The outstanding Great War 1918 ‘Final Advance to Victory’ V.C. group of five medals awarded to 21-year-old Preston-born, Private James Towers, 2nd Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) has fetched £248,000 at auction.
James, with utter disregard for his own safety, volunteered to carry a vital message, under continuous heavy fire, to a stranded platoon at Mericourt in October 1918 whilst in the knowledge that five of his comrades had already been in killed in turn making their attempts to carry out the same task.
Setting out under heavy enfilading machine-gun fire amid scant cover, Towers movedbetween shell craters and crawled through barbed wire entanglements, before coming across the slumped body of the first volunteer runner - his close friend, Private Frank Dunlop, the Company Messenger.
Undeterred, Towers continued, only to become pinned down beneath a guarded embankment which, opting for surprise, he navigated with a running leap - landingwithin five yards of a fully manned enemy machine-gun post whose fire he avoided in themist by speed of movement and some grace of providence.
Finally reaching the trapped platoon intact, he delivered his vital despatch and guided it back to safety after dusk, his display of supreme courage and determination a great inspiration to all ranks.
Following the sale, Christopher Mellor-Hill, Associate Director of Dix, Noonan, Webb, said:
This is an outstanding Victoria Cross in that he knowingly knew he was following in the path of 5 colleagues all killed preceding him in trying to get a message through enemy lines to a stranded platoon and it is rewarding to see his VC make the very respectable sum of £200,000 as a just accolade of his exceptional gallantry.
He continued: "It has gone to a good home with a private collector of gallantry awards.”
Later on, Preston-born James Towers, V.C., reflected upon events at Mericourt in TheLancashire Daily Post in 1929:
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.
He continued: "I made a dive and got through. The worst part was that I didn’t know just where our chaps were. 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.”
Towers was Invested with his V.C. by H.M. King George V in the Quadrangle atBuckingham Palace on 8 May 1919, Towers returned to the Palace to attend the V.C. Garden Party in June of the following year. He was also one of 74 V.C. holders who formed a special Guard of Honour for the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920.