Soldier – Laurence Calvert V.C. – Conspicuous Bravery and Devotion to Duty

September 1918

Mexborough Times, September 23rd 1918

Laurence Calvert V.C.

As was foreshadowed in this paper a few weeks ago, the Victoria Cross has been awarded to Sgt Lawrence Calvert, M.M., (K.O.Y.L.I.), 19 Beech Hill, Conisborough. The following is the official announcement issued last Saturday,

Number 240194. Sgt L.Calvert, M.M.(K.O.Y.L.I.), Conisbrough.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack when the success of the operation was rendered doubtful owing to severe enfilade machine gun fire. Alone and single-handed, Sgt Calvert, rushing forward against the machine gun team, bayoneted three and shot four. His valour and determinationin capturing single-handed two machine guns and killing the crews thereof, enabled the ultimate objective to be won. His personal gallantry inspired all ranks

Sgt Calvert is well known in Conisborough and the news of the great honour conferred upon him was everywhere received with satisfaction. He is not a native Conisboroite, but he has belonged to the village some eight years. When a “times” Reporter enquired the way to his home, the old village shoemaker who directed him spoke quite enthusiastically about young Calvert.

“There were two Conisborough men,” he said, “that I always tipped for the VC and Calvert was one of them.”the old gentleman spoke with all the pride of a prophet justified. “The war did not last long enough for him to bring off the double.” But it is a considerable performance in horology to a forecast one V.C, let alone two.

The Victoria Cross has been very sparingly granted, even in these times when almost every second as witnesses deed of extraordinary courage. The number awarded during this unprecedented war has been 520, and the number of candidates for them well over 5 million. Sergeant Calvert`s gives to the district its second Victoria Cross. The first was awarded to a Mexborough man, Sapper William Hackett in 1916.

Sapper Hackett got the V.C. for supreme gallantry which caused his own death. Sgt Calvert showed the way to sacrifice the enemy; Sapper Hackett showed the way to self-sacrifice. Both men showed themselves sublime heroes, in quite different ways. Mexborough was very proud of its V.C. and did something to show its pride. Courage will doubtless display the same sense of the honour conferred on the village of the distinction which one of its own soldiers has gained, and in Conisborough´s case the circumstances are somewhat happier, for Conisborough is able to look forward to the return of its hero, and to the opportunity of feting and congratulating him.

The Conisborough V.C. is 26 years of age, and the youngest and unmarried. Some of a widow, Mrs Beatrice Calvert, 19 Beech Hill, Conisborough. His father, George Calvert, who died in 1895, was in business for many years, in partnership with his father in great Wilson Street, Hunslet, Leeds, as a tinsmith. Alll Sgt Calvert relatives live in the neighbourhood of Leeds. His mother was a daughter of the late Mr Robert Stevenson; who for many years was landlord of the Sir Robert Peel arms, Dewsbury Road, Leeds, and his grandmother Mrs Stevenson later kept two other well-known Hunslet hostelries, the Rose and Crown and the Blooming Rose Inn.

Lawrence Calvert was educated at the Roman Road Board School and at a well-known Leeds higher grade school called the Cockburn school.

After leaving school he was for some time employed as a van boy. By the Midland railway company at Leeds. This employment did not suit him, and he forsook it at the first opportunity.

In a sense, he ran away from home, for one day his mother found a hurried note left on the table.

“Dear mother (it said), I’ve gone to work at a place called Cadeby.”

His mother was not greatly pleased at the time, for she knew little or nothing about either collieries or coalminingand that was not the sort of thing she had intended for the boy. However, he obtained employment at Cadeby in 1910, and were there for some time. Then he moved on to the Maltby colliery, but did not settle there. During the Cadeby disaster he presented himself at the Cadeby Pit once more and asked to be allowed to go down and assist in the work of rescue. As, however, he was not employed at the colliery, and was not a trained rescue worker, is offer was not accepted.

Soon after he returned to Cadeby, and obtain work as a haulage hand. He was in that employment. When war broke out.

In the previous April, he had joined the Denaby company of the Doncaster territorials, the gallant, 1st/5th K.O.Y.L.I., whom local headquarters was then the premises which are now the mining offices.

He was in camp with the Battalion at Whitby when war broke out and he was mobilised. He went out to France in April 1915, with the 49th division, one of the earliest territorial divisions to see service at the front. He took part in the second battle of Ypres, when the German´s tried burst through the channel ports with the surprise use of poison gas.

In September he was hit in the arm, and was invalided to a Brighton hospital. He quickly recovered and was back in the trenches early in 1916.

He has served there continuously ever since, except for the regulation furloughs. He last came home on the fourth anniversary of the war.

“I remember it particularly,” said his mother to a Times reporter, “because it was precisely the same date and about the same hour is when he came on from Whitby after he had been mobilised. He got to Doncaster late on Sunday night, August 4, and was offered there the choice of a bed for the night, or a bicycle to run over to his home straightaway. He was very tired, but he chose the bicycle.”

While he was home on leave. He confided to his brother (when also seen service) that he had been recommended for distinction. He had been transferred many months before to the 62nd division, originally a division of second line Yorkshire territorials, but it had absorbed the remnants of the first line men who formed the gallant, but now defunct, 49th

With this division He saw very serious service on the French from this summer, and was in a part of the line which was called upon to bear the brunt of the Crown Prince´s desperate efforts to break through to Paris. The exploits of the Division, have received deserved publicity recently through the West Riding Territorial Association. It´s astonishing advance during the surprise attack on Cambrai last November will ever constitute it´s chief glory.

During the hottest of the fighting on the Rheims front, Sgt Calvert was able to do great execution with a machine gun, and when his post was visited it was found that he was the only survivor of the machine gun crew, while ranged before the gun were piles of dead Germans, silent and eloquent evidence of the coolness and steadiness with which the gun had been operated.

It was this incident that the earlier and more modest honour of the military medal came Sargent Calvert´s way.

Anyhow, when he returned from leave the award was made, and Sgt Calvert received the ribbon on the field, being decorated by the general officer commanding the division.

Shortly after, he wrote home saying that he had again been recommended (he had twice been recommended before receiving the military medal), this time for the highest honour of all.

In this letter he said:

“I always meant to be a credit to you, mother.” He added he had been withdrawn from the line, and was having a good time. The adjutant had explained the “V.C.stunt.”to him and everybody, from the colonel downward was confident that he would get it.

On October 31 he wrote saying he thought it was practically certain to get the honour, and in the meantime he had got a good job and was all right.

“I expect,” he continued, “you will be wondering what I did. Well, during an attack we made on the enemy, my company was held up by a German machine gun, and I went forward by myself and shot four of its crew and bayoneted the other three, capturing the gun, thus allowing my company to continue the advance. Of course, I suppose it was a risky thing to do, but when in the heat of the battle, a chap does not think of that. I could not bear to see the lads of my company getting knocked out by that d—–d Jerry gun, and I thought it was up to me to shift it, and this is the result. Everybody thinks the world of me, and the rest of the time we were in the line, after the attack, they used to send up to my company to enquire if I was still all right. And now I have a good job, so I think this is all just now.”

In his earlier letter, written on October 6, he said: “I just got back in time to be presented with the M.M. by our general, which news I know you will be pleased to hear. Before long, I shall be getting another decoration, I think it will be much higher than this one, as the officers of our Battalion are trying their very best for something good for me, so look out for some good news in a week or two.”

I am very proud,” said Mrs Calvert, “that the boy has done so well, and I’m very thankful that he is to be spared to come back to me. This war has meant hard times for us, but I care nothing about that now that it is over and the boy is safe. I know he was always cheerful and bright. He did not talk much to me about the war or about what he did at the front. He talked more to his brother, I believe, but he was very reserved with me about that sort of thing. He knew that it would have made me uneasy if I could have understood what they did. He always used to say that the Germans hadn’t a bullet or a shell with his name on, and he seems to have been right. I think I´m very fortunate that he should have come through all that he has been through with only one wound.

I remember a long time ago in 1915 1916, he was once really downhearted. It was when his particularly chum, a Conisborough lad – Aaron Dawson, who lived at Mount Pleasant- was killed. He left that boy´s death bitterly, and it nearly broke his heart.

He wrote home and said,” I shall avenge his death; the Germans will have to pay for it.”and they have paid for it.

Mrs Calvert, lives with her elder son, Walter, who is married, and who, as mentioned above, has also seen service. As a youth he worked for five years in the Navy, and among the vessel to which he was attached were the light cruiser Aboukir and the Battle cruisers Majestic and Goliath, all of which have been lost in the present war, the first in the North Sea, in common with the Hogue and the Cressy, and the other in the attempt to force the passage of the Dardanelles. He joined the Royal Navy division at the outbreak of war and was discharged after a long spell of active service with the rank of leading Seaman. He was discharged in 1916, with gastric trouble, and since been employed at the Yorkshire main colliery, Edlington. He too, is very proud of the distinction which his brother has gained stop.

It is hopes and believed that some special effort will be made in Conisbrough and at the Colliery where Sgt Calvert was employed, to mark the local sense of the honour which the heroic sergeant has again, and has conferred on the place of his adoption, Conisbrough, an ancient village which was already entitled to be known in history, and is now able to associate with the share the great European war. The fact that it sent many men are good enough to win the VC and one who actually got it.

Sgt Calvert won the V.C. during the capture by the 62nd division, on September 12 of Havrincourt, in the approach to Cambrai. You will remember that the same division took Havrincourt a year ago, in Sir Julian Byng´s surprise offensive



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