Victoria Cross discovered in ashes of museum blaze

John McNamara, awarded the VC during First World War
John McNamara, awarded the VC during First World War
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South Ribble’s only Victoria Cross, thought to have been destroyed in a fire, has been recovered from the ashes.

The Victoria Cross (VC) - the UK’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy - was awarded to Bamber Bridge Corporal John McNamara during the First World War in 1918. Now there are plans for it to go on display in the borough to mark the centenary of his action.

The medal had been displayed at the Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment in Clandon Park, Surrey, but a fire ripped through the building last April.

It was reported that Cpl McNamara’s VC was among the collection lost in the blaze. But in November, news filtered through to Fulwood Barracks there was a small hope that the VC could be safe, if it was one of a handful of items stored in the building’s bank vault.

Recently, when archeological salvage teams combing through the debris discovered the medal was indeed in the vault.

Dr David Hunt, curator of South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre, said: “This is very good news indeed and opens the possibility of the medal returning on loan for the centenary of the action late in 2018.”

Cpl McNamara was born in Mill Street, Bamber Bridge, in 1887. He earned his VC on September 3, 1918, while serving in the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.

While near Lens in France, he protected a captured enemy post on the frontline which was under enemy attack by encouraging his troops to maintain gunfire until reinforcements arrived.

But he never knew he had won the VC because he was killed in action aged 30, less than a month before the Armistice.

Historian Charlie O’Donnell said: “TThe medal is so important to our community as an example of John’s fortitude in the face of the enemy and a great example of perseverance against the odds.

“I am particularly impressed with his care and compassion with his wounded men and the dead during and after the VC action.

“As a community we are all proud of what John did – his was and still is a great example to everyone and we hope that exhibiting the medal in 2018 will reinvigorate his legacy.”