By victoriagreen068, Apr 21 2015 05:09AM
The VC diary for 21st April contains 5 recipients of the highest award for gallantry including three Great War recipients, a recipient from the Second Afghan War, and one of the last Victoria Crosses of the Second World War, and it is with him that the diary begins.
Edward Colquhoun Charlton VC was born in Rowlands Gill, County Durham in 1920. He was a Guardsman in the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards during the Second World War. On 21st April 1945 Charlton was the co-driver of one tank of a troop that was supporting an infantry platoon. They occupied the village of Wistedt, Germany, which the German army then attempted to re-take. The numerically superior German forces consisted largely of officer cadets under the command of experienced instructor officers, supported by two or three self-propelled guns. Three of the four Irish Guards tanks were badly hit, while Charlton’s had been disabled by a complete electrical failure before the attack began. Charlton was then ordered to dismount the turret 0.30 Browning gun and support the infantry. Charlton, on his own authority, took the machine gun and in full view of the enemy, firing the weapon from his hip as he did so, inflicted heavy German casualties. The lead German company was halted and this allowed the rest of the Guards respite in which to reorganise and retire. He continued his bold attack, despite a wound to the arm. He placed the machine gun on a fence and launched another attack until his arm was hit again, becoming shattered and useless. Charlton, with just one usable arm, continued to fire until a further wound and loss of blood saw him collapse. He later died of his wounds, and is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery, Germany. He was the last Victoria Cross of the European theatre in WWII. His medals are displayed at the Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London.
Sir Garrett O’Moore Creagh VC was born in Cahirbane, County Clare, Ireland in 1848. He was the eighth son of Captain James Creagh RN and his wife Grace O’Moore. In 1866, after military training at Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot and in 1869 was posted to India, being transferred to the British Indian Army the next year. On 21st April 1879 at Kam Dakka, on the Kabul River, Afghanistan, he was detached from Dakka from two companies of his Battalion to protect the village against a threatened incursion of the Mohmunds, and reached that place the same night. They were then attacked by a force of 1,500 Mohmunds, outnumbering Creagh’s force of 150 men. Creagh found himself needing to retire from the village. He took up a position in a cemetery, and he held the position against several enemy assaults until 3pm the following afternoon, when he was relieved. Creagh died in South Kensington, London in 1923 and was buried in East Sheen Cemetery. His medals are held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea.
Benjamin Handley Geary VC was born in Marylebone, London in 1891. He was educated at Dulwich College Prep School and St Edmund’s School, Canterbury, then went to Keble College, Oxford in 1910. After graduating, he taught in Walthamstow until the outbreak of WWI. He was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment. On 20th-21st April 1915 on Hill 60, near Ypres, Belgium, he held the left crater with his platoon. The crater came under heavy artillery bombardment which broke down the defences, and afterwards throughout the night to repeated bomb attacks which filled it with dead and wounded. Each attack was repulsed largely due to the gallantry of Geary. He used a rifle and several hand grenades and exposed himself to enemy fire on a regular basis. He was severely wounded in the action. He was evacuated to England where he lost the sight in his left eye. He later became a priest and served as a Chaplain to the Forces from 1926-1927. He then resigned and emigrated to Canada. During WWII, he served with the Canadian Army and achieved the rank of Major. He died in 1976 and is buried in St Mark’s Cemetery, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. His medals are displayed at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.
Charles Melvin VC was born in Craig, Angus, Scotland in 1885. On 21st April 1917, Private Melvin’s company had advanced to within 50 yards of the front line trench of a redoubt, where, owing to the intensity of the enemy’s fire, the men were forced to lie down and wait for reinforcements. Melvin, however, rushed on alone, over ground swept by rifle and machine gun fire. On reaching the enemy trench, he halted and fired two or three shots into it, killing one or two of the enemy, but as the others in the trench continued to fire at him, he jumped into it, and attacked them with his bayonet in his hand, as due to damage to his rifle, it was not “fixed”. On being attacked, most of the enemy retreated to their second trench, but not before Melvin had killed two more and succeeded in disarming 8 more. He then drove the eight prisoners, and supported the wounded prisoner out of trench and took them to an officer and handed them over. He died in 1941 and is buried in Kirriemuir Cemetery, Angus, Scotland. His medals are held by the Black Watch Museum, Perth, Scotland.
Geoffrey Woolley VC, OBE, MC was born in Bethnal Green, London in 1892. He was the son of a clergyman, the Reverend George Herbert Woolley, the curate of St Matthew’s, Upper Clapton and his wife Sarah. He had 7 sisters and 3 brothers, including the famous archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley and George Cathcart Woolley, a colonial administrator. He was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford and seemed destined to follow his father into the Church, when WWI broke out. He obtained a commission into the Queen Victoria Rifles of the London Regiment. His regiment were posted to the Ypres Salient and it was there on Hill 60 that Woolley received the VC for his actions on the night of the 20th-21st April 1915. He was the only officer on the hill at the time, and with very few men, successfully resisted all attacks on his trench, and continued throwing bombs and encouraging the men until relieved. He was promoted to Captain two days later. He later saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres before being invalided home suffering from poison gas and psychological effects. When he recovered, he was appointed as an instructor at the Officer’s Training School. He then returned to the Western Front in 1916 as a General Staff Officer, and was awarded the MC in the King’s Birthday Honours after the War in 1919. After the war, he returned to his studies at Oxford and was ordained in 1920 and took a teaching post at Rugby School. In 1923, he resigned his commission and became vicar of Monk Sherborne, Hampshire, before being chaplain at Harrow. During WWII, he was commissioned into the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department and was appointed OBE in 1943 for his service in North Africa. His son, Rollo, a Spitfire pilot, was posted to North Africa in the same month, and was killed in action over Tunis in December 1943. He then returned to the UK and served as a vicar in Harrow on the Hill, and as rector in West Grinstead, Sussex until his retirement in 1958. He died 10 years later in 1968, and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, West Chiltington, West Sussex. His medals are not publicly held.