Two more incredible VC winners’ stories

The 13 pounder Mk 1 Field gun used at Nery by ‘L’ Battery Royal Horse Artillery. Three members of this guns crew were awarded the Victoria Cross. Image © IWM (Q 68293)
The 13 pounder Mk 1 Field gun used at Nery by ‘L’ Battery Royal Horse Artillery. Three members of this guns crew were awarded the Victoria Cross. Image © IWM (Q 68293)

 

Two more commemorative paving stones for Victoria Cross winners are being laid today as a part of the VC Paving Stones project. We take look a closer look their incredible life stories and what they did to win the Victoria Cross.

L Battery, Royal Horse Artillery and the Retreat from Mons

George Thomas Dorrell and Edward Bradbury both served in L Battery, Royal Horse Artillery during the First World War. As professional soldiers before the start of the war, they went to France in August 1914 and fought in the Retreat from Mons.

Both earned the Victoria Cross 100 years ago today on the 1 September 1914, at the village of Néry, when the battery fell victim to a surprise German attack.

Edward Bradbury

When the German guns suddenly opened fire on L Battery at 5:30am on the 1 September, dozens of men and horses were mown down in minutes. The battery commander was knocked unconscious, and Captain Edward Bradbury took command. He dashed to the guns, calling for volunteers to get them firing.

Three guns came into action. Two were hit, leaving only one firing alone against twelve German guns. Captain Bradbury helped keep the last gun at Néry firing for well over an hour.

He left the gun to collect more shells from the wagons, crossing open ground under heavy fire. He had only got a few yards when he was fatally hit. Both his legs were shot away. He called for morphine, then continued to direct the firing until he died, propped against the gun.

Captain Edward Bradbury was buried at Néry communal cemetery, with other men from the battery, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 1 September 1914.

George Thomas Dorrell

Captain George Thomas Dorrell.

Captain George Thomas Dorrell.

When the ferocious German attack at Néry started, Sergeant Major George Dorrell initially took cover behind a haystack and returned fire. Three of the battery’s guns were brought into action. Soon only No.6 gun was still firing. Dorrell ran to join the crew.new balance country walkers

Exposed and under heavy fire, he helped to keep the gun firing for almost two hours, until reinforcements could drive the Germans back. One by one, the men working L Battery’s last gun at Néry were killed by the relentless fire. They lay dead and dying around the gun.

By 7.15am, only Sergeant Major George Dorrell and Sergeant David Nelson were left fighting. By this point their captain, Edward Bradbury, was mortally wounded.

Despite his own wounds, Dorrell took command. The two men kept the gun firing until their ammunition ran out. Reinforcements arrived to find that all the German guns had been silenced.

The action at Néry went down in regimental history as ‘Dorrell’s duel’. By keeping the last gun firing at Néry, Sergeant Major George Dorrell created time for reinforcements to arrive and launch a successful counter-attack.

L Battery and Néry Day

In 1926, L Battery became L (Néry) Battery in honour of the bravery of Dorrell and his comrades at Néry. It still commemorates Néry Day each year. For the rest of his life, George Dorrell took part in the commemorations.

George and Edward’s VCs are both on loan to the Imperial War Museum, along with the medal of David Nelson. Commemorative paving stones are being placed at their birthplaces today in Altrincham and Chelsea respectively.

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