Call to honour VC heroes

L/Cpl Thomas Bryan receives his VC from King George V
L/Cpl Thomas Bryan receives his VC from King George V
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All 16 Victoria Cross recipients with connections to South Yorkshire should be recognised in a new Government scheme - not just those from World War One, a Sheffield armed forces campaigner has urged.

Plans have been announced to honour men who won Victoria Crosses in the 1914-18 conflict with commemorative paving stones in the areas where they were born.

The Government will bear the cost of the scheme, which will see monuments established in Sheffield to mark the bravery of William Allen, John Raynes and William Loosemore - all of whom were born in the city before serving gallantly in the trenches.

The initiative is part of efforts to mark the centenary of World War One next year.

But Retired Col Geoffrey Norton, president of Hallamshire Battalion Association York and Lancaster Regiment, believes the scheme should be extended.

He says servicemen who received the VC - Britain’s highest honour for courage under enemy fire - from other conflicts should be included, too.

South Yorkshire recipients also won the award in the 19th century, World War Two and the Falklands War.

Col Norton said: “The project to honour those who received the VC in World War One is an excellent one but each town and city ought to honour all its holders of the Victoria Cross.

“In Sheffield, we have all sorts of people honoured with a star on the Walk of Fame outside the Town Hall for many reasons - but none of them have ever won the Victoria Cross.

“It’s a pity the Government isn’t offering the funding to bring this scheme up to date so all winners can be included.

“I think all 16 men with South Yorkshire connections should be celebrated and remembered regardless of when they won their VC.

“As the Government decides who should be awarded the VC, the Government should be able to fund a proper commemoration of those given it.”

Twelve of the 16 Victoria Cross holders with South Yorkshire connections received their awards for bravery in World War One.

Remarkably, all but one of them survived feats such as rescuing wounded colleagues under hails of bullets and shellfire.

Arnold Loosemore’s VC came from single-handedly killing 23 of the enemy in Belgium and managing to rescue an injured comrade in the same incident.

At the time, he was a 21-year-old Private but rose to the rank of Sergeant.

He received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for other acts of heroism later in the war.

Back home in Sheffield after the war, there was a public appeal run by Sheffield Rotary Club to buy him and his family a bungalow and a pony and trap.

But Sgt Loosemore died in 1924, aged just 27, due to injuries dating back to the war. He is buried at Ecclesall Cemetery.

After Sgt Loosemore’s death, the Government refused to support his widow Ann and their three-year-old son on the grounds she had been aware of his injuries when she married him in 1920, and he was no longer a serving soldier at that time.

His penniless widow was even sent the bill for the lavish funeral by Sheffield Council.

The earliest local VC winner was Lieutenant George Lambert, of the 84th Regiment of Foot, awarded the VC for numerous acts of bravery in the Indian Mutiny, including bayonet charges against insurgents.

He died at Hillsborough Barracks in 1860, where he was based at the time, and is buried at Wardsend.

There are also two servicemen from South Yorkshire awarded VCs during World War Two - Corporal John Harper, of the York and Lancaster Regiment, and Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

Both were killed carrying out the brave deeds which won them the VC.

The same fate was met by South Yorkshire’s most recent winner of the award, Sgt Ian McKay, of Third Battalion the Parachute Regiment, killed in the Falklands War in 1982.

■ Yorkshire VCs, by Alan Whitworth, has full details of local winners.

The book is published by Pen and Sword, Barnsley, priced £19.99. Visit www.pen-and-sword.co.uk