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TO their families, every soldier was a hero. Many showed exemplary courage. Much of it probably is not recorded, but Mail columnist and historian CARL CHINN looks at some of those who received medals in recognition of their conspicuous valour - the Brummie Heroes.

THOMAS George Turrall was a Brummie hero of whom we should be proud and about whom our children should be taught.

Born in Hay Mills and in later life residing at 23, Oakley Road, Small Heath, Thomas Turrall joined the Worcestershire Regiment in the First World War and gained the highest honour for bravery in the British Army when he was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1916 during an action at La Boiselle.

Whilst under fire on 3 July, Private Turrell rescued his wounded officer and carried him to a shell hole where the two of them stayed for three hours.

Turrall then carried his injured comrade back to safety during a British counter attack on the German lines.

The Brummie distinguished himself during the terrible Battle of the Somme, on the first day of which on July 1, 1916, over 57,000 British soldiers became casualties.

In total, ten Brummies were honoured with the Victoria Cross between 1914 and 1918.

Amongst them were Major (acting Lieutenant Colonel) John Neville Marshall MC, late of the Irish Guards and attached to the 16th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

An Acocks Green man, he showed conspicuous bravery, determination and leadership in the attack on the Sambre-Oise Canal on November 4, 1918. On the same day and in a nearby action, similar qualities were displayed by Captain (acting Major) Arnold Horace Santo Waters, DSO, MC of the Royal Engineers.

Although born in Plymouth, Arnold Waters was associated with Four Oaks in Sutton Coldfield.

Second Lieutenant H. James VC from Edgbaston was the final officer amongst the Birmingham men who gained the VC in the First World War. Serving with the 4th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, Second Lieutenant James was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery during the Gallipoli campaign.

On June 28, 1915 and under his own initiative, he gathered a unit to support another part of the regiment - all of the officers of which had been killed during an attack.

Under heavy shell and rifle fire, Second Lieutenant James went forward to the aid of his comrades and then returned with another group.

According to his citation, 'his gallant example put fresh life into the attack.'.

Soon after, on July 3, Second Lieutenant James led a group of bomb throwers up a Turkish communication trench. After nearly all his men had been killed or wounded, he remained alone at the head of the trench and "kept back the enemy single-handed till a barrier had been built behind him and the trench secured".

Throughout this time, James was exposed to "murderous fire".

Three of the other Brummie Victoria Cross holders were sergeants. Ladywood-born Alfred Joseph Knight Despite the fire from the "with great (Amey) forced garrison to neighbouring causing them capitulate, and about 50 prisoners several guns" of the London Regiment was involved in several single-handed actions in which he captured enemy machine gun posts and a farm house on 20 September 1917 at Ypres.

Norman Augustus Finch, of Handsworth and the Royal Marine Artillery, continued to fire his Lewis Gun from the foretop of HMS 'Vindictive' despite his severe wounds and thus saved the lives of many of his comrades on July 22 and 23, 1918.

fierce Germans, bravery the retire to a farm, to capturing And Albert Gill of the King's Royal Rifle Corps was posthumously awarded the VC for his actions on July 27, 1916 at Delville Wood on the Western Front.

That day the Germans made a very strong attack on the right flank of Albert's battalion and succeeded in rushing the bomb post and killing all of the Company Bombers.

Sergeant Gill rallied the remnants of his platoon, none of whom were and machine skilled bombers, and reorganized their defences.

This was a most difficult and dangerous task because the British trench was very shallow and much damaged.

Soon afterwards, the enemy crept through the thick undergrowth, surrounded Sergeant Gill's men and began nipper fire from about 20 yards' range.

Although it was almost certain death, Albert stood up boldly to direct the fire of his men.

Sergeant Gill was killed almost at once but he allowed his men to hold up the enemy advance and so saved a very dangerous situation. There is a memorial to Sergeant Gill where he had worked, at the Post Office in Key Hill, Hockley.

Two more of the bravest of the brave were lance corporals.

The first was Lance Corporal Alfred Wilcox of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who led attacks which captured four enemy machine gun posts.

From Aston, Alfred gained his honour on September 12, 1914 near Laventie, France.

The second was Lance Corporal William Amey. Serving with the 1/8th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Amey from Duddeston won the VC on November 4, 1918, just days before the end of the war.

During the attack on Landrecies, a heavy fog meant that the leading British troops were not able to 'mop up' a number German machine gun positions. Losing touch with his company, Amey attached his section to another which was held up by heavy machine gun fire from the enemy.

On his own initiative, he led his section in an attack on a machine gun nest.

Despite the fierce fire from the Germans, "with great bravery he forced the garrison to retire to a neighbouring farm, causing them to capitulate, and capturing about 50 prisoners and several machine guns".

Following this, the valiant Brummie single-handedly attacked another machine gun post in another farm house: "exposed to heavy fire, he advanced unhesitatingly, killed two of the garrison and drove the remainder into a cellar until assistance arrived".

Lance Corporal Amey's gallantry was not ended. On his own, he attacked a heavily-defended chateau in Fauborg Soyers which was holding up the line of advance.

With "determination and disregard of personal safety, he rushed the chateau, killed two Germans and held up the remainder till reinforced".

A further 20 prisoners were captured and the last opposition in the sector was cleared away. It was declared that Lance Corporal Amey's conduct had been of the highest type and was beyond praise.

John King tells me that of these valiant men, Alfred Wilcox lies in an unmarked grave.

He feels that this is shameful on the city and that there should be a monument to all of the brave Brummie VC holders and also a display area devoted to them in the Museum and Art Gallery. I agree wholeheartedly.

Sergeant Clarence Steane of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment won the Military Medal during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, when he showed conspicuous bravery in holding a barricade in a captured enemy trench, despite repeated German counter attacks.

He was then wounded on August 18 and two days later wrote to his mother and father, telling them not to worry.

On August 22 a telegram arrived at the family home in Bromsgrove Street stating that Clarence was very ill and that if they were able to make it, his parents could visit him at the Number 18 General Hospital in France.

Sadly, on August 24, Clarence died of his wounds. He never knew that he was to be awarded the Military Medal.

He was aged 22 and is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, France.


onJuly 3, group kept tilla been built behind trench secured". September 1917 at Ypres. NormanAugustus Handsworth and the Marine Artillery, to fire his Lewis from the foretop HMS 'Vindictive' despite his wounds saved the many of comrades and 23, And Albert the King's Corps was awarded for his actions on 1916 at Delville Wood Western Front. That day the Germans strong attack on the right Despite the fierce fire from the Germans, "with great bravery (Amey) forced the garrison to retire to a neighbouring farm, causing them to capitulate, and capturing about 50 prisoners and several machine guns"


A postcard depicting a scene with Sergeant Alfred Knight (right) single-handedly capturing an enemy stronghold; and family and friends pay their respects at the

Main picture, George Thomas Turrall; above, a memorial to Victoria Cross hero Alfred Wilcox who is buried somewhere in Aston Parish Church; and, below, Albert Gill, Norman Finch and Alfred Wilcox Alfred W bu buri ried ed som ome
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 15, 2014

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