The Victoria Cross
Col) Neville Marshall
The first party was soon killed or wounded, but by personal example he inspired and volunteers were instantly forthcoming. Under intense fire and with complete disregard of his own safety, he stood on the bank encouraging his men and assisting in the work, and when the bridge was repaired, attempted to rush across at the head of his Battalion and was killed doing so.
The passage of the canal was
of vital importance, and the gallantry displayed by all ranks was largely
due to the inspiring example set by Lt-Col Marshall MC
The first party was completely wiped out by enemy fire, but Lt Marshall courageously led another group into the fray, inspiring volunteers to follow him to the bridge. When the bridge was finished he tried to run across it on his own to take on the German soldiers, but was quickly shot and killed as he did so
This was read out by Major Algy
(Address by Sandra Wellington whose father, R.A. Wellington, was Neville Marshall's nephew)
Lt. Col Neville Marshall served with the Belgian Army in 1914/1915, and was decorated twice by King Albert. He wrote in his early war diaries that "The greatest help to me has been in knowing exactly why I fight. Sensationalism, love of justice, love of religion. NO! But because I am English and see a type that will endanger my life, my wife, and existence. When I say 'English', it stands for much. All those glorious traditions. The seasons and especially the Spring with its daffodils and scent of Mother Earth. I cannot understand why Englishmen still hesitate. They do not know the danger of their enemy and they do not love their land and breed".
Neville Marshall joined the First Battalion, Irish Guards in 1916 and saw action in the Somme and elsewhere, being wounded ten times during his war career. He was always known for his keen sense of discipline and forthright views, and once noted in his diaries that he was fortunate because he had "no sense of fear", but at the same time was still "emotional and soft-hearted". With regards to the War, he commented "We as soldiers admire our enemy as brave men" and "Thank God, racial and national anger is only temporary".
In May 1917, he was attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers, where the poet Wilfred Owen described him as the "mad Major"; "bold, robust, dashing, unscrupulous, cruel, jovial, immoral, vast-chested, handsome-headed, of free coarse speech". No doubt these attributes served Neville Marshall well during, what he called "his adventures" at the front.
On 4th November 1918, he was commanding 16th Battalion when he attempted to lead his men across the bridge at the Sambre-Oise Canal, in France and was tragically killed, one week before Armistice. For these actions he was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. By sad coincidence, Wilfred Owen was also killed at the same battle, on the same day.
Neville Marshall inspired his own men in the heat of battle and has obviously served to inspire our family over the years, by his courage, bold attitudes and perseverance. We are therefore delighted that, with this wonderful and fitting tribute, organized by Trafford Council and supported by representatives of the Irish Guards and Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Neville Marshall's name and fine example will undoubtedly continue to inspire many generations to come - of soldiers and civilians alike.
Special Reserve Officers, Warley barracks, early 1916. Neville Marshall, centre, middle row