b. 22/02/1892 Carrwood House, Witton Park, County Durham. d. 30/11/1917 Cambrai, France
Roland Boys Bradford (1892-1917) was born at Carwood House, Witton Park, Bishop Auckland, County Durham on 23rd February 1892. His father was George Bradford, a Scotsman, who was a miner before becoming a mining engineer. He became manager at Messrs H Stobart’s Bishop Auckland Collieries and was also manager of the local school at Witton Park. Roland’s mother was Amy Marion nee Andrews, originally from Kent, and they married in 1885. Roland had four siblings – Thomas Andrews (born 1886), George Nicholson (born 1887, awarded the VC for the Zeebrugge Raid in April 1918, and killed in the action), James Barker (born 1889, killed in action at Hebuterne in 1917), and Amy Isabelle (born 1901).
Roland was educated in Darlington at Bondgate Wesleyan School, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and Polam Grange School. He went on to Epsom College, Surrey from 1907-1909, where he captained the Rugby XV and was also in the Epsom Cadet Corps as a Lance Corporal. Hee was also a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade attached to Holy Trinity Church, Darlington.
He was commissioned into 5th Durham Light Infantry (Territorial Force) on 16th April 1910. He was appointed ADC to Colonel Bush, and was enjoying military life so much, he changed his mind about a medical degree and stayed in the Army. He was commissioned into the 2nd Durham Light Infantry on 22nd May 1912. He sailed from Southampton for France on 9th September 1914 with the Battalion, landing at St Nazaire the following day. They were in action on the Aisne, and promoted to Lieutenant on 24th September. He was awarded the Military Cross for his operations in the field (LG 18th February 1915). He was then transferred to 1/7th Durham Light Infantry as its adjutant on 3rd May.
He was promoted to Captain and Brevet Major on 1st January 1916. He was appointed Brigade Major in February and second in command 1/9th Durham Light Infantry in April. He received his MC on 24th May. He was then appointed acting Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer 1/9th Durham Light Infantry from 4th August. He was wounded by a shell splinter on 15th September 1916 at Mametz Wood, but went on and carried a wounded man back under heavy fire. He proved to be an excellent commander and was very popular with his men.
On 1st October 1916, at Eaucourt L’Abbaye, France, he saved the situation on the right flank of his Brigade and of the Division. Lieutenant-Colonel Bradford’s Battalion was in support. A leading Battalion having suffered very severe casualties, and the Commander wounded, its flank became dangerously exposed at close quarters to the enemy. Raked by machine-gun fire, the situation of the Battalion was critical. At the request of the wounded Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Bradford asked permission to command the exposed Battalion in addition to his own. Permission granted, he at once proceeded to the foremost lines. By his fearless energy under fire of all description, and his skilful leadership of the two Battalions, regardless of all danger, he succeeded in rallying the attack, captured and defended the objective, and so secured the flank.
The Battalion returned to the front at Butte de Warlencourt and the Gird Line on 5th November. Roland was wounded again on 16th January 1917 and led an attack near Guemappe on 23rd April, achieving his objectives and capturing over 300 prisoners, two howitzers, and many machine guns, with minimum of casualties. The VC was presented by King George V in Hyde Park on 2nd June. He was 14th out of 350 recipients of gallantry awards that day. On 15th September, his Battalion penetrated the enemy’s second line and captured Cherisey. He was slightly wounded while talking to one of his company commanders on 4th November. The following day, he was appointed Temporary Brigadier General, the youngest in the Army, aged just 25. He assumed command of 186th Brigade on 10th November. On 30th November, he was visiting his Brigade’s positions alone near Graincourt during a German counterattack on Bourlon Wood. He was killed by a shell fragment in the back about one mile southwest of Graincourt. He was buried in Hermies British Cemetery.
Roland never married, and his will was administered by his brother, Thomas. He left a generous legacy to his faithful batman of five years, Lance Corporal King. In addition to his VC and MC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf. The medals are held by the Durham Light Infantry though sadly are in storage at present following the closure of the Museum in Aykley Heads, Durham.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY MUSEUM, :DURHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: HERMIES BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE.
ROW F, GRAVE 10
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Thomas Stewart – Medal Group Image from the now closed Durham Light Infantry Museum.
Dale Daniel (Curator of Witton Park Museum) – for several images from the Museum Collection.