John James Crowe was born on 28th December 1876, the son of John Crowe, a private in the 36th Regiment who had served in Kabul and Jellalabad. When the Colonel of the 36th Regiment retired he asked John’s father to assist him in running his estate in County Wicklow, Ireland. The young John grew up on the estate and practised his rifle skills to good effect when hunting rabbits.
On the 1st July 1897, he enlisted into the Worcestershire Regiment and began his 23 years military service. After 20 years service and having risen to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major, he was granted a permanent commission in the Worcestershire Regiment in 1918. 2nd Lieutenant Crowe gained his Victoria Cross when he fought with the 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment at Neuve Eglise on 14th April 1918.
His Citation reads
“For most conspicuous bravery, determination and skilful leading when the enemy, for the third time having attacked a post in a village, broke past on to the high ground and established a machine gun and snipers in the broken ground at the back of the village. 2nd Lieutenant Crowe twice went forward with two NCOs and seven men to engage the enemy, both times in the face of active machine gun fire and sniping.
His action was so daring that on each occasion the enemy withdrew from the high ground into the village, where 2nd Lieutenant Crowe followed them and himself opened fire on the enemy as they collected in the doorways of the houses. On the second occasion, taking with him only two men of his party, he attacked two enemy machine guns which were sweeping the post, killed both the gunners with his rifle and prevented any other from reaching the guns and bringing them in action again. He turned upon a party of who were lined up in front of him, killed several and the remainder withdrew at once. He captured both the enemy guns, one of which was the Battalion Lewis gun, which had been captured by the enemy on the previous day.
Through the seven days of operations 2nd Lieutenant Crowe showed an utter disregard of danger and was recklessly brave. His personal example and cheerfulness contributed largely to the determination of the garrison of the post to hold out. It may be safely said that but for his coolness and skill at the last moment, when he personally placed the covering party in close proximity to the enemy, who were again closing round, and were also forming up in fours near by, the garrison of the post could never have effected its escape. The valour and zeal displayed by 2nd Lieutenant Crowe were of the highest order”
London Gazette, 28th June 1918
King George V presented 2nd Lieutenant Crowe with his Victoria Cross at 2nd Army HQ at Blendecques, France on 6th August 1918. He is believed to be the only person awarded the VC while already holding the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He was also subsequently awarded the Croix de Guerre at Festubert.
In 1920 Captain Crowe retired from the Army and took up the post of ‘Childrens Care Inquiry Officer’ and Welfare Officer for the Brighton Education Committee until his retirement in 1946.
Captain Crowe died on 27th February 1965. His funeral was conducted by the Rev R D Patterson assisted by Rev E V Tanner MC, who had been the Regimental Chaplain of the 2nd Battalion the Worcestershire regiment at Neuve Eglise in 1918.