• Corporal John Davies VC

    I was delighted to join the family of Corporal John Davies VC alongside the Mayor and many others including local branches of the Royal British Legion, military personnel, local veterans, support group SAMS and local councillors at the St Helens Cenotaph to attend the unveiling of a commemorative paving stone for his courageous actions for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

    Corporal Davies – known locally as Jack – was among the first to volunteer for the 11th (Service) Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, more commonly known as the St Helens Pals.

    He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, returning to active duties after recovering on both occasions.

    On 24 March 1918, Corporal Davies was manning a section of the front near the French village of Eppeville. The following extract from his Victoria Cross citation tells the story of his incredible gallantry, unwavering bravery and total dedication to his comrades:

    “When his company—outflanked on both sides—received orders to withdraw, Corporal Davies knew that the only line of withdrawal lay through a deep stream lined with a belt of barbed wire, and that it was imperative to hold up the enemy as long as possible.

    “He mounted the parapet, fully exposing himself, in order to get a more effective field of fire, and kept his Lewis gun in action to the last, causing the enemy many casualties and checking their advance.

    “By his very great devotion to duty he enabled part of his company to get across the river, which they would otherwise have been unable to do, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of his comrades.

    “When last seen this gallant N.C.O. was still firing his gun, with the enemy close on the top of him, and was in all probability killed at his gun.”

    Incredibly, Corporal Davies survived the assault and was taken as a prisoner. After the War, he returned to St Helens where he lived with his family for the rest of his life. In response to being asked about his heroism, Corporal Davies replied, “I was doing my duty”.

    The people of St Helens will never forget the incredible bravery shown by Corporal Davies or the countless others from our borough who made the ultimate sacrifice.