British Groups


Lot 4001    The J.J.Atkinson Collection    British Groups

Estimate $230,000
SOLD $220,000

A WORLD WAR I VICTORIA CROSS GROUP OF FIVE TO PRIVATE JAMES TOWERS, 2nd Battalion, Scottish Rifles Victoria Cross (30245 Pte J. Towers 2nd Bn Sco. Rif., 6 Oct 1918); British War Medal 1914-18 (302345 Pte J.Towers. Sco. Rif); Victory Medal (30245 Pte J. Towers Sco. Rif.); Jubilee Medal 1935; Coronation Medal 1953. Victoria Cross mounted on original brooch and in original leather case of issue. First award engraved, second and third awards impressed. Very fine.

VC: London Gazette 6 January 1919. 'For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Mericourt on 6 October 1918 when, under heavy fire, five runners having failed to deliver an important message, Private Towers, well aware of the fate of the runners who had already attempted the task, volunteered for the duty. In spite of heavy fire opened on him as soon as he moved, he went straight through from cover to cover and eventually delivered the message. His valour, determination, and utter disregard of danger were an inspiring example to all.'

Together with biography of recipient; research from Imperial War Museum; photographs of recipient - one in uniform and one in later life holding award; copy of relevant London Gazette entry; extract of regimental magazine The Covenanter regarding the recipient; extract from The Times History of the War; war period military map of Mericourt and surrounds; copies of newspaper cuttings regarding the recipient; and copies of birth and death certificates.

Private James Towers VC (1897-1977) was born at Wildman Street in Preston, Lancashire on 9 September 1897. He was educated at the Emmanuel Boys' school and upon leaving worked at his father's farm 'Church House' in Durton Lane, Broughton. At the outbreak of war in August 1914 Towers was 16 years of age. In June of the following year, while still 17, he volunteered for the West Lancashire Artillery however was soon discharged after his true age was revealed. In August 1916 he joined the 5th Dragoon Guards before moving on to the 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles (The Cameronians) in December 1916.

The 2nd Battalion (the old 90th) was originally stationed in Malta before the war. It had been in France since November 1914 and won considerable praise for its formidable performance and high standard set at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. By the final autumn offensives of 1918 Towers was a seasoned veteran of the trenches. At this time the 2nd Battalion was serving with the 59th Infantry Battalion forming the 20th Division of the Fifth Army. On 6 October 1918 the 2nd Battalion was engaged in a holding action of a Railway embankment at Mericourt near Lens. As a result of German pressure the order was made to retire however a company found itself isolated between the first and second lines of German advance. As the fighting intensified the need to withdraw became more apparent, creating a dilemma as the isolated company could not be abandoned. The only means of sending orders to withdraw was by runner communication.

Volunteer runners were called upon to send the order to the surrounded company. Five volunteers came forward and each was killed in succession by enemy fire. By this stage the situation had reached crisis point. Private James Towers then decided to volunteer, making the sixth attempt. Through heavy cross fire, Towers sped his way across no man's land, making use of natural cover and applying the skills learned at his father's farm to jump the dykes and fences. Crawling through barbed wire entanglements and across shell craters he came across the body of his best friend Private Frank Dunlop, who had been the Company messenger. When Towers was trapped beneath a guarded embankment he made the decision to surprise the enemy by leaping over and was immediately confronted - several yards distant - by a fully manned yet startled German machine gun nest. Making a hasty escape Towers managed to conceal himself in the mist and avoided machine gun fire. Eventually Towers reached the trapped Company and dug in with the remaining soldiers overnight. The following morning he led the Company back through the mist to relative safety, recovering numerous fallen comrades along the way.

Towers was demobilized in January 1919 and his VC gazetted 6 January 1919. In explaining his actions that day Towers later commented 'I joined up as a youngster for a bit of fun, but it didn't turn out like that. We were young men made old before our time. I felt then, that I had to go to the help of these lads, after all, they were my pals'.
James Towers died 24 January 1977 at the Preston Royal Infirmary.

History of The Cameronians. The Cameronians (Scotch Rifles) was organized in July 1887 as a Lancashire regiment comprising two battalions; 1st Battalion - a redesignation of the 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot and; 2nd Battalion - a redesignation of the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers). The term 'Cameronian' was derived from Richard Cameron (d. 1680), a minister of the National Covenant of 1638, which petitioned Charles I for presbyterian church government in Scotland and religious freedom. Prior to World War I The Cameronians had seen deployment to South Africa in the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

The 26th Regiment, which was to become 1st Battalion, was raised as 'The Cameronian Guard' in 1688 comprising ten companies under authority of the Lords of Convention. It was to enter service in the Army of William III and saw action at Flanders in The War of the Augsburg League. Later war service includes The Flanders & Germany Campaigns, 1702; The Jacobite Rebellion, 1715; The Anglo Spanish War (Gibraltar), 1727; The American War of Independence (captured at St Johns and exchanged 1776, New York 1777), 1775-80; North Germany (Hanover, North Germany), 1805-06; and The Walcheren Campaign, 1809.

The 'Old 90th', which was to become 2nd Battalion and Towers's unit, was raised in Scotland as the 90th Regiment of Foot in 1794. Its war service from formation includes The Brittany Campaign, 1795; The Mediterranean Campaigns (Gibralta, Minorca, Cadiz, Malta), 1797-1800; The Egyptian Campaign, 1801; The West Indies Campaigns, 1805-1810; The American War (Canadian frontier), 1814; The Kaffir War, 1846-47; The Crimean War, 1854; The Sepoy Rebellion, 1857; and The Zulu War, 1879.

Estimate / sale price does not include buyer's premium (currently 22% including GST) which is added to hammer price. All bids are executed on the understanding that the Terms & Conditions of sale have been read and accepted. For information on grading and estimates please refer to the Buying at Auction advice.

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