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Remembered Today:

Sgt William Gregg VC DCM MM


TrooperKerry

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I am trying to find out more about Sgt Gregg's VC & the action at Bucquoy for his great niece who is going to the Somme next week. She has photos/newspaper clippings passed down but would like to find more about the area. I wonder if anyone knows if the war diaries for the 13th RB available for the dates of the VC?

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From Victoria Cross Medals 1857-2007:

8 May 1918 When all officers of his company had been hit during an attack he took command, and rushing two enemy posts, he killed some of the gun teams and captured a machine-gun. Driven back by a counter-attack, he consolidated his position until reinforced, then led a charge and personally put a gun crew out of action. Driven back a second time, he again counter-attacked, successfully holding the position.

Name on Rifle Brigade Memorial, Winchester Cathedral

Swimming Baths named for him at Heanor Leisure Centre

Gregg Street, Heanor named for him

Medals a Royal Green Jackets Museum

Gazetted 28 June 1918

There's also a nice picture of him but very pixillated.

Quite a man!

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Sergeant William (Bill) Gregg was born at Heanor, Derbyshire, on 27th January 1890. After leaving school he worked as a miner at Shipley Colliery and was married on 25th June 1910. Responding to Kitchener's call for volunteers, he enlisted in the Rifle Brigade on 24th November 1914 and was posted to the 2nd Rifle Brigade in France. When the 13th Rifle Brigade arrived 1915 he was transferred to it, rising to the rank of Sergeant by the end of 1917 and remaining with the 13th Rifle Brigade until the end of the war.

In 1916 Gregg was wounded on The Somme. On 26th March 1917 the London Gazette announced the award to him of a Military Medal for his role in a daylight reconnaissance patrol in February 1917, during which he secured important information from a dead German whose body was lying in a crater. On 6th February 1918 the London Gazette announced the further award to him of a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his role in November 1917 in carrying messages across a road swept by machine-gun fire and for leading a counter attack that drove off the enemy.

Gregg's Victoria Cross citation resulted from the Action at Bucquoy on 8th May 1918 reads: "For most conspicuous bravery and brilliant leadership in action. Two companies of his unit attacked the enemies outpost position without artillery preparation. Sergeant Gregg was with the right company, which came under heavy fire from the right flank as it advanced. All the officers of the company were hit.. He at once took command of the attack, he rushed an enemy post and personally killed an entire machine gun team and captured the gun and four men in a dugout near-by. He then rushed another post, killed two men and captured another. In spite of heavy casualties he reached his objective, and started consolidating the position. By his prompt and effective action this gallant N.C.O. saved the situation at a critical time and ensured the success of the attack. Later Sergeant Gregg's party were driven back by an enemy counter-attack, but reinforcements coming up, , he lad a charge, personally bombed a hostile machine gun, killed the crew, and captured the gun. Once again he was driven back. He led another successful attack, and hung on to the position until ordered by his company commander to withdraw. Although under very heavy rifle and machine gun fire for several hours Sergeant Gregg displayed throughout the greatest coolness and contempt of danger, walking about encouraging his men and setting a magnificent example."

Within the 13th Rifle Brigade Sergeant Gregg established a great reputation as a fighting soldier. One of his platoon Corporals said of him: "He was completely fearless. He came through action after action unscathed. In fact, he went looking for trouble, particularly at night in No-Mans-Land, observing and searching for information of value. Indeed a fine fighting man and one we would follow anywhere."

In 1919 Gregg was demobilised and returned to work in the mines. When was was declared in 1939, he joined the National Defence Company of the Sherwood Foresters, saying "That if the country was worth living in, it was worth defending" but left in 1941 when he reached the upper age limit. He later served on one of the ferries evacuating survivors of the Dieppe raid in August 1942. After the war he again returned to the mines before retiring in the 1950's due to ill health.

Gregg was a founder member of the Heanor branch of the Royal British Legion of whom we were all very proud, but he was just as much admired as a quite unassuming hard working family man who shunned the limelight. He died at Heanor on 9th August 1969, aged 79. His widow who was married to him for 59 years, died in 1993, aged 101. Sergeant Gregg was the first soldier in the First World War to be awarded a V.C., D.C.M. & M.M.

Andy

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There is an obituary in the 1969 The Royal Green Jackets Chronicle for Bill although it goes over a lot of the same material, if you would like it let me know.

Rifleman W. Beesley also of the 13th Rifle Brigade was awarded the Victoria Cross for the same action, and was awarded his V.C. with Gregg at a field investiture at Third Army HQ, Fochen-le-Grand by King George V.

Andy

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Bucquoy, 8th May, 1918.

The end of the German Second offensive on 29th April 1918 was followed by an operational pause before Ludendorff, on 27th May, launched a Third offensive, this time against the French on the Aisne, near Soissons.

Meanwhile 13th Rifle Brigade was doing it's turn in the newly established line at the village of Bucquoy, north of Albert, where observation of the German lines to the east of the village was poor. It was therefore decided to mount a minor operation without artillery support to eject the Germans from their positions on the eastern outskirts of the village and bring the German positions in the valley beyond under better view. 13th Rifle Brigade was selected for the task which was timed to begin at 2pm on 8th May, 1918, with two companies leading the assault and two in direct support. "A" Company, to which Sergeant Gregg and Rifleman Beesley belonged, was the right assault company. What happened next is described in the Regimental History:

"The attack started punctually and it was soon found that the right company (A) would have trouble from the cemetery and crucifix. The parties of this company got on with varying success, but machine gun fire from these two places caused many casualties. Two parites detailed for the attack on the cemetery rushed a machine gun and killed the team. There were at least 30 Germans in the cemetery, of whom 11 were sent back as prisoners and the remainder killed. Lieutenant G.D. Fraser having been (mortally) wounded in the cemetery, Serjeant Gregg took command and the parties pushed on to the crucifix, which they occupied, as well as posts to the north. The enemy counter-attacked from a support trench and got round the right flank, whereupon the parties fell back to the edge of the cemetery, here they were reinforced by a section of the support company and, returning to the charge, bombed the enemy back. They remained there until, under orders, they withdrew at 5.40pm having lost half their strength.

The next party on the left, a platoon, came under enfilade machine gun fire and lost the platoon serjeant and three sections commanders killed, or wounded, Rifleman Beesley took command and continued the advance.

First with a Lewis gun, he engaged an enemy machine gun and knocked it out, he encountered four enemy posts, one of which he rushed single handed; from this he extracted five German officers, of whom he killed one, wounded one, and disarmed three, sending them back as prisoners. Nest Rifleman Beesley single handed rushed a post on the left and found one dead and two live Germans.

The opposition experienced by the 13th Rifle Brigade during the attack, plus the fact that the positions occupied did not offer any better observation than before, resulted in the battalion being ordered to withdraw to its original start point, having lost around 100 men killed, wounded or missing.

Andy

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Gents, thank you so much that is brilliant. I will pass on the info to his great niece, I know she will be so thrilled with this.

Regards Martin

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