A Tribute to
William Thomas Forshaw VC
1890 - 1943
...the utmost disregard to danger, ... casually lighting bomb fuses with his cigarette, and personally throwing them continuously for forty one hours...
Nicknamed the 'Cigarette VC' for reasons which will become clear, Forshaw is honoured in the Museum of the Manchesters in Ashton Town Hall. His Victoria Cross is on display and one of the galleries is named after him.
Forshaw came to the Tameside area at an early age but was actually born in Barrow in Furness, the son of a manager at the Vickers Shipyard. He trained to be a teacher and took a job at the North Manchester High School for Boys in Moston. A sociable and musical man he was a prominent member of the Ashton Operatic Society and performed at the Ashton Empire Hippodrome.
With the outbreak of World War I, Forshaw volunteered for service with the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment Territorials. By May 1915 he was a 2nd Lieutenant serving in the Dardanelles. His brave actions merited the Victoria Cross and his nickname. The citation reads as follows :
'For most conspicuous bravery and determination at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, from 7 to 9 August 1915. When holding the north-west corner of 'The Vineyard', Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Forshaw was attacked and heavily bombed by Turks, who advanced time after time by three trenches which converged at this point, but he held his own, not only directing his men and encouraging them by exposing himself with the utmost disregard to danger, but casually lighting bomb fuses with his cigarette, and personally throwing them continuously for forty one hours. When his detachment was relieved after twenty four hours he volunteered to continue the direction of the operations. Three times during the night of 8/9 August he was again heavily attacked, and once the Turks got over the barricade, but after shooting three with his revolver, he led his men forward and recaptured it. When he rejoined his battalion he was choked and sickened by bomb fumes, badly bruised by a fragment of shrapnel, and could barely lift his arm from continuous bomb throwing. It was due to his personal example, magnificent courage and endurance that this very important corner was held.'
Many of the bombs Forshaw threw were made from jam tins by him and his men.
In October 1915 Ashton-under-Lyne Council made Forshaw a Freeman of the Town in recognition of his role in leading men from the Ashton area. Forshaw's later military career was as a Major in the Indian Army, from which he retired in 1922. Back in England he lived initially near Ipswich and returned to teaching. He started two preparatory schools but sadly both of these failed leaving him bankrupt.
During the Second World War he served with the Home Guard but he died in May 1943 at his home in Maidenhead. For many years Forshaw's final resting place remained a mystery but in 1991 after a nine year search, local man Tom Medcroft of Stalybridge, discovered it in Holyport near Maidenhead.
| ||A blue plaque to commemorate the life of William Forshaw is sited on the entrance to Ladysmith Barracks. |