St Helens remembers a VC hero - a century on

Corporal John Davies VC, who has been honoured with a paving stone in Victoria Square
Corporal John Davies VC, who has been honoured with a paving stone in Victoria Square

A soldier who received the Victoria Cross for outstanding courage under fire has been remembered by his home town a century on.

His descendants and council bosses in St Helens have now unveiled a commemorative paving stone dedicated to Corporal John Thomas Davies.

Corporal Davies was made a VC after he defended his comrades in the St Helens Pals during a retreat near the French village of Eppeville in March 1918.

The 22-year-old, realising that their only line of retreat lay through a deep stream lined with barbed wire, trained his Lewis gun on the enemy and enabled a number of his fellow troopers to escape.

He was thought to have been killed as a result of his actions - and his parents were even notified of his death. His VC was initially awarded posthumously.

But a few months later, his family received a postcard telling them that he was in fact alive and had instead been captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Later released from the camp,John returned to St Helens after the war and started a family, marrying Beatrice Travers in March, 1920. Together they had three children, Eunice, Alan and Syd, and lived in Leslie Road, Thatto Heath. He lived in St Helens until his death in 1955 and is buried in the town's cemetery.

The commemorative flag, one of a number installed nationwide, was unveiled at the cenotaph in Victoria Square by the Mayor of St Helens, Coun Joe Pearson, in the presence of Corporal Davies' relatives and invited guests.

Speaking at the ceremony, Coun Pearson said: “We are honoured to have so many members of his family and friends with us, also representatives from his regiment and members of the armed forces community."

Last October, another memorial was laid in honour of Sgt John ‘Jack’ Molyneux, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on the front near Langemarck, Belgium, in October 1917, when a British attack was held up by machine gun fire from a German trench.

Sgt Molyneux, born in Sutton, was also honoured in July 2017 when a new street there was named John Molyneux VC Close.

And in 2015, Company Sergeant Major Frederick William Hall, formerly of Ormskirk Street, St Helens, became the first local serviceman to be recognised with a similar paving stone. He was killed in action in Belgium during the Second Battle of Ypres.

The Newton and Earlestown Community Group is also raising funds to erect a statue this year to commemorate Newton-born Private Norman Harvey, who received his Victoria Cross for his actions in battle at Ingoyhem, Belgium in October 1918.

His battalion was stopped by machine gun fire and suffering casualties when he ran forward and engaged the enemy single-handed, killing two, wounding one and capturing 12 men and two guns. A Newton street has already been named in his honour.