What is the Victoria Cross?

The Victoria Cross is the highest military medal that can be awarded to any soldier of any rank within any regiment for acts of bravery. It is only given to soldiers from Britain, Commonwealth or former British Empire countries. It was first introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of bravery in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856). It is rare to win the medal at all and even rarer to be awarded the medal twice. Just three people have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice. For more information about what the Imperial War Museum has on the Victoria Cross, Click Here

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Harold Auten

Harold Auten  ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Harold Auten ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

During the First World War, Lieutenant Harold Auten was in command of a Q ship, HMS Stock Force. On 30th July 1918, his ship was attacked and almost destroyed by a German U-boat. Despite the extensive damage to the vessel Lieutenant Auten and his crew returned fire and sank the U-boat. The action was cited in the 20 November 1918 Supplement to the London Gazette as “one of the finest examples of coolness, discipline and good organisation in the history of “Q” ships”.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. After the First World War he became an author and wrote his first book, Q Boat Adventures in 1919. Later he became an entrepreneur, owning a hotel and cinema. During the Second World War he held the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy.

He died on 3rd October 1964 aged 73 and is buried at Sandhill Cemetery in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, in the United States. He will be remembered for his bravery on the HMS Stock Force, for his literature and entrepreneurship.

Francis Octavius Grenfell 

Francis Octavius Grenfell  ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Francis Octavius Grenfell ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Francis Grenfell was born on 4th September 1880 to Sophia Grenfell at 69 Eaton Place, Guildford, Surrey. He enlisted with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1901, while he was living in East Clandon

During the First World War, the 13th November 1914 edition of the London Gazette explains how Francis got the Victoria Cross;

“For gallantry in action against un-broken Infantry at Audregnies, Belgium, on 24th August, 1914, and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day.”

He later died on 24th May 1915 aged 34 and is buried at Leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. He will be remembered for his bravery in warfare.

Rupert Price Hallowes

Rupert Price Hallowes

Rupert Price Hallowes
‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Rupert Hallowes was born on 5th May 1881 to Mary Ann Taylor Hallowes and Frederick Blackwood Hallowes, a general practitioner. In the Directory of Redhill & Reigate 1891, he is registered to be living in a house called Checkley on Station Road in Redhill, Surrey. He enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment on 5th August 1914 while he was living in Glamorgan, Wales. The 16th November 1915 edition of the London Gazette describes how Rupert got the Victoria Cross;

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the fighting at Hooge between 25th September and 1st October, 1915. Second Lieutenant Hallowes displayed throughout these days the greatest bravery and untiring energy, and set a magnificent example to his men during four heavy and prolonged bombardments. On more than one occasion he climbed up on the parapet, utterly regardless of danger, in order to put fresh heart into his men. He made daring reconnaissance of the German positions in our lines. When the supply of bombs was running short he went back under very heavy shell fire and brought up a fresh supply. Even after he was mortally wounded he continued to cheer those around him and to inspire them with fresh courage.”

He died on 30th September 1915, aged 35 and is buried near Hooge in Belgium, he has also been memorialised at Brookwood Cemetery, under plot 84, a family grave. He will be remembered for his bravery and courage on the battlefield.

Alfred Victor Smith 

Alfred Victor Smith  ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Alfred Victor Smith ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Alfred Victor Smith was born in 1891 to William Henry and Louisa Smith in Guildford, Surrey. In the 1901 census he is shown living at 3 Drummond Street, Cambridge and 10 years later in the 1911 census he is listed as living in Burnley, Lancashire. Before the First World War, he was a Police Officer and on 10th October 1914 he enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment as a Second lieutenant.

The 3rd March 1916 edition of London Gazette reports how he got the Victoria Cross;

“For most conspicuous bravery. He was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell to the bottom of the trench, close to several of our officers and men. He immediately shouted out a warning, and himself jumped clear and into safety, but seeing that the officers and men were unable to get into cover, and knowing well that the grenade was due to explode, he returned without any hesitation and flung himself down on it. He was instantly killed by the explosion. His magnificent act of self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives.”

He died aged 24 on 22nd December 1915, and is buried at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Turkey. His Victoria Cross is displayed at Towneley Hall in Burnley, Lancashire.

Garth
Neville Walford

Garth Neville Walford  ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Garth Neville Walford ‘Images used with permission of Ancestry.co.uk’

Garth Walford was born on 27th May 1882, in Sandhurst and living with Selina Walford and Neville Walford, who served with the Royal Field Artillery in Frimley. Garth was educated in Eastbourne. He was commissioned with the Royal Field Artillery in 1901. In late December 1907 he married Elizabeth Katherine Mary Trefusis.

During the First World War, the 22nd June 1915 edition of the London Gazette reported how Garth got the Victoria Cross;

“26th April, 1915, subsequent to a landing having been effected on the beach at a point on the Gallipoli Peninsula, during which both Brigadier-General and Brigade Major had been killed, Lieutenant-Colonel Doughty-Wylie and Captain Walford organised and led an attack through and on both sides of the village of Sedd el Bahr on the Old Castle at the top of the hill inland. The enemy’s position was very strongly held and entrenched, and defended with concealed machine-guns and pom-poms. It was mainly due to the initiative, skill and great gallantry of these two Officers that the attack was a complete success. Both were killed in the moment of victory”

He died on 26th April 1915 aged 32 and is buried at V Beach in Gallipoli, Turkey.

In November 1921 Garth’s widow applied for his medals while she was living at 4 Down View, Bude, Cornwall.

In the First World War officers had to apply for their own medals. For those that had died, it became their family’s responsibility to apply for them. The soldier was given a ribbon bar to sew on to their uniform. The ribbon described which medal they were awarded, while the actual medal was being engraved with their name, rank, number, and regiment. The medal, when received, would include a full length of ribbon with the medal attached.

Further Reading

  • For more information on the Victoria Cross, or other Military officers and Soldiers who have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Click Here
  • To learn more about soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross twice, Click Here
  • For more information on the Military Cross Click Here
  • For the location of the Hallowes Family Grave Click Here
  • For a directory of information on First World War Medals Click Here

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