The Last European V.C. of The Second World War


The Last European V.C. of The Second World War Was awarded to Edward Colquhoune (Eddie) Charlton of the Irish Guards who happened to come from Old Trafford Manchester. He was born on June 15th 1920 at 11 Cowen Terrace, Rowlands Gill, County Durham and the family moved to 12 Basford Road, Old Trafford, Manchester in August 1935 when Eddie was just 15. He was called up for war service September 19th 1940 and trained at the Guards Depot in Caterham and joined the 2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards. He died as a result of wounds received in action at Wistedt a village between Bremen and Hamburg in Northern Germany 21st April 1945. He is buried in Grave 13 in Row F in Plot 7 in the British Military Cemetery south of Soltau near Becklingen not very far from Captain Ian Liddell of the Coldstream Guards of the Guards Armoured Division. Another V.C. holder.
The announcement of his being awarded the Victoria Cross was in the London Gazette May 2nd 1946 in the final wartime honours list The Posthumous award was made to his parents Albert & Edith Charlton on October 29th 1946 By His Majesty King George VI. His official citation reads:-

‘On the morning of 21st April 1945. Guardsman Charlton was co-driver in one tank of a troop, which, with a platoon of infantry seized the village of Wistedt.
‘Shortly afterwards , the enemy attacked this position under cover of an artillery concentration of great strength, comprising as it later transpired, a battalion of the 15th Panzer Grenadiers, supported by six self-propelled guns.
‘All the tanks , including Guardsman Charlton’s, were hit; the infantry were hard pressed and in danger of being over-run.
‘Thereupon, entirely on his own initiative, Guardsman Charlton decided to counter attack the enemy. Quickly recovering the Browning from his damaged tank, he advanced up the road in full view of the enemy, firing from the hip.
‘Such was the boldness of his attack and the intensity of his fire that he halted the leading enemy company, inflicting heavy casualties on them. This effort at the same time brought much needed relief to our own infantry.
‘For ten minutes Guardsman Charlton fired in this manner, until wounded in the left arm. Immediately, despite intense enemy fire, he mounted his machine gun on a nearby fence which he used to support his wounded left arm. He stood firing thus for another ten minutes until he was again hit in the left arm, which fell away shattered and useless.
‘Although twice wounded and suffering from loss of blood, Guardsman Charlton again lifted his machine gun on to the fence, now having only one arm with which to fire and reload. Nevertheless, he still continued to inflict casualties on the enemy, until finally he was hit for the third time and collapsed. He died later of his wounds, in enemy hands. The heroism and determination of this Guardsman in his self imposed task were beyond all praise. Even his German captors were amazed at his valour.
‘Guardsman Charlton’s courageous and self-sacrificing action not only inflicted extremely heavy casualties on the enemy and retrieved his comrades from a desperate situation, but also enabled the position to be speedily recaptured.’

Edward Charlton's Victoria Cross.
The Household Brigade’s War Memorial Cloister at the Guards Chapel in Birdcage Walk was opened by The Queen on May 28th 1956. On this day Mrs Charlton gave the V.C. won by her son to the Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Irish Guards, Colonel P. J. F. Reed for safe keeping and as a perpetual reminder of her son’s supreme sacrifice. It was the first ever Victoria Cross ever given to the Regiment.

Edward Charlton's grave in the British Military Cemetery south of Soltau near Becklingen.

 


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