Local VC's and Cemeteries
Within a two mile radius of Chavasse Farm are the locations of the Action Sites of nine men awarded the VC. Close to the Farm in Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries four men are buried who were awarded the VC. Some of the Action Sites and cemeteries are within walking distance others are a short drive by car. Information sheets with trench maps are available for all the men, which include walks to the VC Action sites and cemeteries. Please see below for details on these gallant men.
The first man to be awarded the VC in the area was Sergeant William Boulter, 6th Northamptons, 18th (Eastern) Division, at Trones Wood on the 14th July 1916. When his company and part of another were held up by a hostile machine gun which was causing heavy casualties, sergeant Boulter in spite of being severely wounded in the shoulder, advanced alone under heavy fire in front of the machine gun and bombed the enemy gun team from their position. This gallant act not only saved many men in his company but allowed Trones Wood to be finally cleared of enemy securing the right flank of the whole assaulting force.
The next man to be awarded the VC in the area two weeks later was CSM George Evans, 18th Manchester's, 30th Division on the 30th July 1916. During the planned attack on Guillemont, when under heavy rifle and machine gun fire CSM Evans volunteered to take back an important message after five runners had been killed in attempting the same task. He covered 700 yards under observation from the enemy. CSM Evans succeeded in delivering the message and although wounded he rejoined his company crossing back across the 700 yards under severe rifle and machine gun fire, by dodging from shell hole to shell hole. He was taken prisoner with the remnants of his company several hours later.
It was now the 55th Divisions turn to take the line in front of Guillemont and on the 8th August the Division attacked. It was during this advance that 2Lt Gabriel George Coury, 1/4th South Lancashire the 55th Divisions Pioneer Battalion, was in charge of half a pioneer company, his orders were to dig a communication trench in the area of Arrow Head Copse forward to the new captured line. During this task he not only encouraged his own men but rallyed retireing troops under very heavy fire. At the same time he was able to rescue, at great personal risk to his own life Major J L Swainson CO of the 1/4th Kings Own, who unfortunately died of wounds. He then re-organised his position and subsequently defeated German counter attacks.
The next day a fresh attack was launched by the 55th Division, the 1/10th Liverpool Scottish took part in the assault, the battalion made four gallant charges under intense machine gun fire onto the enemy wire and suffered heavily, many of the officers were hit and it was during this period that Capt Chavasse of the R.A.M.C. attached to the Liverpool Scottish began his work in saving the lives of his Battalion. His gallantry was to earn him the first of two victoria Crosses. During the attack he tended the wounded in the open all day under heavy fire in view of the enemy, during the night he searched for wounded on the ground in front of the enemy's lines for four hours. Next day he took a stretcher-bearer and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case for 500 yards into safety, being wounded himself during the journey. That night he took up twenty volunteers and rescued three men twenty-five yards from the enemy trenches buried two officers and collected many identity discs.
On September 3rd 1916 the village of Guillemont was finally captured, during the fierce fighting three men won the VC, the first was Pte. Thomas Hughes of the 6th Connaught Rangers, 16th Irish Division. Pte Hughes account of the action goes as follows: We went over the top. After being hit in four different places, I noticed a machine-gun firing in the German lines. So I rushed up, shot both the chaps on the gun and brought it back. I remember no more until I found myself down in the dressing station. PS. I forgot to mention I brought four German prisoners with the gun. He was awarded his VC by the King in June 1917, still suffering from his wounds and on crutches.
The second man to be awarded the VC for the days fighting was Lt John Vincent Holland of the 7th Leinsters, 16th Irish Division. The Leinsters assault was led by Lt Holland the battalion bombing officer with 26 men he fearlessly attacked hostile dug-outs within his objective then led his bombers through our own artillery barrage and continued to clear a large part of the village. He started with 26 men and finnished with 5, capturing 50 prisoners.
The last man to be awarded the VC for the action starting the 3rd September was Sergt David Jones, 12th Kings Liverpool Reg, 20th Light Division. His citation reads: "For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and ability displayed in the handling of his platoon. The which he belonged was ordered to a forward position, and during the advance came under heavy machine-gun fire, the officer being killed and the platoon suffering heavy losses. Sergt Jones led forward the remainder, occupied the position and held it for two days and two nights without food or water until relieved. On the second day he drove back three counter-attacks inflicting heavy losses". Sergt Jones was killed in action on the 7th October 1916.
The next man to be awarded the VC in the vicinity of Hardecourt wasn't until march 1918 during the German Spring Offensive. On the 24th March the 12th Highland Light Infantry under the command of Lt. Col. William Anderson found themselves defending the area of Hardecourt, Bois Faviere and Maricourt. During the morning of the 25th the enemy attacked in force from Hardecourt and pushed the HLI back into part of Bois Faviere, realizing the seriousness of the situation Anderson moved forward and led a counter-attack pushing back the enemy and capturing 12 machine-guns and 70 prisoners. Later in the day the enemy attacked again and pushed the HLI back as far as Maricourt Wood, Lt Col Anderson once again organized a counter-attack and led it from the front pushing back the enemy who fled towards Hardecourt, however Lt Col Anderson was killed on the final objective, he is buried close by in Peronne Road Cemetery.
The last man to be awarded the VC in the vicinity of Hardecourt during the advance to the Hindenburg Line in August 1918 was L/Cpl Bernard Gordon 41st Bn (Queensland) A.I.F. 3rd Australian Division. The action took place in the area of Fargny Wood, just over a mile south of Hardecourt, his citation reads: "He Led his section through heavy shell fire to the objective, which he consolidated. Single-handed he attacked an enemy machine-gun which was enfilading his company, killed the man on the gun and captured the post, which contained one officer and ten men. he then cleared up a trench, captured twenty-two prisoners, including one officer and three machine-guns. Practically unaided he captured, in the course of these operations, two officers and sixty-one other ranks, together with six machine-guns". L/Cpl Gordon was also awarded the MM for his actions on the 8th August.
Cemeteries within two miles that contain the last resting place of men who were awarded the VC include: 2Lt George Cates The Rifle Brigade awarded the VC East of Bouchavesnes for saving the lives of his comrades by placing his foot over an exploding bomb, and Pte Robert Mactier 23rd Battalion A.I.F. awarded for single-handedly capturing several enemy machine-gun positions on Mont St Quentin, Peronne,both are buried in Hem Farm Cemetery.
Sergt Albert Gill VC K.R.R.C awarded the VC for his actions in Delville Wood on the 27th July 1916 and he now rests in Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval. In Peronne Road Cemetery lies Lt Col Anderson VC (see above for details of the action).