Monday, 7 April 2014

Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC

Joel Halliwell VC

Yesterday evening, as part of its commemoration of the centenary of the start of  World War I, the BBC broadcast a special edition of Antiques Roadshow which had been filmed largely in the cemetery at Thiepval, close to the monument to all those Commonwealth soldiers who died in the battle of the Somme but have no known grave.  The last item in the programme had, however, been filmed in a different military cemetery, that at Warloy-Baillon.  With presenter Fiona Bruce and a medals expert were a frail, elderly lady and her two granddaughters.  The elderly lady was Lance Corporal Halliwell's daughter and they discussed the event which led to the award of the Victoria Cross before Ms Bruce led the elderly lady to the headstone marking the grave of her uncle, Thomas Halliwell, Joel's brother, who died on the Somme.  It was an extremely emotive end to the programme.

But what I find so astonishing is the bravery demonstrated by Joel Halliwell.  In 1918, during the
The Victoria Cross
Battle of the River Aisne, he was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner for a short time before escaping back to British territory.  He was met with carnage along the way, seeing many of his comrades lying wounded in the chaos.  Finding a stray enemy horse, he rode back through the heavy shell- and gunfire to pick up the wounded one by one and take them back to safety. Braving these terrifying conditions over and over, he picked up ten of his comrades until unfortunately, the horse was fatally wounded. He then trekked well over a mile and back to bring water for the wounded men.

Going into no-man's-land just once to rescue someone would be brave enough, but to do it ten times is almost beyond belief.  And, what's more, he would have had to heave the bodies onto the horse each time.  No wonder he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for valour in the face of the enemy.


Julie Howarth said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed the programme. The lady in question is my mother Dora, Joel's daughter and the other two are my sister and her daughter. Joel was an incredibly brave man and as a family we are all so very proud of him. As you say to rescue one man from No mans land would have been incredible but to do it ten times is amazing. He only stopped when his horse was severley injured and could not carry on. So proud was he of his country and doing his duty he tried to enlist for the Second World Wr but was too old.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Julie, Thank you for your comment. How incredibly proud you must be of your grandfather. And I have to say, both my wife and I had tears in our eyes as we watched that.

Dave Laundy said...

I just watched that programme too, down here in Australia, I'm English but live here now. I found it a very moving story. I must confess I also shed a little tear while watching, and i'm not normally an emotional person. I wanted to research the story a little further, and finding this page is part of that. He was a very brave and selfless man i'm sure you must be very proud of him and your great uncle.