Florence Colliery Miner Wins the VC
Researched by John Lumsdon

Thanks to Steven Nail for allowing use of some material from his site

Ernest Albert Egerton VC Born 10th Nov. 1897 Died 14th Feb. 1966

World War I Victoria Cross Recipient, born in Longton, Staffordshire, he was educated in local grade schools and began working in a colliery at the age of 16 as a haulage hand. He enlisted in the 3rd North Staffordshire Regiment on his 18th birthday, and in October 1916 transferred to the 16th (Chatsworth Rifles) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment).
Egerton was awarded the VC for action at a German strongpoint called Welbeck Grange in Bulgar Wood during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele).

From his citation: “On 20th September 1917 south-east of Ypres, Belgium, during an attack, visibility was bad owing to a fog and smoke. As a result the two leading waves of the attack passed over certain hostile dugouts without clearing them and enemy rifles and machine guns from these dugouts were inflicting severe casualties.
Corporal Egerton at once responded to a call for volunteers to help in clearing up the situation and he dashed for the dugouts under heavy fire at short range. He shot a rifleman, a bomber and a gunner, by which time support had arrived and 29 of the enemy surrendered.”
The battalion commander, Maj. J.R. Webster, stated that Egerton’s exploit took only thirty seconds and called it “the most reckless piece of gallantry I ever saw.”

He had survived the major offensives at the Somme and Ypres unscathed, but was badly gassed during the German “Kaiserschlact” offensive of spring 1918.
He was offered a commission but declined, choosing assignment as a sergeant-instructor with the 3rd Sherwood Foresters.
His gassing led to tuberculosis; at one time his doctors only gave him a few months to live, but a 12-month course in the open air to train as a gamekeeper, sponsored by the Ministry of Pensions and the British Legion, led to a great improvement in his health, as did getting a job with the Potteries Electric Traction Company, mainly on rural routes in Staffordshire.

During World War II he served in the Home Guard and as a security officer for an aircraft plant and Staffordshire Potteries. at Meir. He passed away at his home in Blythe Bridge, Staffordshire, at the age of 68.

Ernest's Memory Lives On

A WAR hero's name is set to live on for generations in his home village in North Staffordshire.
Sergeant Ernest Egerton was decorated after launching a solo attack on enemy dugouts at Passchendaele Ridge on September 20, 1917. His courage earned the corporal in the 16th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters the Victoria Cross for remarkable bravery.
Now part of a new housing development, which has been built opposite the family's home in Uttoxeter Road, Blythe Bridge, has been named in his honour.

Mr Egerton died in 1966, aged 68, and was buried with a full military guard of honour at St Peter's Church, Forsbrook.
His daughter Margaret Porter, who now lives in Hampshire, said she was delighted by the tribute to her father.
She said, "We grew up as girls at the house in Uttoxeter Road and dad used to keep his Victoria Cross there in the bottom drawer of the bureau. "He did not talk much about his wartime exploits but that as probably because we were all girls.
"After he died, we gave the medal to his regiment's museum in Nottingham, which we thought was fitting.
"I am especially delighted with this tribute because dad used to work for PMT and they always said they were going to name a bus after him - my son used to joke that it would be called Ern 1."

It is the second tribute to be paid to Sergeant Egerton
in his home village within the last five years.

Exactly 80 years after his act of courage, a plaque was erected in his honour outside the family's former home.
A full military procession brought the village to a standstill as the community paid their respect to their Victoria Cross war hero.
Family friend John McNeal, who was also formerly secretary-treasurer for Blythe Bridge British Legion, added: I think it is great he should be honoured in this way in his home village.
"He is buried in the church yard and we always place the Royal British Legion wreath on his grave after the parade"
The naming of Egerton Close was recommended by the developers and approved by Staffordshire Moorlands Council.
Sergeant Egerton was one of only three men from the Potteries to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Act of bravery that saved the lives of many.

Sergeant Edgerton’s citation for his Victoria Cross reads: "On September, 1917 south-west of Ypres, Belgium during an attack, visibility was bad owing to fog and smoke.,
As a result, the two leading waves of the attack passed over certain hostile dugouts without clearing them.,
Enemy rifles and machine guns from these dugouts were inflicting severe casualties.,
Corporal Egerton at once responded to a call for volunteers to help in clearing up the situation.,
He dashed for the dugouts under heavy fire at short range.,
He shot a rifleman, a bomber and a gunner.,
By which time, support had arrived and 29 of the enemy surrendered."

Invested by the King

The King held an investiture at Buckingham Palace, Wednesday 5th November 1917, at which he bestowed 200 decorations, including 7 V.C. s.
One of which was Cpl. Ernest Albert Egerton of Longton. The men were marshalled in one of the reception rooms at the Palace and were taken thence to the Bow Room, where they were presented to the King.

His Majesty in Field Marshall’s undress uniform and with him were the Lord-in-Waiting, the Groom-in-Waiting, the Equerry in Waiting, the Master of the household, the Controller of the Lord Chamberlain’s Department and a number of distinguished officers.

Each man in turn was presented to the King, and stood while the Equerry- in Waiting read an account of the particular deed for which the coveted decoration was awarded.

Then His Majesty pinned on the V.C., shook hands with the soldier, and said a few words of commendation and congratulations.
After the ceremony, the newly decorated V.C.s left the Palace by the quadrangle and forecourt exits, and were warmly greeted by a large assemblage of people.

Near the main gates each had also to submit to the process of being snapshotted, and Cpl Egerton and his gallant comrades received the hearty congratulations from their friends and others assembled outside the Palace.

Longton’s Scheme of Recognition

A meeting was called on Tuesday 4th Dec 1917 in Longton town hall to consider suitable steps to be taken by Longton as a town, to one of its sons and mark his supremely rewarded and thrilling exploit.
Officials and committee were elected reflecting the different sections of the community to organise a testimonial fund. It was also announced that a handsome illuminated address of congratulations to Corpl Egerton would be given to the committee.
It was stated that at Florence colliery, where Corpl Egerton worked prior to enlistment, the proprietors, staff and workmen were formulating a testimonial.
Among those present in the hall were, Mr. and Mrs Kear, (Blythe Bridge Corpl Edgerton’s maternal grandparents) Mr. G.P. Hyslop, (agent at Florence colliery) Mr. J.W. Gibson, (Headmaster at Cooke St. school) of which Corpl Egerton was a one-time scholar.
Arrangements were made for a demonstration in honour of Corporal Egerton, namely a procession including the V.C. and prominent residents accompanied by a band, to traverse the Longton neighbourhood on Saturday.

Arrival in the Potteries

Corporal Egerton arrived in the Potteries shortly after noon on Saturday December 8th 1917. At one time it seemed North Staffordshire was going to be in the supremely proud position of welcoming with large-hearted gratitude, two V.C. heroes; but a fate, unkind in the extreme, and with a suddenness, which shocked the entire community of the district, was claimed by the death of Lance Sergt Rhodes V.C. of Tunstall, who would have shared in the demonstrative appreciation which awaited Corporal Egerton.

After leaving the train at Stoke station Corpl Egerton a young man, look not a bit older than his 20 years and wearing the coverted Victoria Cross on his breast, was accorded a civic reception. Inside a space, which had been reserved for the purpose on the station platform, the hero was introduced to the civic dignitaries. The gallant N.C.O. stood smartly erect while the Mayor, Ald. Robinson, told the V.C., that he was pleased and proud to meet him and welcome him back home. He could say that in Longton, to which Corpl Egerton was more closely attached, there was a warm greeting awaiting him; but he thought it was only right that he, as Mayor of the Borough, should take the first opportunity to assure him that the quarter of a million people in the Potteries had read with utmost satisfaction of the brave deed by which he had won the V.C., the greatest token of merit which it was possible for a soldier to receive. They would ever be mindful of the great sacrifice, which he had rendered to his country, and of the honour, which he had brought to his native district. They wanted hen to know that there was deep gratitude in their hearts for what he had done and they sincerely hoped that his stay among his friends would be one of pleasure. He was sure that Corporal Egerton would like him to say on that occasion that they were also mindful of the heroic bravery of the late Lance Sergt Rhodes of Tunstall. They would remember the late V.C. with sorrow and pride and he was sure that it was the wish of the community that the services which Lance Sergt Rhodes had rendered should not go unrecognised by them, and that the widow in her sorrow might be assured that they were not unmindful of the bravery of her gallant husband. They would see as far as they could, that her loss would be softened by some provision. Ald Robinson concluded his remarks amid rousing cheers from a large crowd. From the station they the party adjourned to the North Stafford Hotel for lunch.

Sentinel Reporter Interview

A Sentinel reporter found Corporal Egerton a pleasant young man. At first he was reluctant to speak of his act of heroism,
but eventually he put into his own simple language the official record setting forth his “reckless bravery.”
“It was in September, he said, I felt lost at first. I was in a shell-hole in front of some concrete dugouts, and someone with a machine gun was causing heavy casualties on our left flank, which included some North Staffords. I could see the damage they were inflicting, so I took it into my head to go forward. I kept running from shell hole to shell hole until I got to the back of this particular concrete dug out, and having gone so far, I could see three men with a machine gun.
I first shot the man who was firing the gun: then I shot the second who was waiting with another belt of cartridges, and I also shot the third man who was a bomber. By that time I was supported by other men who had followed me up, an 29 Germans including an officer came out of their dug outs holding up their hands and surrendered.”
Did the danger of the position ever occur to you before went forward? “I did not think of getting done in” was the V.C.s modest reply. “I went over with the hope of coming back.”
Corporal Egerton also told his interviewer that at the time he shot the Germans in the dug out, he was thinking of the death of his brother, who had been killed in action. I went over with the intention of killing a few; he said to have revenge in the name of my brother’s wife. It was my object from the time I heard of his death to get revenge. I was longing to get into action and pay back a debt, and now in a measure, I feel I have done it. Although Corporal Egerton had been at the front many months, he stated that he had never been wounded. He had figured in a number of engagements and, almost needless to say, he had not been without many exiting experiences.

Longton’s Great Ovation

The Mayor, wearing his chain of office and deputy Mayor along with the Longton testimonial movement officials, went by train from Stoke with Corporal Egerton, to Longton, where a striking demonstration awaited them. As the train entered the station a peal of bells could be heard from the neighbouring belfry of St John’s church. The crowd of people who had assembled on the platform sent up a salvo of cheers. That however was nothing compared with the deafening reception accorded to the young hero, when carried shoulder high by two men in khaki as he emerged from the station. The vicinity of the station, packed with people eager to get a glimpse of the young hero and the enthusiastic cheering with which he had been greeted on making his appearance was renewed as he drove off in an open carriage accompanied by the Mayor and deputy Mayor on a triumphal tour of the town, along with many sections and organisations in the community. Two former police officers that happened to be on leave, Sergt Flower, (Mounted Military Police) and Sergt Rye of (The Lancers) formed part of the military escort, which flanked the V.C.s carriage, mounted on horses lent by Mr. Wm. Hall of Southlands, Longton. The route traversed by the procession from the station entered Stafford St. as far as the Sutherland Institute, Rosslyn Rd. Trentham Rd. Belgrave Rd. Chaplin Rd. Upper Normacot Rd. High St. and Market St. to the town hall. Corporal Egerton with a few friends and prominent residents sat down to tea in Longton town hall and later proceeded to Blythe Bridge with his grandparents Mr. and Mrs T. Keay. This overjoyed old couple accommodated in an open carriage, following that of grandson, had witnessed with obvious delight the popular acclimation of the V.C. hero.

On Sunday morning Corporal Egerton V.C., along with his friends, attended Edensor Church, where only a few weeks ago a memorial service was conducted for his brother, who was killed in action. Members of the Edensor Girl Guides and Wardens Messrs Shaw and Heath had met him at Longton station.

A Cordial Send-Off

Corporal Egerton left the Potteries on Thursday morning for Manchester, prior to reporting in London on Friday 14th December for further service. The send off which he was given at Stoke station was not lacking in heartiness even though it was without the formality and distinction which characterised his arrival on Saturday last. Along with a number of relatives and friends he had arrived at stoke station in good time for the Manchester train leaving Stoke just before 9.30 am.

Handsome Presentation from Florence Colliery

As a result of telegraphic communication between Mr. S. Barber, manager of Florence colliery, and Corporal Egerton after the latter had reached London to report for further service on Friday last, the army authorities granted the young NCO a special four days leave in-order that he might attend at Longton town hall on Monday evening to receive a practical expression of the pride and delight which his decoration has occasioned among the proprietors, the management and employees of the Florence colliery, where Corporal Egerton formally worked. All the departments of the colliery were represented in a gift, which awaited the V.C. although the company was on the small side. Corporal Egerton was presented by the directors, staff and employees with £85.10, the bulk of which was in the shape of war savings certificates. He also received hearty congratulations from all concerned including his former workfellows. It was agreed to leave the bulk of the investment in the hands of Mr. G.P. Hyslop. Mr. S. barber, Mr. G. Till and Mr. S. Haile, as trustees would take care of the investment until Corporal Egerton finally returned from the war.
Corpl Egerton agreed with this and said he had also made provision for any eventuality and if, as god forbid anything any thing should happen to him, he had left instructions as to what must be done. There were more speeches from the colliery representatives, then the presentation took place, and with an enthusiastic ovation, he received the war certificates, £5 in cash and a silver cigarette case. The cigarette case bore the inscription; December 1917 presented to Corporal E.A. Egerton V.C. by the officials and workmen of Florence colliery on the occasion of his being awarded the Victoria Cross. (Applause)

Corporal Edgerton’s Reply

The applause was resumed with vigour as Corporal Egerton rose to respond. Once or twice in the course of his remarks he paused momentarily, but generally speaking he addressed the audience with fluency and delightfully boyish simplicity, he said it was a great pleasure to him to be able to stand in front of the employees from “the old firm” to which he was proud to belong. He could not express the words how he appreciated all that the staff and employees of the colliery had done. He had had a few gifts presented to him but he would treasure theirs more than any of the others, as having come from his old colleagues, men who had to work hard to get their money. “I know it is hard work” he said “because I have done some”. He would be pleased if he if he could think that he was going to resume work at Florence colliery the following day, but they had all got their duty to do to get the war finished, as had been said. The men from Florence colliery responded well to the call of King and country in 1914. He was very proud to say that when he had been in difficult situations in the battlefield, he had come across a few lads who used to work with him “we were not able to have a drink together” he remarked “we were a bit to close to the Germans”. Proceeding, Corporal Egerton said that he had enlisted in the North Stafford Regiment, and he would not be surprised if he were called back to that Regiment. Although he was in the Sherwood Forsters at the present nearly the whole of his battalion were North Staffordshire men. It was always re-enforced by The North Staffords, and on one occasion after they had come out of an attack a General came round to see them and specially mentioned his pride in the men from North Staffs who had joined the Sherwood Foresters and had helped them achieve some of the successes which they had secured. He would take that cigarette case back with him to the battlefield, and every time he opened it he would think of the men who worked at Florence colliery. He hoped that the war would soon be over, so that all the boys could resume their old jobs. (Applause)

Mr. Barber, manager, finished off, saying they were all pleased that Corpl Egerton had been granted a special 4 day’s leave for the presentation and went on to describe how he managed that, and hoped it would not be too long before he was back at work, because they could do very well with his sort at the colliery.

Longton’s V.C.s Return from War

He had returned back to the front, survived the major offensives at the Somme and Ypres unscathed, but was badly gassed during the German “Kaiserschlact” offensive of spring 1918.
On his arrival back home, Longton paid tribute to their hero on Friday 30th August 1918. The entire Potteries community are proud of E. A. Egerton VC, Sergeant in the Notts and Derby Regiment. His name will be for ever cherished and honoured, but Longton claims the special privilege to fete him, because he is a Longton boy who has proved himself worthy of receiving, from his Majesty the King, the highest honour England has to give to her brave soldiers.

As Mayor, Alderman W.E. Robinson indicated while making a presentation to Sergeant Egerton, that the honour is so great that it is saved for the few, and is counted a prize beyond all others because it goes to only those whose glorious gallantry stands out conspicuously above all that is so magnificent and so noble, that no ordinary reward could mark the distinction.
There are some who were awarded the VC did not live to receive the award, fortunately Sergeant Egerton has been spared to receive the congratulations of his fellow townsmen and they are happy in taking the fullest advantage of the opportunity. He looks only a mere youth, a smart open faced, fair headed, handsome lad, who might have been at school only a short time before the war. But he is rather older than he looks although he has just reached manhood. On Sunday at Fosbrook church, he will take unto himself a wife, and one feels sure that in wishing him and his bride to be all possible joy and comfort in life. One is voicing the sentiment of the whole community, who will also join in praying for a special protection for him during his future service in the trenches.

An Illuminated Address

There was a very large attendance at Longton Town Hall on Friday evening.
The chair was occupied by Mr. H. Aynsley J.P. on whose right hand was mounted a handsome illuminated testimonial, the work of Messrs. Hughes and Harber Ltd. It was draped and surmounted with a Union Jack; the inscription was as follows;
To Seargent E.A. Egerton V.C. (Notts and Derby Regiment.) At a public meeting held at the Town hall, Longton, on Tuesday December 4th 1917 it was resolved that the heartiest congratulations of your fellow townsmen be offered to you on the bestowal of the Victoria Cross at the hand of his Majesty the King on December the 5th, in recognition of your conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty to the cause of your country on the battlefields of France.
(This was followed by the citation of his valour)
Longton is justly proud that one of her soldier sons has won this covetous decoration, and it is sincerely hoped that you may live to a ripe old age to enjoy the honour you have so richly deserved. Signed on behalf of the people of Longton: Harry Aynsley, Chairman. A.B. Jones, Treas. W.H. Jones Hon, Sec. of the committee. Longton Stoke-on-Trent.

Representative Assembly

The platform was adorned in tasteful style by the flags of all the Allies; with the Stars and Stripes in particular prominence hung right across the front and a representative assembly of all the dignitaries of Longton.
The audience cheered when the chairman announced at the onset that they had met together to honour their friend, Sergeant. Egerton V.C. They were exceedingly proud of him, and the whole of the Potteries were proud of him.
Mr. A.R. Jones, treasurer of the fund made a financial statement. He said the total amount subscribed was £262-9s-3p of which £24 had already been handed to Sergeant Egerton. The Mayor would present him with a further £39 that evening, leaving £200 in hand for the time being, in the hope that Sergeant Egerton would eventually do something with it, which would be permanent to him.

The Mayors Remarks

The Mayor said it was his pleasing duty and great privilege to make a presentation on behalf of the townspeople, to Sergeant Egerton, who they were glad to see, had been created a Sergeant since he was last amongst them.
It was a proud day for all of them, as no doubt it was to Sergeant Egerton. They were delighted to be able to meet in that beautiful hall, and ask him to accept those tokens of appreciation for his magnificent services on the field of battle. They all new the circumstances of the gallant deed for which he has been so signally honoured, and they believe that the spirit which has prompted him, would carry him through life, that he would perform his duties as a citizen in the fullest possible manor.
It was pleasing to learn that in addition to winning the Victoria Cross, Sergeant Egerton was also winning something else, he, (the Mayor) was told he had won a bride, or would do so at the weekend. It was to be hoped that Sergeant Egerton and his wife would enjoy many years of happy life.

The Presentation by the Mayor

Sergeant Egerton, I have now very great pleasure and the very great privilege to ask your acceptance of this very beautiful illuminated address, the context of which has been read by Mr. W.H. Jones. I also ask you to accept this gift of money, particulars of which have been read out by Mr. A.B. Jones and I pray that everything that is contained in this address, the sentiments as to yourself, may be fully realised:
That in the providence of God, you may be permitted to come back again safely: that when this war is over, as we believe it will be at no very distant date, you may come back to us safe and sound.
The Mayor then handed the testimonial to Sergeant Egerton, who was met with an enthusiastic ovation.

Sergeant Egerton in his reply said:

First of all let me thank you with all my heart for the rousing reception you have given me tonight. Your kindness to me will always be a pleasant memory. I only did my duty, like thousands of more of my comrades are doing every day. Fortunately, I came through safely and what I tried to do has been generously recognised. My family, and I will always treasure the handsome testimonial you have given me especially as Mr. Harber, who has been a great friend to me in so many ways, has given it to me. The money accompanying the address will be extremely useful to me especially as I’m being bold enough to get married on Sunday. My future wife and I intend taking care of that part of your gift that is the money part, for a rainy day.
I should like before I sit down to personally thank the committee and officials who have worked so hard to make the effort such a success, and everyone who has contributed to the fund.
I have met with great kindness in every direction and I am very proud to have made so many friends amongst you. I am still a very young man, but I try to do always what is right and be a credit to you all and never bring disgrace on the townspeople who have so greatly honoured me tonight.

Sunday 3rd September 1918

Sergeant Egerton was quietly married on Sunday to Miss E. Gimbert. The ceremony was performed at Fosbrook Parish Church by the vicar, the Rev. E. W. Bridgewood, and was fully choral. The hymn “the voice that breathed o’er Eden” was sung and a wedding march was played as the bridal party left the Church.

My thanks again to Steven Nail, for allowing me to use some of his material from his Blythe Bridge Web site

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