The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" to members of the British armed forces.

The first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857 to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times

Victoria cross commemoration

The Government is working with local authorities across the Country on a programme to commemorate all Victoria Cross recipients of the First World War who were born in the UK, by presenting a commemorative paving stone in the town of their birth.

The paving stone, designed by Charlie MacKeith from London, uses the material, form and lettering used in memorials by the War Graves Commission. Each engraved paving stone will also incorporate an electronic reader which can be scanned to give more information about the local Victoria Cross recipient.

Recipients to be honoured

In Kirklees, two men, SGT John William Ormsby and PTE Horace Waller, who were born in the area were both awarded the Victoria Cross in April 1917. It is therefore expected that the paving stones will be delivered and installed in 2017.

SGT John William Ormsby

Awarded the Victoria Cross for Service/Deed on 14th April 1917 in Fayet, France.

  • MM: 2nd Battalion, The King's Own Light Infantry
  • Born: 11th January 1881 in Dewsbury
  • Died: 29th July 1952 aged 71 at his home in Dewsbury
  • Buried: Dewsbury Cemetery

Extract from The London Gazette, 8 June 1917 stated:

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty ( Fayet, France ) during operations which culminated in the capture of an important position. Acting as Company Serjeant-Major he showed throughout the attack absolute indifference to the heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and set a fine example.

After clearing the village he pushed on and drove out many snipers from localities further forward. When the only surviving officer was wounded he took command of the company and led them forward under heavy fire for 400 yards to a new position. He organised his new position with great skill and held his line with determination until relieved of his command.

His conduct throughout was admirable and inspired confidence in every man under his command"

After Requiem Mass at St Paulinus Church on the day of his funeral, the coffin was taken by army truck to Dewsbury cemetery, where he was given a full military funeral and around six hundred people lined the route. A firing party from the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Barracks at Strensall, near York, fired three volleys over the grave and the Last Post and Reveille were played.

His medals are now on display at The Kings Own Light Infantry Museum in Doncaster

PTE Horace Waller

Awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for "gallantry in the face of the enemy" awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

  • MM: 10th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • Born: 23 September 1896 in Batley Carr
  • Died: 10 April 1917 Age 20 in Heninel, France
  • Buried: Cojeul British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

As a 20 year-old private in the 10th Service Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, British Army during the First World War, Waller was awarded a Victoria Cross for his valiant actions on 10 April 1917 south of Heninel, France. During the day, Waller continued for more than an hour to throw bombs and held off enemy attack. In the evening the enemy again counter-attacked and eventually killed Waller.

Extract from The London Gazette, 8 June 1917 stated:

"For most conspicuous bravery when with a bombing section forming a block in the enemy line. A very violent counter-attack was made by the enemy on this post, and although five of the garrison were killed, Pte. Waller continued for more than an hour to throw bombs, and finally repulsed the attack. In the evening the enemy again counter-attacked the post and all the garrison became casualties, except Pte. Waller, who, although wounded later, continued to throw bombs for another half an hour until he was killed. Throughout these attacks he showed the utmost valour, and it was due to his determination that the attacks on this important post were repulsed."

Other Victoria Cross recipients with Kirklees connections

Although not born in Kirklees, the following men, SGT Charles Harry Coverdale and PTE Ernest Sykes, who were both awarded the Victoria Cross, later lived and died in Huddersfield. They are commemorated on a plaque inside Huddersfield Town Hall.

SGT Charles Harry Coverdale

Awarded the Victoria Cross for deed/service on 4th October 1917 at Poelcapelle, Belgium

  • MM: 11th Battalion, The Manchester Regimenty
  • Born: 21st April 1888 in Manchester
  • Died: 20th November 1955 in Huddersfield
  • Buried: Edgerton Cemetery, Huddersfield

Coverdale was 29 years old, and a sergeant in the 11th Battalion,The Manchester Regiment, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 4 October 1917 south-west of Poelcapelle, Belgium, when close to the objective, Sergeant Coverdale disposed of three snipers. He then rushed two machine-guns, killing or wounding the teams. He subsequently reorganised his platoon in order to capture another position, but after getting within 100 yards of it was held up by our own barrage and had to return. Later he went out again with five men to capture the position, but when he saw a considerable number of the enemy advancing, withdrew his detachment man by man, he himself being the last to retire.

He later also received the Military Medal and achieved the rank of second lieutenant with the Manchester Regiment. He lived in Dalton until his death in 1955 and is buried in Edgerton Cemetery.

PTE Ernest Sykes

Awarded the Victoria Cross for deed/service on 9th April at Arras, France

  • MM: 27th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
  • Born: 4th April 1885 in Mossley, Saddleworth
  • Died: 3rd August 1949 in Lockwood, Huddersfield
  • Buried: Lockwood Cemetery, Huddersfield

Sykes was 32 years old, and a private in the 27th (Service) Battalion (4th Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917 near Arras, France for which he was awarded the VC. His battalion in attack was held up by intense fire from front and flank, and suffered heavy casualties. Private Sykes, despite this heavy fire, went forward and brought back four wounded. He then made a fifth journey and remained out under conditions which appeared to be certain death, until he had bandaged all those too badly injured to be moved.

His VC citation reads:

These gallant actions, performed under incessant machine gun and rifle fire, showed an utter contempt of danger.

During the Second World War Sykes returned to serve with the 25th Battalion West Riding Home Guard.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum, Alnwick, Northumberland, England. He is honoured with a Blue Plaque at the George Lawton Hall in Mossley. An additional Blue Plaque has been placed where he worked at Mossley railway station.