Today in WW1: Stretcher-bearer wins the VC

George William Burdett Clare took part in actions in France which would win him the Victoria Cross.

Clare, who was born in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, on May 18, 1889, was a 28-year-old private in the 5th Lancers (Royal Irish).

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on November 28/29, 1917 at Bourlon Wood, France, during the Battle of Cambrai, at which he was killed.

This photograph, taken earlier this year, shows his name on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing at Louverval.


The citation for his VC, which was published in the London Gazette on January 8, 1918, reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, acting as a stretcher-bearer during a most intense and continuous enemy bombardment, Pte. Clare dressed and conducted wounded over the open to the dressing-station about 500 yards away. At one period when all the garrison of a detached post, which was lying out in the open about 150 yards to the left of the line occupied, had become casualties, he crossed the intervening space, which was continually swept by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, and having dressed all the cases, manned the post single-handed till a relief could be sent. Pte. Clare then carried a seriously wounded man through intense fire to cover, and later succeeded in getting him to the dressing station. At the dressing-station he was told that the enemy was using gas shells to a large extent in the valley below, and as the wind was blowing the gas towards the line of trenches and shell-holes occupied, he started on the right of the line and personally warned every company post of the danger, the whole time under shell and rifle fire. This very gallant soldier was subsequently killed by a shell.”

Today in WW1: A tank commander’s VC

Wales-born Richard William Leslie Wain was awarded the Victoria Cross after his actions on November 20, 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai.

Born in Penarth, near Cardiff, Wain had fought on the first day of the Battle of the Somme with the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

He had been wounded during the fighting for the village of Montauban.

He later joined the Heavy Section of the Machine Gun Corps which was equipped with tanks and took part in the Battle of Messines in June 1917.

In November 1917, aged 20, he was a section commander and acting captain in A Battalion, Tank Corps, when he took part in fighting at Marcoing, near Cambrai.

The citation for his Victoria Cross reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery in command of a section of Tanks. During an attack the Tank in which he was, was disabled by a direct hit near an enemy strong point which was holding up the attack. Capt. Wain and one man, both seriously wounded, were the only survivors. Though bleeding profusely from his wounds, he refused the attention of stretcher-bearers, rushed from behind the Tank with a Lewis gun, and captured the strong point, taking about half the garrison prisoners. Although his wounds were very serious he picked up a rifle and continued to fire at the retiring enemy until he received a fatal wound in the head. It was due to the valour displayed by Capt. Wain that the infantry were able to advance.”

This photograph, taken earlier this year, shows his name on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing.



Today in WW1: A VC on Hill 70

Frederick Henry Johnson led several charges on positions on Hill 70 on September 25, 1915, for which he was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

A second lieutenant in the 73rd Field Coy., Corps of Royal Engineers, Johnson was 25 years old at the time of the attack which was part of the Battle of Loos.

The citation for his VC was published in in the London Gazette on November 16, 1915. It reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the attack on Hill 70 on 25 September 1915. Second Lieutenant Johnson was with a section of his company of the Royal Engineers. Although wounded in the leg, he stuck to his duty throughout the attack, led several charges on the German redoubt, and at a very critical time, under very heavy fire, repeatedly rallied the men who were near him. By his splendid example and cool courage he was mainly instrumental in saving the situation and in establishing firmly his part of the position which had been taken. He remained at his post until relieved in the evening.”

Johnson later achieved the rank of major but was killed in action in Bourlon Wood, France, on November 26, 1917.

This photograph, taken earlier this year, shows his name on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing.