John James Crowe
John James Crowe VC (28 December 1876 – 27 February 1965) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Crowe was 41 years old, and a second lieutenant in the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment, during the First World War at the Battle of Lys. On 14 April 1918 at Neuve Eglise, Belgium, when the enemy, having attacked a post in a village, broke past on the high ground and established a machine-gun and snipers, Second Lieutenant Crowe, with two NCOs and seven men twice engaged the enemy who on each occasion withdrew into the village, followed by the lieutenant firing on them. On the second occasion, taking only two men, he attacked two enemy machine-guns killing both gunners and several more of the enemy. The remainder withdrew, allowing him to capture the two guns. His actions during this incident resulted in Crowe being awarded the Victoria Cross.
He later achieved the rank of captain.
John James Crowe was born at the Female Garrison Hospital, Devonport, Devon on the 28th December 1876. He was the oldest son of John James Crowe and Caroline Elizabeth Crowe (nee Turpin). His father was serving private soldier with the 36th Regiment (later to become the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment) and served in that regiment from 1865 to 1880 as a private soldier.
It was a large family and James had 5 brothers and 4 sisters.
John followed in his fathers footsteps and joined the Army. Joining his fathers Regiment on the 1st July 1897 (army number 4959) as a private soldier, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and quickly rose to the rank of Corporal and by 1906 he was a Colour Sergeant at Norton Barracks.
John married Margaret Ellen Langron on the 3rd February 1902 at St. James, Dublin, Ireland.
They had four children; Annie Margaret (b. 1904), Mary Josephine (b. 1906), John James (b. 1907) and Christina Ellen (b. 1913).
The Worcestershire Regiment had long held the reputation in the British Army of being a top class “Shooting” Regiment and Sergeant John Crowe was an excellent rifle and revolver shot. He was a member of the successful team from the 4th Battalion of that regiment, when it won the Queen Victoria Cup, the “blue ribbon” for rifle shooting, in 1904.
At the outbreak of the First World War he was Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant with the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and landed with the battalion in France on the 15th August 1914. Thoughout the war he was frequently in the thick of the fighting, although twice being blown up and once buried, he ended the war unscathed.
In 1918 he also served as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major for a short time.
On the 1st April 1918 he was commissioned in the field as a 2nd Lieutenant and continued to serve with the 2nd Battalion. He was appointed Adjutant.
Just two weeks later, on the 14th April 1918 he would awarded the Victoria Cross for for bravery at Neuve Eglise during the German offensive which was launched on the 9th April.
His citation reads:
“For most conspicuous bravery, determination, and skilful leading when the enemy, for the third time having attacked a post in a village, broke past on to the high ground and established a machine gun and snipers in the broken ground at the back of the village. 2nd Lt. Crowe twice went forward with two N.C.Os. and seven men to engage the enemy, both times in face of active machine-gun fire and sniping. His action was so daring that on each occasion the enemy withdrew from the high ground into the village, where 2nd Lt. Crowe followed them and himself opened fire upon the enemy as they collected in the doorways of the houses.
On the second occasion, taking with him only two men of his party, he attacked two. enemy machine guns which were sweeping the post, killed both the gunners with his rifle, and prevented any others from reaching the guns and bringing- them in. action again. He then turned-upon a party of the enemy who were, lined up in front of him, killed several, and the remainder withdrew at once. He captured both the guns, one of which was the battalion Lewis gun which had been captured by the enemy on the previous day.
Throughout the seven days of operations 2nd Lt. Crowe showed an utter disregard of danger and was recklessly brave. His personal example and cheerfulness contributed largely to the determination of the garrison of the post to hold out. It may safely be said that but for his coolness and skill at the last moment, when he personally placed the covering party in close proximity to the enemy, who were again closing round, and were also forming up in fours near by, the garrison of the post could never have effected its escape. The valour and zeal displayed by 2nd Lt. Crowe were of the highest order.” (London Gazette 28th June 1918)
On the 26th May 1918 (London Gazette date) he was given the rank of Acting Captain.
Crowe was awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal for 18 year service (London Gazette 1st Januaru 1917, his rank at the time was Quartermaster Sergeant. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his actions at Festubert. He received two mentions-in-despatches (London Gazette 23rd May 1918 and 17th August 1918).
Captain Crowe retired from the Army on the 23rd November 1920 and granted the rank of Captain. In 1921 he applied for a position of School Attendance Officer for Brighton. Brighton Education Committe selected him out of some 200 applicants who applied. After 25 years he eventually retired from post of Children’s Care Enquiry Officer, Brighton in 1946. Having continued on beyond December 1941 when he could have retired.
During his 24 years army service he was regimental athletic champ and a keen hockey player. Shooting at Bisley used to occupy a lot of his time, and Brighton and Hove League’s 1923 De Lancey Shield is among the many markmanship medals he held.
In 1931 the Crowe family home moved to McWilliam Road, Woodingdean, Brighton, Sussex, England. In his leisure time he enjoyed gardening and weekend shooting on the Downs.
In 1962 in an article in the “Brighton and Hove Gazette” he recalled the time he won his V.C. saying; “We were sent into Neuve Englise, near Kemmel, to hold it. We held it for seven days, but only 14 survived out of 250 of us. We captured the German Machine guns and recaptured our own.”
From 1960 until his death he was the president of the Woodingdean Happy Circle Old People’s Club, Brighton. Captain Crowe V.C. died at the General Hospital, Brighton, on the 27th February 1965, aged 88 years. He was buried at Downs Crematorium, Brighton in March.