|Wilfred Bancroft DCM|
[The only picture available of Wilfred is this rather grainy one from the Halifax newspaper of the time.]
The Distinguished Conduct Medal, was established in 1854 by Queen Victoria as a decoration for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army. It is the oldest British award for gallantry and was a second level military decoration until it was discontinued in 1993. During the First World War the concern arose that the overwhelming number of medals that were being awarded was devaluing the prestige of those already awarded. The Military Medal for bravery in battle on land was therefore instituted on 25 March 1916, as an alternative award to the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The lesser Military Medal was usually awarded for bravery from this date and the Distinguished Conduct Medal was reserved for exceptional acts of bravery. Around 25,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded during the First World War.
The full details surrounding Wilfred's bravery, which merited the DCM, were described as follows in military records:
[In the margin of my copy in pencil is written very true and the initials look like JBM]
From an article in the Halifax Courier newspaper it seems that was quite a local hero. Earlier that year on 17th February1916 , Wilfred had been home on leave and was honored by the inhabitants of Southowram, when at a gathering at the Mechanics Institute he was presented with a wrist watch, comb and case, pocket wallet, cigarette case and pipe….the gifts being in appreciation of his bravery, which marked the fact the he was the first person in Southowram to be awarded the DCM.
'had taken the message to headquarters, it being an exceeding dangerous journey over a considerable distance, where he had to adopt various tactics to get through the Germans because it was daylight and he was fired upon both with rifles and machine guns.‘His perilous adventure was a means of saving the situation’.
|Medal Index Card|
He died at Schwaben Redoubt, which was a German strong point near the village of Thiepval in France and had been under bombardment by British troops for some time. On the 3rd September, when the 49th (West Riding) Division attacked the area from the west in a morning fog, they crossed no man's land but were defeated, when German artillery and machine gun fire swept the British troops and German infantry counter-attacked from the flanks, using hand grenades. Wilfred was hit by one of the enemy grenades, and failed to make his way back. His body was never recovered, and he is therefore commemorated with all the other fallen at the nearby Theipval Memorial.