One hundred years since his great sacrifice for his pals, Preston hero James Towers VC is remembered

Last year they named a £32m road after him . . . now war hero James Towers has a second monument set in stone.

Saturday, 6th October 2018, 2:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th October 2018, 1:33 pm
Civic leaders gather from the unveiling of a plaque to VC hero James Towers. Photo: Bernie Blackburn

Exactly 100 years to the day after the farmer’s son won the Victoria Cross for his courage on the battlefields of France, Preston unveiled a special plaque in front of the city’s war memorial to honour “one of the bravest of the brave.”

Family stood alongside civic dignitaries and a guard of honour of standard bearers to mark the centenary of Private Towers’ extraordinary gallantry on October 6, 1918, saving the lives of numerous comrades trapped in No Man’s Land.

The plaque, made from the same Portland stone used to renovate the war memorial, has been set alongside that of another VC winner from Preston, Private William Young.

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The new plaque in Preston's Flag Market. Photo: Bernie Blackburn

Both men were among 628 British and Commonwealth servicemen awarded the nation’s highest honour for gallantry during the First World War. Each one is being recognised in his hometown as part of a national scheme to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conflict.

Pte Towers’ great niece Ann Wood, who was on the Flag Market this morning to witness the unveiling, said: “It is a very, very proud day for all the family.

“My great uncle James was a very courageous man - they all were. And for him to be honoured twice by his hometown is an incredible honour.

“Naming the new Broughton Bypass after him was brilliant. But now this is the icing on the cake.

Victoria Cross winner James Towers

“I can remember visiting him with my dad when I was a little girl. I’m told, like a lot of those who fought in the Great War, he wouldn’t talk about his experiences. I guess they didn’t want to be reminded of it because it can’t have been very pleasant what they went through.”

His grandchildren David and Glynis Castle added: "As a family, we are so proud of our Grandad and Great Grandad. Today has been very moving for us all as we commemorate his bravery along with the people of Preston.

"We would like to thank everyone at Preston Council, Broughton Parish Council and the people of Broughton who have worked on and contributed to both the memorial stone in front of Preston cenotaph and the plaque at the Broughton was memorial.

"The time and effort spent on both has created an excellent lasting memory of his bravery."

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry officially opened James Towers Way in Broughton last year

Pte Towers was a member of the 2nd Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Major Philip Grant, from the regiment, told the ceremony in front of the memorial: “The 2nd Battalion were abroad when war broke out in 1914, but they were quickly brought home and sent immediately to France.

“In August 1918 there was the start of a great push by all the allies. The Germans were driven back and gave ground every day. The tide had turned. After four long years of dreadful losses, victory could be sensed.

“With this in mind, the bravery and valour of James Towers deserves to be recognised. There was no hint that he thought of himself, he just thought about the job in hand and keeping on keeping on.

“He was assuredly one of the bravest of the brave.”

Pte Towers volunteered to carry an important order to a company of troops who had become surrounded by Germans. Five previous volunteers had tried and all had been killed by enemy fire.

But dodging heavy crossfire he darted across No Man’s Land using the skills he had learned on his father’s dairy farm to jump dykes and fences.

He crawled through barbed wire and across shell craters, finally reaching his comrades and staying with them through the night before leading them to safety through the early morning mist, recovering the bodies of fallen soldiers on the way.

At the ceremony the Mayor of Preston, Coun Trevor Hart, unveiled the plaque and read out the Victoria Cross citation. He also read some words which were reported to have been said by Pte Towers later.

“I felt then that I had to go to the help of these lads. After all, they were my pals.”

Coun Hart added: “It is an absolute honour to read those words out and be part of this.”

The plaque was paid for by the Preston Remembers project. It was designed by architect Charlie MacKeith, who worked on the restoration of the war memorial to commemorate 100 years since the Great War.