b. 22/11/1890 St Helens, Lancashire. d. 25/03/1972 St Helens, Lancashire.
John Molyneux (1890-1972) was born at 3 Marshall’s Cross Road, Peasley Cross, St Helens, Lancashire on 22nd November 1890. His father, Joseph, was a player and bandleader of Peasley Cross Concertina Club. He married Minnie Jane Luckett at Holy Trinity Church, Parr Mount, St Helens, Lancashire in 1886. She was originally from Kent and was a housemaid. Joseph and Minnie had eight children including John.
John was educated at Holy Trinity Church of England School, St Helens until 1902. He was a nature lover and often skipped classes to go bird watching. He was a keen sportsman enjoying boxing in particular. He was employed as a miner by the Sutton Heath and Lea Green Colliery Company at Sherdley Colliery. He was a member of Peasley Cross Concertina Club and performed on the radio.
John enlisted as a regular in the Royal Fusiliers on 7th September 1914. He trained at Dover, Kent and served with the 2nd Battalion at Gallipoli from 9th November 1915. He was slightly wounded and frostbitten about 26th November during the winter storms and was evacuated to Malta. He rejoined the unit in Egypt and moved with it to France, arriving on 22nd March 1916. Having been wounded in the left forearm on the Somme in November he was evacuated to England for treatment until after Christmas.
On 9th October 1917 east of Langemarck, Belgium, during an attack which was held up by machine-gun fire and causing many casualties, Sergeant Molyneux organised a bombing party to clear the trench in front of a house. Many of the enemy were killed and a machine-gun captured. The sergeant then called for someone to follow him and rushed for the house. By the time the extra men arrived he was in the thick of a hand-to-hand fight which only lasted a short time and the enemy surrendered. In addition to the dead and wounded between 20 or 30 prisoners were taken.
The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 12th December 1917. After receiving the VC he received lots of mail, but he treasured one letter from a nurse who had cared for him the previous December: “I am glad to know that you have won such a coveted honour as the VC. Well done, “Bed 34”. I feel quit a little reflected glory to think we had you here, and in our small way helped you back to health and strength, to go out and win your spurs. It is a grand thing you have done, sergeant. Deeds live on after we are gone, and inspire those who come after.”
Returning home he was picked up by the Mayor and Mayoress of St Helens in an open carriage and kept his head bowed in embarrassment until a neighbour shouted out, “Lift thee ‘ead up, Johnny!” He addressed the crowds playing down his achievements, before playing a tune on the concertina. He received a gold watch and £50 in War Bonds from his workmates at Sherdley Colliery, a silver cigarette case from the management of a local theatre and a new concertina from the Peasley Cross Concertina Club. He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre before being demobbed in January 1919. He returned to the colliery.
John married Mary Agnes Lyne in 1919 in Stratford, Warwickshire, and they went on to have two children – Joyce and Joseph. When the King and Queen visited Liverpool in 1924 for the consecration of the new Cathedral, John was one of nine VCs presented to them. John would also be presented to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) at Victoria Park, St Helens in 1929. From 1925, he worked for Pilkington Bros, the glassmakers, as a teaser and later as a gas producer in the sheet works. He remained with the company for thirty years until he retired.
During the Second World War he served as a warrant officer in the West Lancashire Home Guard – probably in the 75th or 93rd County of Lancaster (St Helens) Battalions.
John attended many VC reunions, including the 1920 Garden Party, 1929 VC Dinner at the House of Lords, the Victory Day celebrations at the Dorchester in 1946 and the VC Centenary Celebrations at Hyde Park in 1956. He also attended the first four VC & GC Association Reunions at the Café Royal, London in July 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.
John died at Ashton Green Hostel, Part, St Helens, Lancashire after collapsing in the street on an errand for a neighbour on 25th March 1972. He was cremated at St Helens Crematorium, where his ashes were scattered. 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, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. The medals were purchased by the Royal Fusiliers at Sotheby’s for £2,100 on 31st January 1973. They are held at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL FUSILIERS MUSEUM, TOWER OF LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ST HELENS CREMATORIUM, ST HELENS, LANCASHIRE. ASHES SECTION 3.
John Molyneux's medals including VC at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
Original medal (Paul Deeprose)