b. 29/07/1911 Keadue, Ireland. d. 30/03/1995 Cornwall
Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews (1911-1995) was born in Keadue, County Cavan, Ireland, on 29th July 1911, the son of bank manager. He was educated at Stonyhurst, the famous Roman Catholic public school in Lancashire. He was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment in the early 1930’s and served on the Indian North West Frontier in 1936-37, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches.
In 1940 he was 28 years old, and a Captain commanding a company of the 1st East Lancashires, when he was awarded the British Army’s first VC of World War II. On the night of the 31st May/1st June, 1940, he and his men were ordered to take over about a thousand yards of the defences in front of Dunkirk, along the line of the Canal de Bergues.
The enemy attacked at dawn. For over ten hours, notwithstanding intense artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire, and in the face of vastly superior enemy forces, Captain Ervine-Andrews and his company held their position.
The enemy, however, succeeded in crossing the canal on both flanks; and, owing .to superior enemy forces, a company of Captain Ervine-Andrews’ own battalion, which was dispatched to protect his flanks, was unable to gain contact with him. There being danger of one of his platoons being driven in, he called for volunteers to fill the gap, and then, going forward, climbed on to the top of a straw-roofed barn, from which he engaged the enemy with rifle and light automatic fire, though, at the time, the enemy were sending mortar-bombs and armour-piercing bullets through the roof.
Captain Ervine-Andrews personally accounted for seventeen of the enemy with his rifle, and for many more with a Bren gun. Later, when the house which he held had been shattered by enemy fire and set alight, and all his ammunition had been expended, he sent back his wounded in the remaining carrier. Captain Ervine-Andrews then collected the remaining eight men of his company from this forward position, and, when almost completely surrounded, led them back to the cover afforded by the company in the rear, swimming or wading up to the chin in water for over a mile; having brought all that remained of ‘his company safely back, he once again took up position.
Ervine-Andrews remained in the Army after the war, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He attempted to return to his native County Cavan, but was driven out by local members of the Irish Republican Army. He decided to live in Cornwall, where he died on 30th March 1995, aged 83. He was cremated at Glynn Valley Crematorium in Bodmin, and his ashes were scattered at his home, Trevor Cottage, Gorran, Cornwall.
His medals including the VC, India General Service Medal 1936-1939 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf and 2 clasps, 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star with Burma clasp, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 are held by the Lancashire Infantry Museum, Fulwood Barracks, Preston, Lancashire, but in accordance with Lt Colonel Ervine-Andrews’ wishes are held on permanent loan at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BLACKBURN MUSEUM, BLACKBURN, LANCASHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: GLYNN VALLEY CREMATORIUM, BODMIN, CORNWALL.
ASHES SCATTERED IN GARDEN OF TREVOR COTTAGE, GORRAN, CORNWALL.
National Archives, Kew
The above newspaper cuttings from Brian Drummond
Medal images courtesy of the Lancashire Infantry Museum