Personal info

  • Name: John Standish Surtees Prendergast VEREKER
  • D.O.B: 10th July, 1886
  • D.O.A: 27th September, 1918
  • D.O.D: 31st March, 1946
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Acting Lieutenant Colonel, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, 3rd Guards Brigade, Guards Division
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
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Battle of the Canal du Nord, France 27 September 1918

27 September 1918

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The First World War 1918 

Towards the end of September 1918, during the offensive against the Hindenburg Line, British positions west of Cambrai ran southwards along the west bank of the unfinished and partly waterless Canal du Nord through Moeuvres, traversing it, as had the Hindenburg Line, east of Demicourt and proceeded on to Havrincourt. In the Allied advance on 27 September 1918, the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions were in the line north of Moeuvres. Crossing the Canal, they captured sections of the Marquion Line and moved against Bourlon Wood, the scene of heavy fighting the previous year. Lieutenant G F Kerr, 3rd Battalion 1st Central Ontario Regiment, distinguished himself by attacking a German position north of Bourlon Wood, near the Arras to Cambrai road. The 4th Division, which was to the south of the 1st, was involved in heavy fighting round Bourlon Wood. It was here that Lieutenants S L Honey and G T Lyall showed conspicuous bravery. In the following days 4th Division pressed on north-east and Honey’s Citation refers to his further gallantry on the 29th, while Lyall distinguished himself again on 1 October near Blécourt, just north of Cambrai. South of Moeuvres, the Guards Division was detailed to capture the high ground between Graincourt and Flesquières as far as Premy Chapel north-west of Marcoing. During the crossing of the Canal Acting Captain C H Frisby, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, led an attack on a German position under a ruined bridge, which was holding up the advance. In this he was assisted by Lance-Corporal T N Jackson, who was, however, killed almost immediately. Meanwhile, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards advanced to cross the Canal du Nord east of Demicourt, heading north of Flesquières. However, Graincourt to the north and Orival Wood to the north-east were still in German hands, as were Beet Trench and a beet factory. Acting Lieutenant Colonel Viscount Gort, commanding 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, attacked these two positions. He then personally led a tank towards the enemy, as his men made for Premy. Though wounded, he refused to leave the field until they had reached its outskirts. To the south of the Guards Division was 3rd Division which included 8th Battalion The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment which advanced on Flesquières, east of the Canal du Nord. There had been bitter fighting here in November 1917 but the Germans had retaken it in their Spring offensive. It was now recaptured by the British and Corporal T Neely distinguished himself by his gallantry during this action. By nightfall the British had advanced in places over four miles.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading and devotion to duty during the attack of the Guards Division on 27th September, 1918, across the Canal Du Nord, near Flesquières, when in command of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, the leading battalion of the 3rd Guards Brigade. Under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire he led his battalion with great skill and determination to the “forming-up” ground, where very severe fire from artillery and machine guns was again encountered. Although wounded, he quickly grasped the situation, directed a platoon to proceed down a sunken road to make a flanking attack, and, under terrific fire, went across open ground to obtain the assistance of a Tank, which he personally led and directed to the best possible advantage. While thus fearlessly exposing himself, he was again severely wounded by a shell. Notwithstanding considerable loss of blood, after lying on a stretcher for awhile, he insisted on getting up and personally directing the further attack. By his magnificent example of devotion to duty and utter disregard of personal safety all ranks were inspired to exert themselves to the utmost, and the attack resulted in the capture of over 200 prisoners, two batteries of field guns and numerous machine guns. Lt.-Col. Viscount Gort then proceeded to organise the defence of the captured position until he collapsed; even then he refused to leave the field until he had seen the “success signal” go up on the final objective. The successful advance of the battalion was mainly due to the valour, devotion and leadership of this very gallant officer. 

Second Supplement to The London Gazette of 26 November 1918. 27 November 1918, Numb. 31034, p. 14039

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