Medals

See the December issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

By Lord Ashcroft

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 December issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat Khan, who was awarded the George Cross (GC) for bravery during the Second World War.

Khan, known to so many simply by her codename “Madeleine”, was the first woman secret agent to be infiltrated into Nazi-occupied France. Born in Moscow and from a truly international family, she was recruited to join the secretive Special Operations Executive (SOE). (more…)

“He will be remembered as the bravest man in history to never be awarded the Victoria Cross”

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Telegraph Magazine on Saturday, 14 November 2020.

Fearless, wild and brilliant – Paddy Mayne, founding father of the SAS, is reputed to have destroyed more German planes during the Second World War than the RAF’s top ace.

So why was his bravery never fully recognised in his lifetime?

Ahead of a new BBC drama, military historian Lord Ashcroft examines the extraordinary life – and premature death – of the most controversial Special Forces hero in history.

On a granite plinth in Conway Square in the centre of Newtownards, Co Down, there is a near life-size bronze statue in memory of the town’s most famous son. The inscription beneath it reads: ‘Lt Col Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne 1915-1955.’

With a modesty that was typical of the man himself, there is no mention that he was a founding father of the SAS, no mention of his astonishing four Distinguished Service Order (DSO) awards from the Second World War, and no mention that Paddy Mayne was arguably the UK’s greatest-ever front-line soldier. (more…)

The Unknown Warrior represents all that is best about our military

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Sunday Express on 08 November 2020.

THERE are more than 3,300 graves, tombs and memorials in Westminster Abbey, including the final resting places of 30 kings and queens.

However, to me, there is one grave that, since it was placed in the floor of the 800-year-old building just inside the Great West Door, has a significance matched by no other.

It is the final resting place of the Unknown Warrior and has been rightly revered for an entire century – since King George V first paid his respects on Armistice Day, November 1920. (more…)

See the November issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

By Lord Ashcroft

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 November issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Petty Officer George McKenzie Samson, who was awarded the VC for bravery during the First World War.

Samson, who was born in Carnoustie, Forfarshire (now Fife), Scotland, led an adventurous life travelling extensively all over the world. He was awarded his VC for bravery during the Gallipoli landings in April 1915. (more…)

Escape From A Nazi Firing Squad

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 18 October 2020.

Handcuffed and led into the woods at dawn, two SAS men prepared to die… What followed was one of the most breathtaking episodes of the entire war, writes LORD ASHCROFT.

It was approaching dawn on August 9, 1944 and the seven prisoners of war caught operating behind enemy lines in German-occupied France thought they knew their fate.

After weeks of imprisonment, including brutal interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo, their end was near.

German SS men, armed with automatic weapons, led the seven SAS men, all of whom were in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wood.

‘Are we going to be shot?’ asked Corporal Jean Dupontel, one of the prisoners. (more…)

See the October issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

By Lord Ashcroft

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 October issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey Saxton White, who was awarded the VC for bravery during the First World War.

White was one of only five submariners to be awarded the VC during the Great War and it marked the first and only time that the prestigious decoration was awarded to two different captains of the same submarine. (more…)

I welcome the George Cross ruling recognising men and women who repeatedly confront and conquer their fears

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in The Sun on 24 September 2020.

THE Government, in consultation with the Queen, has ruled that the George Cross (GC) has parity with the Victoria Cross (VC) as the most prestigious bravery decorations awarded by the UK and the Commonwealth. (more…)

Give NHS heroes the George Cross!

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 20 September 2020.

The medal awarded to the bravest of the brave celebrates its 80th birthday next week… and what better way to mark it than to hand it to all those who went into battle with Covid-19, says LORD ASHCROFT.

They are an eclectic mix of people – bomb disposal experts, secret agents, police officers, a schoolboy, a tram conductor and even an air stewardess. They have one thing in common: at some point in their lives they displayed such outstanding courage that they were awarded the George Cross (GC), Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious award for bravery when not in the presence of the enemy. (more…)

Scraping the rooftops… the most remarkable aerial duel ever

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Daily Express on 15 September 2020.

On the 80th anniversary of Battle of Britain Day, Lord Ashcroft asks whether an RAF pilot was denied a posthumous VC because he RAMMED his German rival.

EVEN by the standards of do-or-die aerial duels, it was a remarkable spec­tacle. The Battle of Britain was more than ten weeks old but the residents of Hailsham, Sussex – accustomed to watching dogfights overhead – had never seen anything quite like it. Screaming just feet above the town’s rooftops were the aircraft of Hauptmann Horst Liensberger and Flying Officer Percy Burton. As the two aircraft lifted away over the nearby country­side, they were just yards apart with Burton’s Hurricane on the tail of Liensberger’s Messerschmitt 110 fighter-bomber.

What happened next was certainly deadly but it was also controversial. Eighty years on, there is still a debate over whether Burton should have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain and the Commonwealth’s most pres­tigious gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy. (more…)

Dame Vera Lynn, the ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’, Remembered

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in The Royal British Legion magazine on 08 September 2020.

The film footage taken on 14 May 1944 is remarkable. It shows Dame Vera Lynn sitting on the driver’s footstep of an Army truck with troops of the Fourteenth Army in what was then India, close to the Burmese border.

Smiling and looking relaxed, wearing a WAAF cap and an officer’s tunic and shorts, she is seen chatting to British and Burmese Karen soldiers. In another clip from the same day, she signs autographs for Servicemen on pieces of paper and the rims of their slouch hats, worn for protection from the hot sun.

With her passing, we have lost a much-loved singer, songwriter and entertainer, who was a colossal inspiration during the Second World War. (more…)