Greaves – Acting Corporal Fred

16 May 1890 – 11 June 1973

Fred was born in Killamarsh, Derbyshire. He was employed as a miner at Bonds Main and later at Barlborough No 2 Pit and Markham Colliery. He survived a number of injuries, the most serious being when he was run over by a coal truck, which broke both his legs and crushed his pelvis. He was turned down for service in September 1914 due to the severity of these injuries, but was accepted into the Sherwood Foresters on 26 February 1915.

On 4th October 1917 at Poelcapelle, east of Ypres, Belgium, when the platoon was held up by machine-gun fire from a concrete stronghold and the platoon commander and sergeant were casualties, Corporal Greaves, followed by another NCO, rushed forward, reached the rear of the building and bombed the occupants, killing or capturing the garrison and the machine-gun. Later, at a most critical period of the battle, during a heavy counter-attack, all the officers of the company became casualties and Corporal Greaves collected his men, threw out extra posts on the threatened flank and opened up rifle and machine-gun fire to enfilade the advance..

When travelling to Buckingham Palace in a taxi for a VC reunion event, the driver asked which entrance he would like to be dropped off at, and Fred replied: “any.” When the driver looked back and saw Fred putting on his medals, he saw the VC, and commented: “You’re definitely going in the main entrance, mate!”

He returned to the mines and became a pit deputy and later a safety officer at Markham Colliery, where he was also a member of the colliery’s St John Ambulance Division. On 10 May 1938, an accident led to the deaths of 79 miners, and Fred spent a week tirelessly trying to dig the men out and help the injured. During the Second World War he served in the Civil Defence Service.

On 8 December 1973, after Fred’s death, his son presented Fred’s medals to the Trustees of the Sherwood Foresters Collection. They are held by the Museum of the Mercian Regiment, Nottingham Castle.

Filed under: WW1