This Day In History

1719 The Grenadier company of Wills' Regiment (later 1st East Lancashires), part of an expedition sent to capture the French-held Fort Annapolis, Nova Scotia, provide cover for the landing of the Marines. The French are allowing Annapolis to be used as a base for privateers attacking British settlements in New England.
1915 Battle of Loos. The final British offensive of 1915 begins. 1st Loyal North Lancashires make a gallant but unsuccessful assault in the face of uncut German wire, machine guns and gas. When, after a second attempt, the survivors rally in the trenches, only 3 officers and 159 other ranks remain on their feet, 16 officers and 489 men having fallen. It is in the aftermath of this attack that Private Henry Kenny earns the Victoria Cross. Also on this day 2nd South Lancashires make a brave but costly attack on the Bellewarde Ridge, but lose heavily to the lethal combination of machine guns and barbed wire.
1915 Private Henry Kenny, 1st Loyals, wins the VC near Loos, France, by going into No Man's Land on six separate occasions, and under heavy fire each time, to bring in wounded men
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Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC

Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC

Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC

Marcus Ervine-Andrews was born in Keadue, County Cavan, Ireland, on 29 July 1911, the son of bank manager. He was educated at Stonyhurst, the famous Roman Catholic public school in Lancashire. He was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment in the early 1930’s and served on the Indian North West Frontier in 1936-37, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches.

In 1940 he was 28 years old, and a Captain commanding a company of the 1st East Lancashires, when he won the British Army’s first VC of World War II.  On the night of the 31st May/1st June, 1940, he and his men were ordered to take over about a thousand yards of the defences in front of Dunkirk, along the line of the Canal de Bergues. In the words of his citation:

“The enemy attacked at dawn. For over ten hours, notwithstanding intense artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire, and in the face of vastly superior enemy forces, Captain Ervine-Andrews and his company held their position.

The enemy, however, succeeded in crossing the canal on both flanks; and, owing .to superior enemy forces, a company of Captain Ervine-Andrews’ own battalion, which was dispatched to protect his flanks, was unable to gain contact with him. There being danger of one of his platoons being driven in, he called for volunteers to fill the gap, and then, going forward, climbed on to the top of a straw-roofed barn, from which he engaged the enemy with rifle and light automatic fire, though, at the time, the enemy were sending mortar-bombs and armour-piercing bullets through the roof.

Captain Ervine-Andrews personally accounted for seventeen of the enemy with his rifle, and for many more with a Bren gun. Later, when the house which he held had been shattered by enemy fire and set alight, and all his ammunition had been expended, he sent back his wounded in the remaining carrier. Captain Ervine-Andrews then collected the remaining eight men of his company from this forward position, and, when almost completely surrounded, led them back to the cover afforded by the company in the rear, swimming or wading up to the chin in water for over a mile; having brought all that remained of ‘his company safely back, he once again took up position.

Throughout this action, Captain Ervine-Andrews displayed courage, tenacity, and devotion to duty, worthy of the highest traditions of the British Army, and his magnificent example imbued his own troops with the dauntless fighting spirit which he himself displayed.”

Marcus Ervine-Andrews remained in the Army after the war, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He attempted to return to his native County Cavan, but was driven out by local members of the Irish Republican Army. He settled in Cornwall, where he died in 1995, aged 83.

He is one of seven recipients of the Victoria Cross who were educated at Stonyhurst.  He was also the last living Irish holder of the VC.

His Victoria Cross medal is owned by the Museum, but in accordance with his wishes it is on permanent display in East Lancashire, in the Blackburn Museum.