Frederick Henry Bradley VC

b. 27/09/1876 Shoreditch, London. d. 10/03/1943 Gwelo, Rhodesia.

Frederick Henry Bradley (1876-1943) was born on 27th September 1876 at 5, Huntingdon Street, Kingsland, Shoreditch, London, the son of Edward Thomas Bradley, who originally came from Barnet. As a young man in 1894, Frederick enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery as a Driver, and was soon posted to South Africa to participate in the Second Boer War from 1899-1902.

Frederick H Bradley VC

Bradley was present for a number of the major conflicts of the War, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 5 clasps for Talana, Defence of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Transvaal and Laing’s Nek, and the King’s South Africa Medal with 2 clasps for South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. He was also recommended for, and awarded the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 27th December 1901) for his actions at Itala in the Zululand on 26th September 1901. He was actually gazetted under the incorrect initials of H G Bradley.

During the action at Itala, Zululand, on the 26th September, 1901, Major Chapman called for volunteers to carry ammunition up the hill; to do this a space of about 150 yards swept by a heavy cross fire had to be crossed. Driver Lancashire and Gunner Bull at once came forward and started, but half-way across Driver Lancashire fell wounded. Driver Bradley and Gunner Rabb without a moment’s hesitation ran out and caught Driver Lancashire up, and Gunner Rabb carried him under cover, the ground being swept by bullets the whole time. Driver Bradley then, with the aid of Gunner Boddy, succeeded in getting the ammunition up the hill.

Bradley was presented with his medal by the Commander in Chief, South Africa, Lord Kitchener in Pretoria on 8th June 1902, alongside a number of other VCs from the Boer War. After his discharge from service in South Africa in 1906, he remained in the country afterwards and was involved in the Natal Rebellion, earning the campaign medal. He continued to serve in South African units and narrowly survived a railway collision during the campaign in German South West Africa after the outbreak of the First World War. Transferring to the British Army, he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery and was seriously wounded on the Western Front in November 1916.

Bradley returned to South Africa where he continued to serve in local units, finally retiring as a Major, before later running a pub in Zululand. A modest and generous man, he declined to accept the £10 annuity paid by the British Government to VC winners, insisting that the money go to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Army’s Chelsea Pensioners. He died following an operation in Gwelo Hospital on 10th March 1943, aged 66. He was buried in Gwelo Cemetery. His medals were in private ownership until May 2015, when after an auction at Dix Noonan Webb, his medals were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust for a hammer price of £180,000, and are now displayed in the Imperial War Museum.





Brian Drummond / John Coast – Images of Bradley VC’s grave