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Soldiers of the Regiment

Private Albert Halton VC

From the Lancaster Guardian 5th January 1918

Private Halton VC
Enthusiastic Welcome at Carnforth

Carnforth was en fete on Saturday to do honour to Private Halton VC, Royal Lancaster Regiment, who resides with his parents at Highfield Terrace, and to give him a cordial “welcome home”. The news that Private Halton had been awarded the VC for ‘conspicuous bravery,’ was received with unbounded satisfaction, and Mr A Hoyle and members of the Urban District Council set themselves at once to organise a suitable welcome. Steps were also taken to provide a fitting tribute for Private Halton, and to this end a representative committee was appointed, a subscription list was opened, and social functions organised. The project was enthusiastically taken up, and a gratifying response has been made. It is hoped to raise Ł200 for the purpose of providing Private Halton with a War Bond to that amount, but the exact details have not yet been arranged.

Private Halton was given 14 days leave from the 26th , and he started on that day for home. But railway travelling from the theatre of war was slow, and he did not arrive at Carnforth until 1.20 on Saturday afternoon. The notice was short, but Mr Hoyle and the councillors, with the Committee and Mr Unsworth (clerk) acted promptly. A demonstration was arranged, which soon assumed large proportions. By noon the town presented quite a gay appearance, flags and banners being displayed from most houses, and also from the Church tower. The space leading to the railway station was kept free, and here the official procession was formed. Amongst those present were Mr Hoyle, chairman of the District Council and Committee; Mr T Jackson, vice-chairman; Messrs F W Lambert, A Sandford, T Ripley, E E Unsworth (clerk), H T Chew (assistant overseer), Dr Jackson (Medical officer); Rev H J Mercer, vicar; Rev. G H B Judge; Messrs, J R Hall, James Sill, W Wilson, G W Collinge, W J Winder; Mr F W Cobb (headmaster National School) Corporal B T Barnard (headmaster Hawk Street School); and school children from both schools were present in large force in charge of their respective teachers. Supt. Scott was in general charge of the arrangements.

In addition to those already named, there was a capital turn out of special constables and ordinary police; Volunteer force, under the command of Captain Briggs, Linden Hall; firemen, boy scouts, and the Carnforth Brass Band. Mr and Mrs Halton, father and mother of the hero of the day, were also present, having come to the station to meet their noble son, who arrived by the 1.20 p.m. train from the south. Only a special few were allowed on the platform, and when the train arrived Private Halton, in full kit, stepped briskly from the train, and was affectionately received by his father and mother. Then Mr. Hoyle and members of the Council and Committee took him in hand, cheers being called for and given for “Carnforth’s VC”. The passengers in the crowded train joined in the cheering and friends crowded round to shake him by the hand. At the Station entrance he was received by a burst of cheering, which drowned the band, who played “See the Conquering Hero Comes.” School children took up the song, and then they sang with excellent effect the National Anthem right through. Meantime Private Halton had been placed in a pair-horse landan (provided by Mr Hoyle) decorated with Union Jacks, and he was accompanied by his father and mother and Mr Hoyle. For a moment the young hero looked scared, and hesitated as though he would try to escape the cheers and the attention of the crowd. But with true British chivalry four comrades of his, also on leave – including Driver Stretch, who has recently been awarded the Military Medal; Sapper J Woodhouse, RE, Private N Ashton, and Private Robert Barker, Royal Lancasters – had assembled to help him in what they realised would be a trying ordeal, and as they relieved him of his rifle and other impediments, one exclaimed “Cheer up, Albert, thou’s been in a worse corner than this.” The cheery admonition and the spirit behind the words, relieved the situation, and Private Halton rose to the occasion. He smiled, the words had given him the needed tonic, and he was once more the cool adaptable soldier. Quickly the procession was formed, and led by the band, fireman, boy scouts, Council and general committee, and Volunteers, the landan started on its journey through the town. School children followed in the rear, waving their flags and taking part in the vociferous cheers that greeted Private Halton en route. He smiled and bowed, and resigned himself to a half-hour’s lionising. At Highfield Terrace, neighbours vied with each other in the display of bunting, and across the narrow street hung a flag inscribed “Welcome to our VC” Mr and Mrs Halton and their son and Mr Hoyle walked along the terrace to the modest home, and the hero tried to escape by darting into the house. But he was “re-captured” for the crowd surged round the door, the band and school children contributing instrumental and vocal music, and the crowd cheered. Private Halton was induced to come to the upper window, and he was again heartily cheered. Then “a few words” were suggested, and Mr Hoyle, on behalf of the ruling authority of the town and the general committee, said he would like to say a few words on behalf of the committee in bidding Private Halton “welcome home.” He was proud they had a young man in Carnforth who gained the highest honour possible, even if he had been a field marshal. They should be proud of such a man. (Hear, hear.)

Rev H J Mercer, responding to the call of Mr. Hoyle, said he would like to bear testimony, said he would like to bear testimony to the delight they all felt at the noble work their VC had done – the self-sacrificing action by which he had saved many of his comrades’ lives, and happily his own life as well. He had gained the most distinguished honour it was possible for a soldier to earn, and many men would rather have the little bronze medal than any other distinction that could be granted – for it was given “for valour” in the field. They were proud to honour Private Halton and his family, and as long as Carnforth existed its people would remember him as the first lad who had gone forth from their midst to win the VC. No doubt the day had been a trying one to him, but he would remember it was long as he lived. Those present had tried to show their appreciation of what he had done, and of the honour he had brought to the township and his native place. He (Mr. Mercer) had pleasure in expressing what he believed everyone felt – their pride in Private Halton, and their pleasure in welcoming him home after his bravery in winning the VC (Applause).

The band played “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” and the crowd joined in lustily. Then “See the Conquering Hero” was started, and the children sang the inspiring words, as well as “Three cheers for the Red, White and Blue.”

There were calls for “Speech” and Private Halton, having by the time resolved to “see it through,” addressed those present, his remarks being punctuated by cheers. He said he was very pleased to see the people of Carnforth again. He was the first Carnforth lad to win the VC, and he was proud of it for Carnforth’s sake, and proud that he belonged to Carnforth. “I may say,” he went on. “Carnforth has done its duty for King and Country. There are a few lads around me now who belonged to the King’s Own, and they know some of them were with me in the battle of Ypres; Private Steward knows what is is like. Then Private Ashton was in the First Fifth King’s Own at the same time as I was. They have done great deeds, they have suffered for it, but they have done the deed.” Private Halton called for three cheers for Mr Hoyle and the Committee for what they had done, and apologised for having kept the people waiting for his arrival. He had been congratulated by many people on the work he had done, and he hoped cheers would be given for them, and for all the Carnforth soldiers.

Private Halton led the cheering, and also cheers for the King, and added that he was sorry to say that Sergeant Brockbank, who was reported wounded and missing, was now reported killed. He had not passed through any dressing station, although inquiries had been made. He (Private Halton) was with him for two or three hours before he was wounded, and just before he left the front it was notified that Sergeant Brockbank had died of wounds. He was buried all right” added Private Halton, “so that is all right.”

After more cheering the proceedings ended, and Private Halton was able to join his immediate relatives.

An Interesting Interview

Directly after the formal proceedings ended, a Press representative had an interview with Private Halton. He shrank from the ordeal, but after a little judicious prompting he gave some particulars of his exploits. Here is the official account of the award:-

“No. 241475 Private Albert Halton, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (Carnforth). For most conspicuous bravery in attack. After the objective had been reached, Private Halton rushed forward about 300 yards under very heavy fire and shell fire, and captured a machine gun and its crew, which was causing many losses to our men. He then went out again and brought in about twelve prisoners, showing the greatest disregard of his own safety and setting a fine example to those around him.”

“At the minute appointed we jumped over the top,” said Private Halton, in reply to questions. “The dawn was just breaking; we advanced, and we took many prisoners, and we reached our objective. The weather was wet and dismal, and the ground full of shell holes. We began to dig ourselves in.”

“What prompted you to go out?”

“I thought I heard a machine gun somewhere, and the bullets were coming over. I had an idea where it was, and I went out on my own. The officer in command had been knocked out, and the NCO’s were casualties except two. I followed the direction of the noise, and I got the machine gun and four men.”

“How did you manage it?”

“The men and the gun were in a shell hole. I dashed over the top, shouted to the men, and made a dash for them. They all came towards me with their hands up. I told them they were prisoners, and I got the gun, which I brought into our lines, with the men.”

“I suppose the men would look sick when they found they had surrendered to one man?”

“They did a bit, but our bombardment had shattered their nerves, I think.”

“I fancied I saw some men in a shell hole, and I thought they were snipers. They had caused us to lose several men, and I did not like that. So I just sneaked out again and made towards the shell hole, 300 yards distant. When I got near I rushed them, jumped into the hole and shouted “Hands up.” They at once dropped their guns, put their hands up, and they were prisoners.”

“How many men were there?”

“Oh twelve, two groups of six each.”

“How come they surrendered to one man?”

“I don’t know, but they did. Perhaps they thought I was supported, and probably their nerves had been shattered by our terrible bombardment. At any rate, I brought them in.”

“It was a dangerous thing for you to do, to go out into the open under fire, was it not?

“The most danger was from our own men, who were replying to the fire of the enemy snipers, and who did not know I had gone out. When I was three hundred yards away, they could not distinguish me from the enemy, and I might have got hit. But I was lucky you see.”

In reply to further questions, Private Halton said Captain Law was wounded, and so was Sergeant Brockbank, but when the men told what had been done, Captain Law ordered a report to be prepared, and he sent it down the line. “And they gave me the VC for it,” added Private Halton. He said that Sergeant Brockbank was wounded, and he was afterwards reported missing. He belonged to the 1st King’s Own, and was a Carnforth man. He also explained that the shells holes in which the machine gunners and snipers were hidden were in different directions – one was at the left incline from the position captured by the British and the other at the right incline.

“That’s all, I think,” said the interviewer.

“Yes, that’s all,” replied Private Halton quickly.

“I am glad this is over,” and he heaved a sigh of relief.

Private Halton was decorated by the King on Wednesday.

Private Albert Halton VC
Accession Number:


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