
His unit was ordered to advance on the German trenches across no-mans land that was covered by machine guns and strewn with barbed wire. Company Sergeant Major Daniels, and Corporal Reginald Noble, voluntarily rushed in front with cutters and attacked the wires. They were both wounded at once, Nobel dying later of his wounds.
Buried Harehills Cemetery, Leeds.
Medal on display at the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, England.
John Crawshaw Raynes - Sergeant
Age 28 ‘- A’ Battery, Royal Field Artillery
Bethune, France – 11th October 1915
From the London Gazette, 18th November 1915
"No. 36380. Sergeant-Major J. C. Raynes, (Royal Field Artillery). For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On 11th Oct., 1915, at Fosse 7 de Bethune, his Battery was being heavily bombarded by armour-piercing and gas shells. On "Cease Fire" being ordered Sergeant-Major (then Acting Sergeant) Raynes, went out under an intense shell fire to assist Sergeant Ayres, who was lying wounded forty yards away. He bandaged him and returned to his gun, when it was again ordered into action. A few minutes later "Cease Fire" was again ordered owing to the intensity of the enemy fire, and Sergeant-Major Raynes, calling on two gunners to help him – both of whom were killed shortly afterwards – went out and carried Sergeant Ayres into a dug-out. A gas shell burst at the mouth of the dug-out, and Sergeant-Major Raynes, once more ran across the open, fetched his own smoke helmet, put it on Sergeant Ayres, and then, himself badly gassed, staggered back to serve his gun. On 12th Oct., 1915, at Quality Street, a house was knocked down by a heavy shell, four men being buried in the house and four in the cellar. The first man rescued was Sergeant-Major Raynes, wounded in the head and leg, but he insisted on remaining under heavy shell fire to assist in the rescue of all the other men. Then, after having his wounds dressed, he reported himself immediately for duty with his Battery, which was again being heavily shelled."
Buried in Harehills Cemetery. 25,000 people attended his funeral including 19 Victoria Cross recipients. His grave was restored in November 2008 by West Yorkshire Police, Leeds North East Division Sports & Social Club and Holbeck Division Sports and Social Club. A ceremony of rededication took place on 13th November 2008.
Medal in the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich.
George Sanders - Corporal
1/7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales Own)
Near Thiepval, France - 17th July 1916
Corporal Sanders and 30 men found themselves isolated after an advance into enemy trenches. He organised his defences, detailed his men and impressed upon them to hold their position at all costs. Next morning he drove of an attack, rescuing some prisoners who had fallen into enemy hands. Two further bombing attacks were resisted. He was relieved after 36 hours. His party had been without food and water having given their water to the wounded.
George Sanders VC died in Leeds in 1950 aged 56. Buried at Cottingley Crematorium, Leeds.
Frederick McNess – Lance Sergeant
Age 24 - 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
Near Ginchy, France – 15th September 1916
Under heavy machine gun fire, Lance-Sergeant McNess, led his men and reached the first line enemy trench. Realising that the left flank was exposed, allowing the enemy to bomb down the trench, with a wounded neck and jaw, Sergeant McNess led a counterattack. He established a ‘block’ until exhausted by loss of blood.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Guards Regimental Headquarters in London.
David Philip Hirsch – Acting Captain
Age 20 - 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales Own)
Wancourt, France – 23rd April 1917
Having arrived at the attacks first objective, Captain Hirsch, although wounded, returned over fire-swept slopes to make sure the defensive flank was being established. Despite intense machine gunfire he moved up and down the line, supporting his men. He stood on the parapet in the face of a counter attack until machine gun fire killed him.
Jack White - Private
Age 20 - 6th Battalion, King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment
Dialah River, Mesopotamia – 27th June 1917
When his pontoon came under heavy machine gun fire every man except Private White was either dead or injured. He tied a telephone wire to the pontoon, jumped overboard and towed it to the shore. An officer’s life was saved.
William Boynton Butler - Private
Age 22 - 17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales Own)
East of Lempire, France – 6th August 1917
In charge of a Stokes gun, Private Butler was being heavily shelled. Suddenly a fly-off lever came off and fired the shell into the emplacement. Private Butler picked up the shell, shouted a warning to the party, put himself between them and the shell, and threw it onto the parades, taking cover. The trench was damaged, Private Butler shaken, and all lives saved.
Buried Hunslet Cemetery, Leeds.
Wilfred Edwards - Private
Age 24 - 7th Battalion, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Langemark, Belgium – 16th August 1917
Under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a concrete fort, Private Edwards dashed forward and at great personal risk, bombed through the loopholes, surmounted the fort and waved his company to advance. Three officers and 30 other ranks were taken prisoner by him in the fort. Later he did his most valuable work as a runner guiding his men through difficult ground.
Medals displayed in Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum, Doncaster, England.
Albert Mountain - Sergeant
Age 22 - 15/17th Battalion Prince of Wales Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
Hamelincourt, France – 26th March 1918
With a party of 10 men he led an attack on en enemy patrol of 200 strong with a Lewis gun, killing half of them. Sergeant McKenna rallied his men in the face of overwhelming number of the main body of the enemy, to cover the retirement of the rest of his company. This party of five held at bay over 600 of the enemy for half an hour. Sergeant Mountain took command of the flank of the battalion, holding on for 27 hours until they finally surrendered.
Buried Lawnswood Crematorium, Leeds
Arthur Poulter - Private
Age 24 - 1/4th Battalion, The Duke of Wellngton’s (West Yorkshire Regiment)
Erguinghem, France – 10th April 1918
Acting as a stretcher –bearer, on ten occasions, Private Poulter carried badly wounded men on his back through particularly heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Two of the wounded were hit a second time whilst on his back. After withdrawal to the river had been ordered Private Poulter, in full view of the enemy carried another man back. He bandaged 40 men under fire and was seriously wounded attempting another rescue in the face of the enemy.
Buried New Wortley Cemetery, Leeds.
Medal in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Museum, Halifax.
Laurence Calvert - Sergeant
Age 26 - 5th Battalion, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Havrincourt, France – 12th September 1918
Alone, Sergeant Calvert rushed forward against two machine gun teams, bayoneted three and shot four. He captured the objective single-handed.
World War One - India
Charles Hull - Private
Age 25 - 21st Lancers (Empress of India’s)
Haliz Kor, North West Frontier, India – 5th September 1915
Private Hull rescued an officer from certain death at the hands of tribesmen. The latter’s horse had been shot and Private Hull took the officer up behind his own horse, under heavy fire at close range, and galloped to safety.
Buried in Woodhouse Cemetery, Leeds.
Medal in the Queen’s Royal Lancers Museum, Belvoir Castle.
Alfred Atkinson - Sergeant
Age 26 - 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales Own)
Battle of Paardeberg, South Africa – 18th February 1900
Sergeant Atkinson went out several times under heavy and close fire to obtain water for the wounded. At the seventh attempt he was wounded in the head and died a few days later.
Charles Ward - Private
Age 22 - 2nd Battalion, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Lindley, South Africa – 26th June 1900
A small body of men, most killed or injured, were surrounded on three sides. There were over 500 Boars. Private Ward volunteered to take a message asking for reinforcements to a signalling post 150 yards away. He was eventually allowed to go, although it seemed certain he would be killed. He managed to get through the storm of bullets, returning injured to his commanding officer. His action saved the post from capture.
Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand
Edward McKenna – Colour Sergeant
Age 36 - 65th Regiment of Foot
Near Cameron Town, New Zealand – 7th September 1863
After both his officers had been shot. McKenna’s brought his small force quickly under his command. They were heavily outnumbered. Despite this they charged through the enemy position with the loss of one man killed and one missing.
Buried aged 79 at Terrace End Cemetery, Palmerston North, New Zealand. He was a father to 13 children.
John Pearson - Private
Age 25 - 8th Hussara (The King’s Royal Irish)
Gwalior, India – 17th June 1858
Charging, under heavy and converging fire, into an enemy camp of two batteries, Private Pearson’s squadron captured two of the enemy guns.