b. 28/12/1876 Devonport, Devon. d. 27/02/1965 Brighton, Sussex.
John James Crowe (1876-1965) was born in the Female Garrison Hospital, Devonport, Devon on 28th December 1876. He was the son of John James Crowe of County Wicklow, Ireland, who had served as a Private with the 36th Worcestershire Regiment. When his Colonel retired he asked Crowe to help him run his estate in Baltinglas, County Wicklow. This was where John Crowe junior learnt to use a rifle to shoot rabbits and to fish.
On 1st July 1897, John enlisted with the Worcestershire Regiment in Dublin and served in the ranks for nearly 18 years before becoming Regimental Sergeant Major. He married Margaret Ellen Langran in Dublin on 3rd February 1902 and his family lived in the married quarters as he moved from post to post.
In 1914 Crowe’s family set up home in Brighton at 120 Upper Lewes Road and later at Dudley House, Dudley, Brighton. During the war Crowe’s parents lived at 28 Dorset Street, Reading, and each of their five sons all served. On 13th August 1914 Crowe’s battalion, the 3rd Worcestershires, with whom he had served for ten years, left Tidworth for France, reaching Rouen on 16th August. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 1st April 1918.
On the 14th April 1918 he transferred to the 2nd Worcestershire Battalion. This was the same day as his VC action. On 14th April 1918 at Neuve Eglise, Belgium, when the enemy, having attacked a post in a village, broke past on the high ground and established a machine-gun and snipers, Second Lieutenant Crowe, with two NCOs and seven men twice engaged the enemy who on each occasion withdrew into the village, followed by the lieutenant firing on them. On the second occasion, taking only two men, he attacked two enemy machine-guns killing both gunners and several more of the enemy. The remainder withdrew, allowing him to capture the two guns. His actions during this incident resulted in Crowe being awarded the Victoria Cross.
Crowe was appointed Acting Captain on 26th May 1918, and received his VC from King George V at Blendecques, 40 miles north-east of St Omer, France on 6th August 1918. Crowe finally retired from the Army in 1920, after 23 years of service. His penultimate job was Adjutant at the Folkestone disembarkation camp, followed by a spell of duty in Ireland. Crowe was an excellent shot and had won prizes at Bisley and in other shooting competitions.
During his long service with the Army he had served in the three Regular Battalions, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Worcestershire Regiment. He served in India for many years and managed to remain unscathed in the Great War. When he was awarded the VC he was 41 years of age and a holder of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. On 23rd August 1919 a Victory Parade was held in the city of Worcester and Crowe was one of four VC holders who guarded a temporary cenotaph at Worcester Cathedral.
He later lived in Brighton and had four children. He held the job of school attendance officer for Brighton Corporation for 22 years. He often used to help sell poppies and one of his pitches was Victoria Station in London. In 1925, his wife sued him for desertion, as the couple had lived apart for at least two years. The story appeared in the News of the World. From 1928, Crowe lived at 16 McWilliam Road in Brighton and became a keen gardener. His wife predeceased him in 1960 and he had a son, Jack, who lived in Australia, and three daughters. He died at the age of 88 at Brighton General Hospital on 27th February 1965. His funeral on 4th March 1965 was followed by cremation at the Downs Crematorium, Brighton.
In 1971, his eight medals including the VC and French Croix de Guerre, were presented to the Worcestershire Regiment, and replicas are displayed at the Regimental Museum in Worcester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, WORCESTER.
BURIAL PLACE: DOWNS CREMATORIUM, BRIGHTON, SUSSEX. ASHES SCATTERED IN GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE.
John Crowe's medals including his VC and First World War campaign medals on display at Worcestershire Regiment Museum, Worcester (October 2014).
Investiture by King George V
Memorial at the Maire Bridge, France (Sam Eedle)
Crowe's VC stone in Plymouth