Abraham Acton (1893-1915) was born at 2 Tyson’s Court, behind Roper Street, Whitehaven, Cumberland on 17th December 1892. His father was Robert Acton, a fisherman and mariner, who served with the Royal Engineers (Inland Waterways and Docks) from February 1917 until March 1918 reaching the rank of Company Sergeant Major. Abraham’s mother was Elizabeth Eleanor nee Armstrong. His parents were married at Holy Trinity Church, Whitehaven on 23rd July 1890. Abraham had five brothers, six sisters and a half-sister. His paternal grandparents came from Ireland.
Abraham was educated at Crosthwaite Memorial School from 1899 to 1906 and also attended West Strand Mission Sunday School. He was then employed as a general labourer by United Steel at No 10 Colliery, Lowca, Whitehaven. Abraham was a member of the Juvenile Orange Lodge of England and became the first Orangeman to be awarded the VC in the Great War.
He enlisted in 5th Border (Territorial Force), transferred to Regular service with the 2nd Battalion on 17th January 1914 and went to France with his unit on 25th November 1914. Less than a month later, he would be awarded the Victoria Cross. On the 21st December 1914, at Rouges-Bancs, in voluntarily going from his trench and rescuing a wounded man who had been lying exposed against the enemy’s trenches for 75 hours; and on the same day again leaving his trench voluntarily, under heavy fire to bring into cover another wounded man. He was under fire for 60 minutes whilst conveying the wounded men into safety.
He was also mentioned in despatches twice. Sir John French presented the VC ribbon to him in France, but the date of this not known. Before his VC could be presented formally, Abraham was killed in action at Festubert, France on 16th May 1915 and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France, as his body sadly was not recovered.
Abraham never married, but is understood to have been engaged to a girl called Kitty at the time of his death. The VC was presented to his parents by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 25th November 1916. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. The medals were donated by his brother Charles to the town of Whitehaven in October 1951 and are held at The Beacon Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:THE BEACON, WHITE STRAND, WHITEHAVEN, CUMBRIA.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – NAME ON LE TOURET MEMORIAL, FRANCE.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – image of Le Touret Memorial
The Beacon Whitehaven – for the image of his medal group and its accompanying information board