WWI

WWI Soldier's Victoria Cross Sells For £248,000 At Auction

Private James Towers was awarded the medal by King George V in the Quadrangle at Buckingham Palace in May 1919.

A Victoria Cross awarded to a First World War soldier who selflessly risked his life to deliver a vital message to a stranded platoon has fetched £248,000 at auction.

The then 21-year-old Private James Towers of 2nd Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), volunteered to deliver the message under continuous heavy fire despite knowing five of his comrades had already been killed attempting it.

The medal, sold by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, was expected to fetch between £140,000-£180,000.

Setting out under heavy machine-gun fire with little cover, Pte Towers was forced to navigate shell craters and crawled through barbed wire entanglements, before coming across the body of the first volunteer runner.

He continued on only to become pinned down beneath a guarded embankment which he navigated with a running leap –  landing within five yards of a fully manned enemy machine-gun post.

Avoiding its fire, he carried on, reaching the trapped platoon intact and delivering the vital despatch and then guiding the unit back to safety after dusk.

Pte Towers was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V in the Quadrangle at Buckingham Palace on 8 May 1919 and he returned to the palace to attend the Victoria Cross Garden Party in June the following year.

Private Towers during the First World War (Picture: Dix Noonan Webb).

Pte Towers was one of 74 Victoria Cross holders who formed a special Guard of Honour for the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920.

Reflecting on his experiences in the Lancashire Daily Post in 1929, he said: "I joined up as a youngster for a bit of fun, but it didn't turn out like that. We were young men made old before our time.

"I felt then that I had to go to the help of these lads. After all, they were my pals. Five men tried to get through and I was the sixth.

"I made a dive and got through. The worst part was that I didn't know just where our chaps were," he continued.

"I had to find them, and in a run for about 150 yards I went within five yards of one of Jerry's machine-guns. It was my lucky day."

Following the sale, Dix Noonan Webb associate director Christopher Mellor-Hill said the medal had gone to a "good home".

"This is an outstanding Victoria Cross in that he knowingly knew he was following in the path of five colleagues all killed preceding him in trying to get a message through enemy lines to a stranded platoon.

"It is rewarding to see his Victoria Cross make the very respectable sum of £248,000 as a just accolade of his exceptional gallantry. 

"It has gone to a good home with a private collector of gallantry awards," he added.

Cover image: Private Towers' Victoria Cross (Picture: Dix Noonan Webb).