b. 03/10/1894 Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland. d. 09/03/1964 Richmond, Surrey.
Frederick Jeremiah Edwards (1894-1964) was born at St George’s, Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland on 3rd October 1894. His father was Henry James, a fishmonger, who enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment on 4th February 1886, and transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery on 15th October 1887 at Portsmouth and served in the South Irish Division. He was then appointed Bombardier and served in the Irish Division from 1st July 1889. He extended his service to complete 12 years in February 1891 and was stationed at Templemore Barracks, Queenstown, in 1893-1894. He died of alcoholism in 1902. Frederick’s mother was Anne nee Cavanagh. She had married Henry on 9th July 1892 at St Colman’s Cathedral, Queenstown. They had six children in total.
Frederick was educated at the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin and was initially employed by the Western Electric Company at Woolwich, London. He enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery in Dublin on 30th October 1908 as a Boy, and joined at No 3 Depot RGA at the Citadel, Plymouth next day and gained his 3rd Class Education on 18th December and 2nd Class on 23rd July 1909. He served at Portsmouth and with 88th Company RGA at Victoria Barracks, Hong Kong from 9th September 1910.
On 31st August 1914, he re-enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment and was posted to 12th Battalion as a drummer. He was promoted to Corporal and went to France on 25th July 1915.
On 26th September 1916 at Thiepval, France, part of the line was held up by machine-gun fire and all the officers had become casualties. There was confusion and indication of retirement. Private Edwards, grasping the situation and on his own initiative, dashed out towards the gun, which he knocked out with his bombs. This very gallant act, coupled with great presence of mind and disregard of personal danger, made further advance possible and cleared up a dangerous situation.
The VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th February 1917. He returned to his old school in Dublin and was presented with a solid silver flask and a cheque to invest in War Bond certificates. He transferred to 2nd London in February 1918 when 12th Middlesex disbanded and to the Royal Fusiliers on 13th April 1918. He was taken prisoner near Amiens on 24th April 1918. He was demobilised on 20th March 1919.
Post-war he is said to have worked in the family business, which went bankrupt. He returned to work for Western Electric Company at Woolwich. In January 1924 he was assaulted by Bert Ward for taking too much interest in his sixty year old mother; Ward was fined £1/10. Frederick fell on hard times and pawned his VC in 1928. A national newspaper bought it back for him, but he was forced to pawn it again. He worked as a temporary messenger in Holborn Town Hall and was Mace Bearer to the Mayor of Holborn in 1930 until he suffered a stroke in 1954. Sadly, after the stroke, his speech was severely affected. He moved into the Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond, Surrey on 27th April 1955.
Frederick is believed to have married in 1948, possibly to Grace Helen Malcolm at Holborn. He died at the Royal Star and Garter Home on 9th March 1964 of acute coronary thrombosis following an attack of bronchitis. He was given a full military funeral and an escort from the Middlesex Regiment. His life-long friend, Bob Ryder VC, was present, along with Ted Veale VC and PV Storkey VC. He was buried in the Star & Garter Plot, Richmond Cemetery.
In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. He eventually sold his medals for £180. They were owned by a Canadian collector before appearing on the market in 1965, but the Middlesex Regiment could not afford them at the time. They were auctioned at Glendinning’s on 26th October 1966 and the Regiment managed to purchase them with private subscriptions for £900. When the Middlesex Regiment Museum at Bruce Castle, Tottenham closed in 1992, the collection went to the National Army Museum, Chelsea, where sadly his VC is not displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: RICHMOND CEMETERY, RICHMOND,SURREY.
Frederick Edwards' medal at the National Army Museum, Chelsea (from the MOD website).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
SECTION 22, GRAVE 87
War Illustrated, 23rd December 1916
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Nov 2016 - Aidan Kavanagh)