Remembrance Day 2021

October 11, 2021
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We will remember them: Leads Vetting Manager, Caroline Sergeant, shares some interesting stories about local Victoria Cross winners

My dad, Bill Sergeant is a retired police officer from Liverpool. He was chairman of the Noel Chavasse VC Memorial Association which was a charity set up to commission, fund and erect a memorial statue in memory of Noel Chavasse and 15 other recipients of the Victoria Cross born in Liverpool.

In order to raise funds he wrote a book about them and became so interested he ended up writing three other books about Merseyside VC winners as well. The statue has been installed near to Noel Chavasse’s old home in Abercromby Square in Liverpool.

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour “in the presence of the enemy” to members of the British Armed Forces. Since its inception in 1856, there have been 1,358 VCs awarded. This total includes three bars granted to soldiers who won a second VC (like Noel Chavasse).

Richard George Masters

Richard George Masters was born in 1877 in Everton Road Birkdale. He attended St Peter’s School and Bury Road School. He was a keen cyclist and a member of Southport Harriers. He held the Liverpool District National Cycling Union championship four times and established a world record on a tandem with W Birtwhistle.

After his marriage in 1901 he moved to Norwood Road in Southport. In 1914 he enlisted in the Army Service Corps where he became an ambulance driver. In March 1917 after a bombing raid in the Somme he volunteered to clear the wounded trapped in an advanced dressing station and made four journeys under heavy fire from enemy artillery. The French Government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with which he was presented at Southport Town Hall. He earned his Victoria Cross in April 1918 when he drove back and forth through debris and shelling machine gun fire and even a bombing to rescue almost 200 wounded.

He was gassed whilst rescuing some of them from a cellar. He survived the remainder of the war and became chauffeur to the owner of the Southport Visitor newspaper. Southport Town Council presented him with £500 War Bonds when he returned and he was apparently presented with free admission for life to the Neville Street Picture House. He died at home in Palmerston Road Southport in 1963. He is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard in Churchtown.

Harold Ackroyd

Harold Ackroyd was born in 1877 in Morley Road, Southport and attended Mintholme College in Park Crescent, Southport before going to Shrewsbury School and Cambridge University. He worked at several hospitals including Guys in London but was more interested in medical research. He went to France as a medical officer in 1915.

In July 1916 he led the recovery of wounded soldiers, including German soldiers, and was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations. Despite being invalided home afterwards, he was determined to return and in July 1917 during the battle of Passchendaele he again cared for the wounded, saving lives despite heavy machine gun, rifle and shell fire. He received 23 recommendations for the Victoria Cross as a result. Sadly, he was killed by a sniper’s bullet 11 days later.

His widow was presented with his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V. His family later sold it and donated the proceeds to his Cambridge College to fund a scholarship and annual medical lecture. Interestingly his elder brother Edward was a barrister in Harrington Street chambers in Liverpool.

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