Alexander Edwards VC

Alexander Edwards VC

Alexander Edwards was born at Lossiemouth, on 4th November 1885, the son of a fisherman.

He went to Lossiemouth School and caddied at Moray Links, was a cooper in the herring industry and a Freemason.

At the outbreak of war he joined the 1/6 Seaforth Highlanders and by May 1915 he was in France as a Lance Corporal, and within a few weeks a Sergeant.

He survived the Somme in July 1916 but after catching a throat infection in October, he was posted to a reserve battalion in England to train recruits.

In June 1917 he re-joined his old Battalion and by 31st July, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, he was acting Company Sergeant Major for C Company.

The Battalion was tasked with driving forward from the slopes of Pilckem Ridge but the advance slowed to a virtual halt due to enemy machine guns.

Edwards recalled: “One gun in particular was very troublesome. I went to locate it. I got round behind and hid in a shell hole which commanded a good view. I had two revolvers in my belt and a bullet stopped the career of the first man who was firing the gun. The other nine will trouble our boys no more.”

The History the 6th Seaforth Highlanders describes Edwards’ next act of bravery: “a single enemy sniper was creating havoc in the line. Edwards stalked this brute across the open and along his very line of fire; he was severely wounded in the arm but still carried on, and finally rid the earth and his beloved company of this danger.”

Despite being wounded Edwards stayed with his Company. “A Major of a Cavalry Unit had been left in the open, badly wounded. Without a moment’s hesitation, Edwards crept out, and through a hail of bullets darted from shell hole to shell hole, until he reached the wounded officer. He carried him back to our line, while the fire increased in intensity.”

In the afternoon Edwards led the final attack across the surviving bridge. He remained with his men throughout the night despite shrapnel wounds to his knee.

For those heroic deeds on 31st July and 1st August 1917 Alexander Edwards was awarded the Victoria Cross, which he received from the King at Buckingham Palace on 26th September.

The response to his Victoria Cross in Morayshire was considerable. He was mobbed at Elgin and Lossiemouth Stations and presented on 4th October, at Lossiemouth Town Hall, with a wallet containing National War Loan Bonds for £100, War Saving Certificates for £27. 13/-, £4.10s in bank notes and a beautiful gold watch and chain.

Edwards returned to the Western Front and on 24th March 1918 at Loupart Wood, near Arras, he was reported missing in action.

Alexander Edwards V.C. is commemorated at the Arras Memorial (bay 8), on the Lossiemouth War Memorial, at Lodge Pitgaveny in Lossiemouth and on a memorial sundial at Moray Golf Club. His medal is at the Highlanders Museum.

Further details of Edwards’ life, military career and the response of the Moray people to his award are contained in the accompanying article.

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Sgt Alexander Edwards
Alexander Edwards receiving his VC
Alexander Edwards with his brothers
Pilckem Ridge
Pilckem Ridge