John William Schofield V.C.
Last night's "London Gazette" announced that the King has been pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to Second-Lieutenant John Schofield, late Lancashire Fusiliers, for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in operations. The official account of his gallant deed is as follows:-
Second-Lieutenant Schofield led a party of nine men against a strong point which was reported strongly held by the enemy, and was attacked by about 100 of the enemy with bombs.
He disposed his men so skilfully, and made such good use of rifle and Lewis gun fire, the the enemy took cover in dug-outs.
This officer himself then held up and captured a party of 20. With the help of other parties, this position was then cleared of the enemy who were all killed or captured.
He then collected the remainder of his men, made his party up to ten, and proceeded towards the front line, previously informing his commanding officer as to the position, and that he was proceeding to retake the front line.
He met large numbers of the enemy in a communication trench in front of him and in a drain on his right and left.
His party opened rapid rifle fire, and he climbed out onto the parapet under point blank machine-gun fire, and by his fearless demeanour and bravery forced the enemy to surrender.
As a result, 123 of the enemy, including several officers, were captured by Second-Lieutenant Schofield and his party.
This very gallant officer was killed a few minutes later.
Twice rejected for the Army.
Second-Lieutenant John Schofield was the elder son of Mrs. and the late Mr. John Schofield, 16, Wycollar Road, Revidge, and unfortunately fell in action in France on the day he performed the deed for which the V.C. has been awarded. He was one of the patriotic young men who early in the war offered his services to the country in its hour of need. Twice, he was rejected because of his eyesight, but eventually was accepted, and posted to the Army Service Corps for clerical work. In this capacity he served for about eighteen months at Salonica, but returned to this country to qualify for a comission, his opinion being that maried men ought to have less dangerous berths. This was the spirit that animated him. He was anxious to take more than a passive part in the great fight for freedom and liberty. He was gazetted to the Lancashire Fusiliers, and went to France with that famous regiment in November of last year. He quickly gained a reputation as an intrepid soldier, and was particualrly daring on certain patrol work which he undertook.
Glowing tributes to his Gallantry.
Mrs. Schofield has received several letters from her son's superior officers, in which they lay glowing tributes to his gallnatry. His captain writes:- "No doubt you will have heard of your son's death on the 9th April. It is difficult, almost impossible, to tell you of his bravery and cheerfulness under the very abnormal conditions we were fighting under on the 9th. I am not exaggerating when I say that of the many brave, fine men I have seen in action out here your son stands out almost alone. The officers and men, not only of this battalion, but of the neighbouring ones, too, are full of tales of him, and his extraordinary pluck. During the day I sent him with a small party of ten men, to work up a trench and clear it of the enemy. He did this, and sent me a message saying he had met a large party of the enemy, much further up than I thought he would be able to go. I was luckily able to send another party to reinforce him, but when the party arrived your son had already taken forty prisoners with his original forces...the next thing I saw was 123 prisoners, 'sent down by Mr. Schofield', as their escort proudly informed me. This was almost immediately followed by the news of his death. He had been hit by a machine gun, and just murmured, 'Send someone to help me down', and passed quietly away. It was all over very quickly and I thank God that a brave, cheerful soul was spared any long drawn out pain. All day long he was laughing and joking about his work, and told one of my officers 'that I don't need my revolver, I just shout at them and out they come, calling Kamerad'. I reckon that he took some 170 prisoners off his own bat in that one day, by sheer pluck and initiative...Personally, I have lost not only a fine officer, but a cheerful, good comrade and friend, by his death".
The Lieutenant-Colonel of the Lancashire Fusiliers in his letter said:- "Please accept my very sincere sympathy both on behalf of the battalion and myself in your great sorrow. Your son, Second-Lieutenant John Schofield, was a magnificent officer, absolutely fearless and a great leader. In the German attack on the 9th April, it was largely owing to his bravery and courage that we suceeded in clearing the enemy out of our part of the line and holding it secure. He was killed, I understood, instantaneously, as he had finished taking prisoner a large number of the enemy, by a bullet from a rifle or machine gun. His loss is one which we shall feel deeply. Once more allow me to offer you my deep sympathy."
Under date April 24th, the chaplain wrote:
-"I am sorry not to have written to you before. I want to tell you how very sorry I am for you in the loss of your son, who was killed in the battle here on April 9th. Captain ____ will have told you how magnificently he did that day, behaving in the most fearless way possible. I suppose he contributed more than anyone else to the sucess in this particualr part. It came as a terrible blow to all of us when he heard he had been killed. I buried him here a day or two later with several others who had been killed in the battle. The loss to the battalion of such a good officer and such a splendid man is very great, and I can only guess what it must mean to you. We have put a cross over his grave, and of course, I was able to read the funeral service. Please accept my most sincere sympathy, and may God unhold you at this time."
In Civil Life.
Lieutenant Schofield was 26 years of age. Commencing his education at Blackburn C.E. Higher Grade School, he afterwards proceeded to Arnold House School, Blackpool. Later he joined his father, the later Mr. John Schofield, in business as a wholesale fish and game salesman at the Blackburn Fish Market. He was connected with St. Silas's Church, and attended the Gospel Hall Sunday School, Victoria-street. A member of the East Lancashire Tennis Club and formerly of the Golf Club, he was exceedingly well known, and the recognition of his bravery will be some consolation to a large circle of friends, by whom his death is very deeply regretted.
The deceased officer was engaged to be married to Miss Ethel Hargreaves, "Alexandra", Dukes Brow. His only brother, Corporal Fred Schofield, R. F. A., was killed in action on the Somme in July, 1916. Their father passed away on May 24th last year.
Private J. W. Gregson, a Mill Hill soldier who has been awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct on April 9th, was with Lietenant Schofield a few minutes before his death, and Corporal W. Jenkinson, another Blackburn member of the Lancashire Fusiliers to receive a Military Medal, was present at the funeral service.
Blackburn's Third V.C.
The first Blackburn man to win the V.C. was Private (now Corporal) James Pitts, of the Manchester Regiment, on January 6th, 1900, in the South African War. Corporal Pitts rejoiced his old regiment in the early days of the present war, and is serving "somewhere in France". The second man to win the much coveted honour, and the first in the present war, was Sergeant (Acting C. Q. M. S.) William H. Grimbaldeston, King's Own Scottish Borderers, who captured single-handed a block house, took 36 prisoners, with six machine guns and one trench mortar. It was conferred upon the gallant soldier in September last.
Lieutenant Schofield is the third Blackburn
man upon whom the distinction has been conferred, but in his case the
honour is posthumously bestowed.