Our Reference Librarian, Debby Wale, writes:
There is a war memorial in Fulham Library. It is a plaque to honour Corporal Edward Dwyer, who was the youngest person to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
The inscription reads:
IN GRATEFUL MEMORY
CORPORAL EDWARD DWYER V.C.
A FULHAM LAD EAST SURREY REGIMENT
KILLED IN ACTION 3RD SEPT. 1916 AGED 20 / HE GAINED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR
CONSPICOUS BRAVERY AND DEVOTION
TO DUTY AT HILL 60 FRANCE APRIL
1915 IN DISPERSING GERMANS BY HAND
GRENADES AND BANDAGING UNDER
SHELL-FIRE WOUNDED COMRADES
Britannica online tells us that:
So great is the prestige of the Victoria Cross that it takes precedence over all other orders and medals in Britain, and recipients are entitled to add V.C. after their name. Only 1,348 crosses have been awarded since the honour was instituted. The medal is bronze (originally cast from Russian guns captured in the Crimean War), depicting a lion on a crown with the inscription “For Valour,” while the reverse side has the date of the act for which the decoration is bestowed and the name, rank, and regiment of the recipient.
The VC was for any rank, not just for officers.
(Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
Edward Dwyer was awarded the VC
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at “Hill 60” on the 20th April, 1915. When his trench was heavily attacked by German grenade throwers he climbed on to the parapet, and, although subjected to a hail of bombs at close quarters, succeeded in dispersing the enemy by the effective use of his hand grenades. Private Dwyer displayed great gallantry earlier on this day in leaving his trench, under heavy shell fire, to bandage his wounded comrades.
(London Gazette, 21 May 1915)
Who was Edward Dwyer?
Dwyer was born 25 November 1895. He was killed in action in the Somme 3 September 1916 and is buried in a war cemetery, Flatiron Copse, France.
He was a delivery boy for a local grocer and didn’t wait to be ‘called up’. He wasn’t yet 18 when he joined the army, and later, our youngest VC, Lance Corporal Dwyer began a recruiting campaign in London. The Observer 18 July 1915 reported his words:
There are hundreds of lads in the Army who are only 17 years of age, but they said they were 18, and if they can do it, so can you.
This plaque was unveiled in a ceremony in 1918:
Lance-Corporal Dwyer with his mother:
Dwyer with George Swandle and Dwyer senior:
The reverse of the picture suggests this was found on Corporal Dwyer at his death.
Corporal Dwyer was buried in Flat Iron copse cemetary in France:
He married Maude Barrett-Freeman(Billie) a nurse in 1915.
Below is a plan of the battle, showing the location of each man awarded the VC. Dwyer is highlighted in green. The Battle of Hill 60 (17 April – 7 May 1915) took place in Flanders, south of Ypres on the Western Front.
Illustrated London news 17 July 1915. Photographs of decorated officers are in plentiful supply throughout the war. In this picture, Captain G H Woolley holds his trench.
Below from Illustrated War News 28 April 1915
‘How the capture of Hill 60 was made possible – the explosion of a land mine under an enemy trench.
In places, land-mines are playing in the trench-warfare a part of immense local importance, and sometimes with wide reaching results. Their immediate effect is that of a volcanic eruption, suddenly belching up in the midst of the trenches with a devastating burst of flame and dense smoke, the explosion excavating a gaping crater and killing or crippling all on the spot. Our photograph, taken from a trench in front at the moment of mine-explosion, vividly shows what onlookers would see. The blowing-up always immediately precedes a bayonet assault by the layers of the mine, before the survivors or their comrades in the adjoining trenches have time to pull themselves together. In that way our capture of the otherwise impregnable Hill 60, south-east of Ypres, was rendered possible.’
As part of the commemoration of World War 1, a group of children from St Thomas’s School came to the library to attend a talk on Corporal Dwyer and see the plaque. It was lovely to see the class look through the illustrated London News and they asked lots of questions.
Fulham Library have assembled a display on Edward Dwyer and World War 1.
I hope you will come along and see our display at Fulham Library and perhaps spend a moment or two of respectful silence at the plaque, which can be found at the top of the stairs by the doors to the reference library.
Illustrated London News and Illustrated War News are held at Fulham Reference Library. War records, marriage certificate and census records are from Ancestry Online. This can only be accessed in one of our libraries and you will need your library card. Documents pictured here relating to Edward Dwyer can be found at:
Local History and Archives Centre
The Lilla Huset
191 Talgarth Road
The Archives service is administered by the City of Westminster Archives Centre and is open every Monday from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Access is by appointment only and places are limited. To book a seat, please call 020 7641 5180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.