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Victoria Cross winner's honour set in stone

Ernest Wright: hero with no known relatives whose medal sold for £90,000

Published on August 21st 2014.

Victoria Cross winner's honour set in stone

FOR those with a Boys Own inkling of Liverpool's fighting past, it is perhaps World War One superhero Noel Chavasse whose name springs to mind first.

But there were other local heroes, bravehearts who helped stem the impossible tide of blood on the fields of Belgium from 1914-1918. In their moment they were decorated with the highest military honour King and Country could bestow: the Victoria Cross.

Unlike Chavasse, these men have no parks or blue plaques in their memory. In many cases, faraway graves lie untended and no family can be traced.

File, then, under "who knew?", the case of one: Liverpool's Ernest Wright Alexander.

But now there is some recognition. A commemorative York stone is to be unveiled this Sunday (August 24) in memory of Alexander. The date marks the exact 100th anniversary of his decoration with one of the first Victoria Cross medals in WWI.

Ernest_Wright_AlexanderErnest Wright AlexanderIn 1914, against overwhelming odds, Alexander, Lieutenant Colonel in the 119th battery of the Royal Field Artillery, defended his battery at Elouges in Belgium from German soldiers - enabling them to withdraw without serious loss.

The citation for the medal in the London Gazette also highlighted the bravery of the Princes Park man in rescuing a wounded man under heavy fire “with the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty”.

Alexander was one of eight men from the city to be awarded the Victoria Cross during WWI, and the others will be honoured in the same way between now and 2018. It is part of a government scheme which will see every recipient remembered.

The paving stone in Alexander's honour will be unveiled at Princes Park gates at 11am, attended by Lord Mayor, Councillor Erica Kemp, veterans and serving soldiers from the Royal Artillery and members of the Friends of Princes Park.

The Lord Mayor said: “Ernest Alexander was a brave and fearless soldier whose selfless actions saved many lives.

“It is important that his contribution to World War One is remembered and I am privileged to be able to attend the unveiling of the stone.

 “It will be a permanent reminder of the incredible contribution that he made to the war effort and his role in making sure that more soldiers weren’t lost.” 

Ernest was also awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath, the Companion of St. Michael and St. George, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He is also remembered with a memorial at Putney Vale Cemetery in London.

He retired in 1920 to live in Kingsbridge, Devon, where he died on August 25, 1934, aged 63. Efforts to trace his relatives, including by a local historian, have proved unsuccessful.  

Until now, his worth (at least on paper) has amounted to £90,000, the sum his VC medal was sold for in 1999.

Leaving no known relatives but much in the way of legacy, salutes are optional next time one bicycles by.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 21st 2014.

Noel Chavasse doesn't have much to do with Liverpool's fighting past, he chose to be a stretcher bearer.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Thomas AtkinsAugust 21st 2014.

And of course it's much safer and easier to go into the barbed wire, flying shell splinters and machine-gun fire of no man's land armed only with a stretcher rather than a rifle I suppse?

AnonymousAugust 22nd 2014.

That was not what I was saying at all. He was a conscientious objector to the fighting and chose to carry a stretcher. he was incredibly braze a genuine hero but not a fighting man, and it seemed to me that given his objections the association of him with Liverpool's fighting past was wrong.

Wilfred PicklesAugust 22nd 2014.

Nonsense, you don't associate Noel Chavasse with Liverpool's busking past, or Liverpool's docker past. You associate him with Liverpool's combative past. It is what they give VCs out for. He got them for his role in war and battle, not for his 400 metres prowess. What a shame you can't show some interest in the man who is the subject of the article.

EddieAugust 24th 2014.

Noel Chavasse was the Medical Officer of 10th (Liverpool Scottish) Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment. He was the only man in WW1 to win two Victoria Crosses along side a Military Cross. Liverpool should be proud of him. Some stretcher bearer?

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