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Victoria Cross recipients from Rochdale borough

Victoria Cross medal. ​The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It's awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously.

Local recipients of a VC include:

Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC Joel Halliwell VC.

​​​​​​Lance corporal Joel Halliwell VC was born on 29 December 1881 in Middleton. He served with the 11th Battalion of The Lancashire Fusiliers.

Actions earning Joel Halliwell the Victoria Cross

On 27 May 1918, Halliwell was captured by the Germans and remained a prisoner with them for a short time before he managed to escape. On his way back to the British lines, seeing many wounded comrades lying on the ground, he mounted a stray German horse which he rode back to pick up a wounded man and brought him back to safety, in spite of heavy shellfire. He went on to repeat this process, back and forth, through heavy enemy gunfire, with no thought for his own safety, some 10 times, until his horse received a severe wound and he could no longer continue.

Lance Corporal Halliwell was a modest man, maintaining that he had simply done as he was told and that any other man in his battalion would have done what he had done if they had the chance, as they never thought of anything but their duty.

For his actions he received the Victoria Cross for valour and remains the only Middleton man to date to have received this honour.

Citation for Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell reads:

"No. 9860 L/Cpl Joel Halliwell, Lanc Fusrs. (Middleton)

For most conspicuous bravery and determination displayed during the withdrawal of the remnants of the Battalion when closely engaged with the enemy. L/Cpl Halliwell, having captured a stray enemy horse, rode out under heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire and rescued a wounded man from "No Man's Land". He repeated this performance several times, and succeeded in rescuing one officer and nine other ranks. He made another effort to reach a wounded man, but was driven back by the very close advance of the enemy. His conduct was magnificent throughout, and was a splendid and inspiring example to all who saw him."

All medals awarded to Joel Halliwell Joel Halliwell medal group.

Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell has earned the following medals and honours:

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal (1914-20)
  • Victory Medal (1914-19)
  • King George VI Coronation Medal (1937)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953)

Later life of Joel Halliwell Joel Halliwell gravestone.

Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell returned to Middleton after the war where he was celebrated a hero. Thousands rallied to witness the civic parade which was organised to welcome Joel and to see this brave man of their town for themselves.

He went on to get married, have 3 children and run The New Inn on Long Street. He even tried to enlist to fight in WW2 but by this time, his age went against him and he was refused.

Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC died in 1958, the funeral took place at Boarshaw Cemetery with full military honours.

Street renaming in honour of Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell

On 27 May 2014, Corporation Street in Middleton was renamed LCpl Joel Halliwell V.C. Way in his honour.

Sergeant James Clarke VC Sgt James Clarke VC.

​​​​​​Sgt James Clarke VC was born on 6th April 1894 in Winsford, Cheshire. He left school at the age of 14, where he worked as a day-labourer, before he enlisted into the Lancashire Fusiliers in October 1915.

He began his working life as a farm labourer, moving to Rochdale in 1913 where he worked as a carter for Butterworth Brothers in Milnrow and then William Tatham and Sons engineers.

He married in August 1915 and lived in Clyde Street, off Vavasour Street, before, in October of that year, he enlisted into the 6th (Rochdale) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. He was posted to the Western Front, where he rose to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

Actions earning James Clarke the Victoria Cross

On 2 November 1918, James Clarke was in charge of a platoon which braved heavy machine gun fire to reach a well-defended ridge. In the action, RSM Clarke and his men captured 4 machine guns and single handedly bayonetted the crews. Later he led the remnants of his platoon to capture 3 more machine guns and many prisoners.

The next day, after capturing more prisoners, he was able to hold up an enemy advance. The day after, in an attack on the Oise Sambre Canal, under heavy fire from the bank, he rushed forward with his team in the face of an intense barrage, brought his gun into action and effectively silenced the enemy.

Cita​tion for Sergeant James Clarke reads: James Clarke going to the 1929 VC dinner in London.

"For most conspicuous bravery and initiative during the attack at Happegarbes on 2 November 1918, when in command of a platoon.

He led his men forward with great determination, and on being held up by heavy machine-gun fire, rushed forward through a thick, strongly held ridge, captured in succession four machine-guns, and single-handed bayoneted the crews. Later he led the remnants of his platoon to the capture of three machine-guns and many prisoners. In the later stages of the attack on the same day, when his platoon was held up by enemy machine-guns, he successfully led a tank against them over very exposed ground.

Continuing the attack on 3 November, after capturing many prisoners and gaining his objective, he organized his line most skilfully and held up the enemy.

On 4 November, in the attack on the Oise-Sambre Canal, under heavy fire from the canal bank, he rushed forward with a Lewis Gun team in the face on an intense barrage, brought the gun into action, and effectively silenced the enemy's fire, this enabling his company to advance and gain their objectives. Throughout the whole of these operations Sgt Clarke acted with magnificent bravery and total disregard of personal safety, and by his gallantry and high sense of duty set an inspiring example to all ranks".

All medals awarded to James Clarke Sgt James Clerk medal group.

Sergeant James Clarke has earned the following medals and honours:

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal (1914-1920)
  • Victory Medal (1914-1919)
  • King George VI Coronation Medal (1937)

In July 1984 his medals came up for auction at Christie’s where they were bought by a private collector for £8,800.

Later life of James Clarke James Clerk original gravestone.

On 1 February 1919, a large crowd welcomed him home to Rochdale, where he was presented with commemorative gifts including a gold watch. Days later he was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

His war experiences had left him with precarious health and it was difficult to find steady work. At one point he operated a barrel-organ, first in Manchester, then in central London.

Mr Clarke went on to attend reunions of VC winners in 1920 and 1929, while working as a stoker in Rochdale, but he lost his job when ill-health overtook him.

He was healthy enough to participate in the World War II Victory Parade on June 8, 1946, but died the next year of pneumonia at Birch Hill Hospital, Rochdale. He was buried with full military honours at Rochdale Cemetery a few days later.

His grave remained marked by only a simple wooden cross until 1994 when the Lancashire Fusiliers Regimental Association spearheaded a drive to replace the cross with a more permanent marker.

Private Anthony Palmer VC Private Anthony Palmer VC.

​​​​​​​Private Anthony Palmer VC was born on the 10 March 1819 in Brereton Green, Cheshire. He was a Private in the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards during the Crimean war.

Actions earning Anthony Palmer the Victoria Cross

The following actions earned Anthony Palmer the Victoria Cross.

On 5 November 1854 at the Battle of Inkerman, Crimea, Private Palmer, with 2 other men, were the first to volunteer to go with Brevet Major Sir Charles Russell to dislodge a party of Russians from the Sandbag Battery. The attack succeeded.

During this action, Private Palmer shot down an assailant who was in the act of bayoneting Russell, and so saved his life. He was also one of a small band which, by a desperate charge against overwhelming numbers, saved the Colours of the battalion from capture.

All medals awarded to Anthony Palmer Anthony Palmer medal group.

Anthony Palmer has earned the following medals and honours:

  • Victoria Cross
  • Crimean Medal with 4 clasps designating campaigns of Sevastopol, Inkerman, Balaklava and Alma
  • Turkish Crimea Medal
  • Long Service Medal

Anthony Palmer Bentinck medal. His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Guards Regimental Headquarters (Grenadier Guards RHQ), Wellington Barracks, London. His VC was stolen during a bar brawl, a replacement was given on Queen Victoria's instruction, although the original was later recovered.

Private Anthony Palmer was also awarded the Bentinck Medal for gallantry, which was first presented in 1855 by Major-General Sir Henry Bentinck, KCB, formerly of the Coldstream Guards and Commander of the Guards Brigade in the Crimea. He intended to issue the medal in 3 different strikings to selected members of the 3 Guards regiments who had performed outstanding service, at a time when insufficient official awards for gallantry were available.

Later life of Anthony PalmerAnthony Palmer's grave.

After leaving the army in 1863, he rose to become the Head Constable of The Millwall Dock Company.

He died on 12 December 1892 at the age of 73, in Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester. He is buried at Heywood Cemetery.


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