The Hero

The Great War: Vimy Ridge
George Van Wyck Laughton, M.C.

Canadian - Serving in the British 3rd Army, 34th Division,  
26th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Irish)

                               


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This page last updated on February 01, 2013

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MILITARY HONOURS

Historical Documents Comments from Richard Van Wyck Laughton (grandson) based on research conducted to date:
This photograph of G. V. Laughton appears to have been taken outside the Ontario Legislature Building in Toronto, Ontario, at the time he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Vimy Ridge.  The statement on award of the MC was as follows:
"He displayed conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty and by his splendid example and lack of interest in his own welfare, encouraged his men to remarkable achievements.  "He led a bombing squad against a machine gun which was holding up the attack and, after the bombers we all killed, captured the gun single handed and destroyed its crew.  After all the officers had been killed or wounded he assumed command of the fallen battalion for the remaining days and held the position unaided against repeated German counter-attacks".
The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario present George Van Wyck Laughton with the Military Cross at the closing of the 1918 session of the Ontario Legislature.  Just as the Governor General is the Queen's Representative in Canada, the Lieutenant Governor (Sir John Hendrie) is the Queen's Representative in the Province of Ontario.

The second clipping  is a copy of the original notice that appeared in the Free Press (still known today as the "London Free Press") shortly after the award of the MC at the Ontario Legislature in 1918.

Note: Information received in April 2006 shows that the actual decoration date was November 29, 1917 (see Chris Baker attachments), so this may have been ceremonial.

 

In the records that I received there were other accounts of the actions of my Grandfather that lead to the award of the Military Cross.  Unfortunately, I have only the Xerox copies of these documents and I suspect that the originals may have been destroyed in the 1967 house fire, or that these were sent by the National Archives in Ottawa after the fire.

The records show that George Van Wyck Laughton also held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the battalion at one time, unfortunately as he was the only one left.  I am looking for additional details on this aspect of the records.

 

This newspaper report was not in the family collection, rather it was provided by a fellow researcher of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group (CEFSG). The article is from the on-line collection of "The Toronto World" (page 2 of March 25, 1918). This is available on-line at:

Google Newspapers - Toronto World Link

Click on images for full scale versions.

Military Cross of George Van Wyck Laughton.

As stated on the web site for Veterans Affairs Canada:

The Military Cross can be awarded to commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below (therefore acting and temporary Majors are eligible) or Warrant Officers for distinguished and meritorious services in battle. In 1920, the terms were altered to clearly state the award was for gallant and distinguished services in action and that naval and air force officers could be awarded the cross for gallant and distinguished services on the ground.

 

 

Canada 26/5/17
FOOD LESS FOR FIVE DAYS AND NIGHTS

To be concealed behind German Lines and remain food less for five days and nights was the recent experience of G. V. Laughton, Northumberland Fusiliers.  Mr. Laughton was on night patrol with a sergeant, and eventually found himself behind the German front line and unable to get back to his own unit.  The sergeant was killed by a shell, and the officer had perforce to remain hidden for five days and nights without food.
At the end of the period the British captured the enemy position, and Lieut. Laughton was found unconscious as a result of his privations.  The features of this case have aroused great interest in medical circles.  Mr. Laughton has been granted extended furlough to Canada.

(see MIA notice below that may related to this period of officer missing).

 

Extract from London Official Gazette.  Mentioned in despatches by Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in France.

Sec. Lieut. George Van Wyck Laughton, Northumberland Fus.  For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  During 24 hours he was on a picquet  in front of our own lines and conducted a daylight patrol to within 50 yards of the enemy trenches.  Throughout he displayed the greatest courage and determination during local operations in the Scarpe Valley in March, 1917.

There is residual confusion on this topic, for as I discovered early in my research (November 3, 2002) that this is the exact wording that is in the St. George's Gazette of July 31, 1917, for which is says that 2nd-Lieut George Van Wyck Laughton was awarded the Military Cross.  This conflicts with the records in my possession that say this event "is not the MC but another little clover leaf on ribbons".  The records in Canada show that the MC was for the raid on the machine gun on April 9, 1917 whereas the event in the St. George's Gazette took place in March of 1917. 

 

 

Articles from the Globe of June 15, 1917 were discovered by CEFSG member Ken MacLean and posted to the CEFSG Forum for recovery in March 2009. That is reported here:

Forum Post: 13 March 1916

There is evidence to suggest that this report relates to an action that is unrelated to the Military Cross. There were reports of this story in the family archives of his son Paul Laughton, which specifically referred to George turning around to talk to his Sergeant and he "was gone". If I recall correctly, this was post-Arras and took place after the units moved back to Passchendaele.

The stories report that Grandfather Laughton received wounds to his leg and abdomen and that the doctors could not believe that he survived in this condition while buried for 5 days in the mud. The story continues to WWII when Grandfather Laughton went to enlist again and appeared for his medical examination before the same doctor who saw him after his WWI wounds. The doctor reportedly stated something along the lines of "Laughton - what are you doing here - you are dead!"

A blood clot from these WWI wounds broke loose shortly after an brain aneurysm operation in June of 1966, which claimed the life of Grandfather Laughton. Apparently the clot was freed by the anticoagulants and migrated to his brain.

It is unclear which parts of the story have changed over time and through the various interpretations. As of 2011 we have yet to find the exact references for the MC and the action with the machine gun capture.

Added February 1, 2013:

This image was provided by Robert (Rob135Bn) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group (this post) which appeared in the June 18, 1917 edition of the London Free Press.

As there continues to be questions as to exactly which action resulted in Grandfather Laughton's MC award, this is important. The paper was published with the announcement of the MC in June of 1917 which predates the action at Passchendaele which was one of the options previously under examination.

This article also refers to the MC being the result of the capture of the Machine Gun, which differs from other records.

Silver War Badge, as a result of being invalided out of the Army after his wounds, still attached to his "Dog Tag" of the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers, as I received it.

The web site for the "British Army in the Great War" states the following:

Many of the men and women who were invalided out of the army after a wound or sickness that led to a medical down-grading were awarded this badge. It was authorized in September 1916, and applied to people in this category whether they were at a theatre of war or at home. They were individually numbered, on the reverse side. Index cards for the Silver War Badge are part of the Medal Rolls, and give a certain amount of vital information about the recipient.

The back of the badge is stamped with "B45828", the "B" designating is was awarded for service in the BEF.  Had it been for the CEF it would have had the letter "C".

Note that his dog tags are attached with the chain to the badge, as grandfather Laughton had them stored.  It identifies him as "G. V. Laughton 26 Northumberland Fusiliers".  There is no number on the dog tag, other than the back where it is stamped "Sterling 925 R".
 

 

In May 2004, as a result of work on the Family Tree Project, I came across a number of stories in the Toronto Star (Ontario, Canada) that mentioned the exploits of George Van Wyck Laughton.  These are referenced on the Family Tree web site at that location, which can be reached directly through these links:

Toronto Star - May 5, 1917: Brother Harry Van Wyck Laughton reports on the wounding of George during the Battle of Arras with the "Fighting Fifth" (26th Northumberland Fusiliers, Tyneside Irish).

Toronto Star - May 19, 1917: In another letter, probably to Harry (not L. V. his sister as noted) George is reported in hospital after he and his team of 30 men deceived the German army at Vimy Ridge.  As noted above, there is some confusion (at least at my level) as to what lead George to be awarded the Military Cross and other medals at Vimy Ridge.  British and Canadian records do not agree.

Toronto Star - June 14, 1917: The Toronto Star reports on the gallantry of George Van Wyck Laughton and the award of the Military Cross for these efforts at Vimy Ridge.  This article, unlike others I have seen refers to action in the Village of Gravelle.  Sooner or later we will get to the bottom of the issues surrounding the escapades of Grandfather Laughton.
 

As a result of new questions from the CEF Forum (http://www.cefresearch.ca), I was also drawn back to the uniform insignia that I had in a small wooden box from my grandmother.  What I posted on our website, which you can see from these thinks, are identified as follows:

To the best of my understanding, these were all taken from George Van Wyck Laughton's uniform by his wife, after his death in the 1960's. As such I do not know which ones relate to WWI and which might be for his service in WWII. Tragically, our house burnt down in 1969, just a few years after GVL's death, so the box has both "burnt" and "unburnt" medals in the collection. The ones I have posted here are NOT burnt and are in the package with his 26th Northumberland Fusiliers cap and shoulder badges, so I must presume that they are WWI era. I have not included the 26th NF badges as I believe they are elsewhere on my site.

I took some digital photos as that may help others identify what these are or at least raise some interest. I have not put a page on the web site but if you go to this link you can see the individual photographs. What I see as writing (old 52 year old transcription with magnifying glass) are as follows: (in brackets what is on reverse of button)

http://laughton.ca/military/ww1/gvlaughton/images/badges/  (click on the links below to see the images)

photo1.jpg - collection in front of computer
photo2.jpg - 1 of "quo vata focant" (.... London - unclear)
photo3.jpg - 6 of "CANADA honi soit qui mal pense" (Wm Scully Ltd. Montreal)
photo4.jpg - 2 of "quo vata vacant" (Pit & Co., 31 Dado St.)
photo5.jpg - 6 of "quo vata vacant" (smaller, nothing on back, thread on one)
photo6.jpg - 6 of "uno tria juncta" , nothing on back, double connectors
photo7.jpg - 4 of "una tria juncta", nothing on back, snap pins intact
photo8.jpg - CANADA
photo8.jpg - 3 fabric pads, 3 pins (no writing)

In April 2005 there were other questions on the CEF Forum that related to the pay that officers and enlisted men received when they were enlisted and then on duty.  I was fortunate to have the original Pay Book from my grandfathers records, so I was able to post these to the web site for all to see and share.

Here is what I have posted:

Pay Book
Cover

I
Instructions for Officers
and Men
Rates of 
Regimental Pay

Sample Book
Entry

 

 

 

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