Blackpool and the Fylde heritage is widely known. However, a part of our proud heritage is less known and appreciated. The town has close links with 6 winners of the highest Gallantry Awards, the Victoria Cross and George Cross.
2Lt Alfred Victor Smith, VC Croix de Guerre
Alfred Smith, a native of Guilford Surrey was a Blackpool Police Inspector, his father was Chief Constable of Burnley Police. On his recruitment into the Army in 1914, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant to the East Lancashire Regiment. He was awarded the VC as a result of conspicuous bravery in trenches during the Gallipoli campaign. On 23 December 1915, a grenade he was about to throw fell from his hand and into the trench, close to several officers and men. He immediately threw himself on the grenade and was instantly killed in the explosion, but saved many lives. He is buried in an unidentified grave in Twelve Trees Copse Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. His medals are on display at Towneley Hall in Burnley and plaques commemorate him and his courageous deed in Blackpool Police Headquarters and St Johns Church.
2Lt Stanley Henry Parry Boughey, VC
Stanley Boughey was born was a founder member of the first Blackpool Scout Group and the Blackpool Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade. At the outbreak of the first World War he was called to go to France with other members of the Brigade with a Royal Army Medical Corps contingent. In 1915 he was invalided home to the Kings Military Convalescent Home at Squires Gate (now Pontins). He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
He single-handedly attacked an enemy machine gun position with grenades, killing many and causing the surrender of about 30 enemy soldiers. As he returned for more bombs, he was mortally wounded. He died shortly after on 3 December 1917 and was buried Gaza War Cemetery in Palestine.
Stanley’s VC was presented to his mother by King King George V at Bucking Palace on 2 March 1918. A plaque presented to Victoria Hospital by his mother in his memory was recently lost, found at a car boot sale and is currently kept at a private house near Blackpool. His name and VC is commemorated with others at St Georges Methodist Church in Layton.
LSgt Arthur Walter Evans (Alias Walter Simpson), VC DCM
Lance Sergeant Arthur Evans was born in 1891 in Liverpool. He seemed to have had a ‘colourful’ life before joining the Army in 1914. By then he had travelled widely, joined the Royal Navy and changed his name. He joined the 1st Kings Liverpool Regiment, seeing service in Mons and Ypres. He later joined 6th Lincolnshire Regiment, probably as a casualty replacement. He earned his VC in action in France when he swam across a river and single-handedly silenced a machine gun position, taking four prisoners. On his return across the river his patrol came under very heavy fire, wounding an Officer. He managed to cover the withdrawal of the Officer ‘under most dangerous and difficult conditions and under heavy fire’. The success of the action was described in the VC citation as being ‘…was greatly due to the very gallant of Sgt Simpson’. After the war he joined the Australian Army Tank Corps for two and a half years. He died in Sidney Australia in 1926. His ashes are buried with his stepbrother in a grave in Park Cemetery Lytham
2Lt John Schofield, VC
John Schofield attended Arnold School, in Blackpool. He was born 1892, a native of Blackburn. He was a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers at the time of his award. The citation for the VC describes how he led a raid on a strongpoint at Givenchy in April 1918. The action resulted in the capture of 123 officers and men when 2Lt Schofield stormed a parapet under fire, and ‘… by his fearless demeanour, skilful use of his men and weapons forced the enemy to surrender’. He was killed at the scene a few minutes later.
There are a number of commemorative plaques in the school. His medals including his VC is displayed at the Fusiliers Museum in Bury.
2Lt Hardy Falconer Parsons, VC
A native of Rushton Lancs, he was a pupil at King Edward VII School in Ansdell, attending the Drive Methodist Church in St Annes. His father was a Wesleyan minister.
Parsons served with the Gloucester Regiment in France. On the night of 21 August, the Germans launched a major attack on a position commanded by Parsons, close to the St Quentin Canal. His men, under heavy fire were forced back. However, Second Lieutenant Parsons stayed at his position and although badly scorched by flame throwers he single-handedly held up the enemy until fatally wounded. The citation records that ‘this very gallant act of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty undoubtedly delayed the enemy long enough to allow of the organisation of a bombing party’. This action led to a retaliatory raid by his comrades which succeeded in driving back the enemy before they could do any real damage in the trench system.
There are memorial plaques in the Drive Methodist Church in St Annes, which includes a copy of the VC Citation and in King Edward VII and Queen Mary School in Fairhaven. Parson’s V.C. medal is on display at the Gloucestershire Regiment Museum in Gloucester.
The George Cross (GC) shares equal precedence with the Victoria Cross; the senior gallantry award for civilians and the military whose actions don’t meet military honours requirements.
LAC Albert Matthew Osborne GC
Enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in July 1940. He was awarded a posthumous GC for his “unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty” during constant German air attacks on Malta. Recorded acts of valour included making safe torpedoes in burning aircraft; rescuing a pilot from a burning plane and rescuing trapped airmen during enemy bombing. He was killed on 2 April 1942 by an explosion while fire fighting in a similarly courageous manner. (Wikipedia). Osborne is remembered on a memorial in Kirkham Grammar School.
IN ADDITION: There are 2 other, somewhat spurious records linking Blackpool to the Victoria Cross.
Private William Proctor ‘of Layton‘
It is already known that Proctor never did get a VC, but it was reported in the Blackpool Gazette and News in 1915 that he had been awarded one. The story is completely spurious. On the other hand Smith and Boughey did receive the award. (Tony Sharkey, 2011)(Nick Moore, 2009)
Jonathon Quayle Higgins III
Then there’s the entirely fictional star of ‘Magnum PI’ (starring Tom Sellick), a detective series from the 1980’s. Jonathon Quayle Higgins (played by John Hillerman), claimed to have been awarded a VC though we are not told what for. Higgins was the British character, an ex Regimental Sergeant Major who looked after the Magnum estate, and his link to Blackpool? His father treated the young Jonathon to a holiday in Blackpool to celebrate his graduation from Sandhurst. It seems that the boy Jonathon was not impressed, he thought Blackpool to be ‘…a bit gaudy for his tastes’!
(Sources: The internet via Google. Photographs are available on the internet. Photographs of the commemorative plaques mentioned are available from MPC.)