Captain (Temporary Major and acting Lieutenant Colonel) Frank Crowther Roberts V.C. D.S.O O.B.E. M.C.

Frank Roberts

Captain (Temporary Major and acting Lieutenant Colonel) Frank Crowther Roberts V.C. D.S.O O.B.E. M.C.

Born in 1892 in Southall and he was educated at St Lawrence College. He was commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment in 1911 and joined the 1st Battalion in Egypt. The Battalion moved to France on the outbreak of war and after three months in action, Lieutenant Roberts won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry when leading a trench raid. After the battle of Neuve Chapelle he was appointed Adjutant of the Battalion. In 1917 he was promoted to become the Brigade Major for 23rd Infantry Brigade and at Ypres he gained the Military Cross (MC) for gallantry.

Aged 26 and still officially a Captain he was appointed Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion; the youngest ever officer to command a battalion at this point. It was after five months in this post that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In March 1918 the Battalion was in reserve when the Germans launched their offensive on the Somme. On the night of the 22nd March the Battalion took up defensive positions on the line of the river Somme with orders to hold the line. By the following evening the retreating troops had passed through the line and the pursuing Germans were within range. The line was so extended that all four companies were stretched along the river. The Germans crossed the river on the right flank at the village of Pargny. Realizing that this could lead to the Germans surrounding the Battalion, Major Roberts led a force of 45 men, which is all he could spare from the line, to drive the Germans back across the river. It was his leadership of this counter-attack that was to win him his Victoria Cross.

His Citation reads:
“During continuous operations which covered over twelve days Lieutenant Colonel Roberts showed most conspicuous bravery, exceptional military skill in dealing with the many very difficult situations of the retirement, and amazing endurance and energy in encouraging and inspiring all ranks under his command. On one occasion the enemy attacked a village and had practically cleared it of our troops when this officer got together an improvised party and led a counter-attack, which temporarily drove the enemy out of the village, thus covering the retirement of the troops on the flanks, who would otherwise have been cut off. The success of this action was entirely due to his personal valour and skill.”
London Gazette, 8th May 1918

Captain Roberts being decorated by King George V.

Captain Roberts being decorated by King George V.

After the war, having been wounded three times, he served in staff appointments in Egypt, the Rhine Army and in the Far East. In 1927 he transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on accelerated promotion. After further service in India, the Middle East and Northern Ireland, he became General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 48 Infantry Division (TA) before retiring in 1939.

He married Winifred Wragg in 1932 and they lived in Bretby near Burton-on-Trent. There were no children. She died in 1980 and he died in 1982, the last ex-Worcestershire Regiment holder of a Victoria Cross to die.

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