Medals

Terror in the skies: How a VC was won in the air above France

By Lord Ashcroft

 

First published in the Daily Express on 13 June 2019.

SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS ago today one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the VC unfolded in the skies over France. Historian Lord Ashcroft on a tale of bravery and survival.

Just a week after D-Day and in what promised to be a relatively routine night-time bombing mission, the crew of an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber took off bound for northern France.

They were a closely-knit, seven-strong crew who had been on many sorties together.

Two gunners, Warrant Officer Andy Mynarski and Pilot Officer Pat Brophy, had formed a particularly strong bond, isolated as they were from the rest of the crew in their positions towards the tail of the aircraft.

Every time they successfully returned from a mission, they ­celebrated by having a slice of their favourite lemon meringue pie, made by one of the cooks on the base. (more…)

Hero of the Month by Lord Ashcroft

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in Britain at War in May 2019.

Company Sergeant Major Martin Doyle VC, MM

This month’s special iteration of Hero of the Month from World War One presents a difficult and provocative historiographical question; how does – or indeed, should – a figure’s actions after the event alter or preclude perceptions of previous courage and gallantry and its commemoration?

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Victoria Cross recipients tend to lead adventurous lives both on and off the battlefield. However, few can have led such challenging and complex lives as Company Sergeant Major Martin Doyle. His irrefutable courage in the service of the Crown was honoured with the conferring of the Victoria Cross. But, Doyle is a controversial VC-awardee who is unique among his gallant peers, as, within a year of the announcement of his VC, he was fighting against the very country that had bestowed the award upon him. (more…)

See the June 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 June issue of magazine has four pages on the life and career of Company Sergeant Major Martin Doyle VC, MM, who, within a year of the announcement of his main decoration, was fighting against the very country that had bestowed the award upon him. (more…)

D-Day hero: The story of the only soldier to be awarded Victoria Cross on Normandy beaches

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Daily Express on 03 June 2019.

ON June 6 1944, more than 155,000 courageous Allied servicemen, including my own dear father, took part in the D-Day landings as part of Operation Neptune, the largest seaborne invasion in history. However, amid endless stories of courage, just one of these men was deemed to have displayed such outstanding gallantry that he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. When the fighting was at its heaviest on Gold Beach, one of the five chosen for the invasion of Normandy, Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis showed his northern grit and determination. (more…)

One D-Day landing craft, two officers and the whim of fate that saw my dad live

By Lord Ashcroft

First published on 26 May 2019 in the Mail on Sunday.

It was dawn on Tuesday, June 6, 1944. In a landing craft filled with a sense of fear and trepidation, two officers from very different backgrounds crouched low to avoid the inevitable incoming fire. In an earlier confidential briefing, the men had been warned to expect 75 per cent casualties – dead and wounded – as they charged up Sword Beach as part of the D-Day landings.

They had, understandably, kept that grim prediction from the rank-and-file as they prepared for their role in the largest seaborne invasion in history: codenamed Operation Neptune, it involved more than 155,000 men. (more…)

Hero of the Month by Lord Ashcroft

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in Britain at War in May 2019.

Sergeant George Monk MM

George Monk was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the post Second World War Malayan Campaign and for what his official citation described as “a brilliant little action”.

The campaign was a counter-insurgency action fought by British and Commonwealth troops from 1948 to 1960 against the Malayan National Liberation Army, the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party. Monk’s bravery in action resulted in the death of two enemy bandits. (more…)

See the May 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 May issue of magazine has four pages on the life and career of Sergeant George Monk, who was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for gallantry during the post Second World War Malayan Campaign and for what his official citation described as “a brilliant little action”.

George Monk, who was born in June 1922, enlisted into the Suffolk Regiment in October 1941. During the Second World War, he served both at home and in North West Europe with his regiment and the Royal Artillery, the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. (more…)

Hero of the Month by Lord Ashcroft

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in Britain at War in April 2019.

Company Sergeant Major Peter Harold Wright VC

Farmer’s son Peter Wright, one of no less than 14 children, was an exceptional character whose VC has a place in the history books for two specific reasons: it was the first and only Salerno VC and, furthermore, it was uniquely upgraded from a DCM at the insistence of King George VI.

Peter Harold Wright was born in Mettingham, near Bungay, Suffolk, on 10 August 1916. His father was Gordon Wright and his mother was Helen (née Easter). Peter Wright, who had eight brothers and five sisters, was educated at Brooke Village School, Norfolk, and Woodton School, Norfolk. Initially, after leaving school, he worked on his father’s farm but he was planning a career in the police force. However, he had a change of heart and enlisted into the Coldstream Guards on 7 October 1936 and, later, joined the 3rd Battalion, serving in Egypt and Palestine from 1937-9 as a lance-corporal. (more…)

See the April 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 April issue of magazine has four pages on the life and career of Company Sergeant Major Peter Harold Wright VC.

Farmer’s son Wright, who was born in Mettingham, Suffolk, initially planned a career in the police force but he changed his mind and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in October 1936, later joining the 3rd Battalion. He served in Egypt and Palestine as a lance corporal from 1937-9. (more…)

Lord Ashcroft gives his backing to the CWGC’s new “Voices of Liberation” project

By Lord Ashcroft

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has given his backing to today’s launch of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC’s) “Voices of Liberation” project to mark the 75th anniversary of key events in the Second World War.

As part of the new project, Lord Ashcroft and others were interviewed about their thoughts and experiences on liberation in relation to 1944 and other significant Second World War events. These interviews will form part of an important archive that the CWGC will keep and maintain. (more…)