Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.
The July issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Temporary Second Lieutenant John Scott Youll VC. Youll was born in the mining village of Thornley, County Durham. Known throughout his life as “Jack”, he left school at 15 and became an apprentice electrician at Thornley Colliery.
On reaching military age, he volunteered and became a sapper in the Royal Engineers (Durham Territorials) in July 1915. After training in England, he was sent to France in August 1916, soon being recommended for a commission.
It was while serving in Italy on attachment with the 11th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, that Youll became the first officer with the Northumberland Fusiliers to be awarded the VC since the Battle of Lucknow – during the Indian Mutiny – more than half a century earlier.
On June 15 1918, the Austrian 11th Army started the Battle of Asiago, or what the British knew as the Second Battle of the River Piave. Youll, aged 21, was the leader of a patrol and was awarded his VC for bravery under a fierce barrage. He rushed a machine gun position and, having himself killed most of the team, opened fire on the enemy with the captured gun, inflicting heavy casualties. He then led three separate counter-attacks.
Youll, who was single, received his VC from George V at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 4 September 1918 but he was soon back in Italy fighting on the frontline. Still only 21, he was killed in battle on October just a fortnight before Armistice Day.
I purchased his VC medal group at an auction in London in 1997 and I feel immensely privileged to have become the custodian of this courageous man’s gallantry and service awards
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past five years have been largely based on excerpts from his six books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes, Heroes of the Skies, Special Ops Heroes and Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II.
For the foreseeable future, Lord Ashcroft’s “hero of the month” articles will concentrate on men who were awarded the VC during the First World War. Lord Ashcroft is a military historian who has lectured extensively on courage and his various medal collections.
- Lord Ashcroft’s latest article appears in the July issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.