Families of Great War heroes join county salute to forces
Descendants of three Great War heroes from Nottinghamshire will help launch a new exhibition about their ancestors and their awe-inspiring acts of bravery as part of Armed Forces Day events to salute British military personnel, past and present.
The exhibition, which will tour venues across Nottinghamshire from next month, honors the six Nottinghamshire men who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their outstanding bravery during World War I (1914-1918).
Those featured include Sapper William Hackett, who gave up his own life to stay with a stricken comrade as they tunnelled under no man's land, fighter-ace Captain Albert Ball, who was regarded as one of the great British pilots of the First World War and Sergeant William Johnson, who single-handedly charged at and captured two machine gun emplacements, despite being severely wounded
The Victoria Cross is the highest military honour and is only awarded in the most exceptional circumstances, for "…most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."
The six Nottinghamshire men who received the Victoria Cross for their actions during the Great War were:
Descendants of Sergeant Johnson, Sapper Hackett and Captain Ball will be at County Hall for the launch of the exhibition on Monday 25 June, as Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham City Council jointly mark Armed Forces Day. The event will also include the unveiling of the design of a new Great War memorial, which will bear the names of the 14,000 men and women from Nottinghamshire who gave their lives for their country in World War I.
The launch of the exhibition will follow a special ceremony for Armed Forces Day, featuring veterans and members of the Army Cadet Force, Sea Cadets and Air Training Corps, culminating in the raising of the Armed Forces Day Flag over County Hall.
The Great War Victoria Cross exhibition will tour libraries and public events across the county. It will include a replica of the Victoria Cross and information about other medals awarded for service during the Great War. People can see the exhibition at:
- Nottinghamshire Archives, Nottingham, 3-6 July 2018
- Rufford Country Park, 11 July 2018 (Great War Heritage Day)
- West Bridgford Library, 16-20 July 2018
- Mansfield Museum, 23 July - 3 August 2018
- Hucknall Library, 6-10 August 2018
- Kirkby-in-Ashfield Library, 3-7 September 2018
- Worksop Library, 1-10 October (as part of Bassetlaw District Council exhibition linked to Sgt Johnson)
- Newark Library, 15-19 October 2018
- Mansfield Central Library, 22-26 October 2018
- Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, 4 November 2018 (Britten's War Requiem)
- Southwell Minster, 5-8 November 2018 (Commemoration service)
- County Hall, West Bridgford, 9-11 November (Armistice Day)
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The Great War was an horrific conflict which claimed the lives of over 18 million people, with many more wounded. But amid the tragedy, there were numerous acts of incredible bravery and sacrifice - none more so than those displayed by the six Nottinghamshire recipients of the Victoria Cross - our country's highest military honour.
“The people of Nottinghamshire will get the opportunity to learn more about and be inspired by their heroism by visiting this exhibition as it tours the county on the run up to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. The accounts of their courageous, often selfless acts, are both awe-inspiring and emotional.
“I am delighted that the descendants of Sergeant Johnson, Sapper Hackett and Captain Ball are able to join us for the launch, to share memories and express their pride about the bravery and sacrifice their ancestors displayed in service of their country."
Further information about the Victoria Cross, Nottinghamshire recipients from the Great War and other events to mark the centenary is available at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/nottsremembers
Nottinghamshire’s Great War Victoria Cross recipients
Sergeant William Henry Johnson VC, served in the 1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters. Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (11 December 1918): “For most conspicuous bravery at Ramicourt on 3rd October, 1918. When his Platoon was held up by a nest of enemy machine guns at very close range. Sgt. Johnson worked his way forward under very heavy fire, and single-handed charged the post, bayoneting several gunners and capturing two machine guns. During this attack he was severely wounded by a bomb, but continued to lead forward his men.
“Shortly afterwards, the line was once more held up by machine guns. Again he rushed forward and attacked the post single-handed. With wonderful courage he bombed the garrison, put the guns out of action, and captured the teams.
“He showed throughout the most exceptional gallantry and devotion to duty.”
Sapper William Hackett VC, served in the 254th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (5 August 1916): “On 22 and 23 June, 1916, at the Shaftsbury Avenue, nr Givenchy. For most conspicuous bravery, when entombed with four others in a gallery owing to the explosion of an enemy mine. After working for 20 hours, a hole was made through fallen earth and broken timber, and the outside party was met. Sapper Hackett helped three of the man through the hole and could easily have followed, but refused to leave the fourth, who had been seriously injured saying: “I am a Tunneller, I must look after the others first."
“Meantime the hole was getting smaller yet he still refused to leave his injured comrade. Finally, the gallery collapsed, and though the rescue party worked desperately for four days, the attempt to reach the two men failed. Sapper Hackett, well knowing the nature of sliding earth and the chances against him, deliberately gave his life for his comrade.”
Colonel Sir Charles Geoffrey Vickers VC, served in the 1/7th Robin Hood Batallion, Sherwood Foresters.
Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (16 November 1915): “On 14th October, 1915, at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, when nearly all his men had been killed or wounded, and there were only two men available to hand him grenades, Captain Vickers held a barrier for some hours against heavy German bomb attacks, regardless of the fact that his own retreat would be cut off, he ordered a second barrier to be built behind him in order to secure the safety of the trench. Finally, he was severely wounded, but not before his courage and determination had enabled the second barrier to be completed.”
Captain Albert Ball VC, served in 7th Robin Hood Battalion, Sherwood Foresters and the Royal Flying Corps.
Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (8 June 1917): “For most conspicuous and consistent bravery from the 25th April to 6th May 1917, during which period Captain Ball took part in twenty-six combats in the air and destroyed eleven hostile aeroplanes, drove down two out of control, and forced several others to land.
“In these combats Captain Ball, flying alone, on one occasion fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British machines he attacked an enemy formation of eight. On each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy. Several times his aeroplane was badly damaged, once so seriously that but for the most delicate handling, his machine would have collapsed, as nearly all the control wires had been shot away. On returning with a damaged machine he had always to be restrained from immediately going up again.
“In all, Captain Ball has destroyed forty-three German aeroplanes and one balloon, and has always displayed most exceptional courage, determination and skill.”
Lance Corporal Wilfrid Dolby Fuller VC, served in 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards.
Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (19 April 1915): “On the 1st March, 1915, at Neuve Chapelle,France, Lance Corporal Fuller saw a party of the enemy trying to escape along a communication trench. He ran towards them, and killed the leading man with a grenade, the remainder (approximately 50 men) seeing no means of evading his grenades, all surrendered to him. Lance Corporal Fuller was quite alone at the time.”
Private Samuel Harvey, served in 1st Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment.
Victoria Cross citation from the London Gazette (November 1915): “On the 29th September, 1915, in the ‘Big Willie’ trench near the Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, during a heavy bombing attack, more bombs were urgently needed. Private Harvey volunteered to run across open ground under intense fire backwards and forwards, and succeeded in bringing up 30 boxes of bombs over a 13 hour period before he fell with a head wound. It was largely due to his cool bravery in supplying the bombs that the enemy was eventually driven back.”