William Thomas Forshaw, VC (1890-1943)

English: Teacher, Photographer, Athlete and Recipient of the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, 1915

William Thomas Forshaw was born April 20th, 1890 in Barrow-in-Furness, England (then in Lancashire, now in Cumbria).  After beginning a career of teaching in Ashton-under-Lyme, Lancashire, he joined the 9th battalion, Manchester Regiment at the outbreak of the First World War.  He soon found himself in Egypt for training (and site of his successes on the running track) and thence to Gallipoli – the peninsula of land on the west side of the strategically important Dardanelles in Turkey.

As a 2nd Lieutenant and Acting Captain, he won the Victoria Cross for gallantry in defending the "Vineyard" from August 7th to 9th, 1915.  The Victoria Cross is the highest award which can be bestowed in the British military forces.  It has only been awarded 1354 times since 1854!
The account of the actual battle is quite amazing.  The fact that he lit the many bombs which he threw with a cigarette earned him the nickname in the press at the time "The Cigarette VC".  There is a brief description here.

Forshaw ended up as a Major and survived the war, returning home to a career in photography (teaching jobs, like all jobs, were then hard to come by for returning soldiers).  He died in Holyport on May 26th, 1943.  He left no children, only nieces and nephews.

Memorials include a street (and car park) named after him in his home town of Barrow.  Unfortunately these were lost (!) a few years ago.  After a nine-year search for his grave, a new headstone was erected and dedicated 17th October 1994 at Touchen End Cemetery, Bray, Berkshire.  His medal is on display at the Museum of the Manchester, Ashton-under-Lyme, Lancashire.

Internet Resources

Recommended Books

This page composed by Robin Hillyard.  Please write me: Robin Hillyard if you have suggestions for this site (see email for explanation of mechanism). I do plan to add considerably to the details as soon as I get time.

Robin Hillyard is married to Dianne (Forshaw) Hillyard, great-niece of William Forshaw.  We have a daughter Miranda and a son, called, naturally, William.

January 2004: Ashton resident and part-time songwriter Peter Simensky has written a song The Cigarette VC to commemorate William Forshaw's exploits.  Thanks, Peter (email me if you want your song removed from this site!).

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Last updated: January 18th, 2004