b. 27/01/1890 Heanor, Derbyshire. d. 10/08/1969 Heanor, Derbyshire.
William Gregg (1890-1969) was born at Tag Hill, Heanor, Derbyshire on 27th January 1890. His father worked in the hosiery trade. He attended Mundy Street School in Heanor, before becoming a miner at Shipley Colliery. On 25th June 1910, at the age of 20, he married his childhood sweetheart, Sarah, but after just four years of married life, the Great War broke out.
William, known as Bill, soon enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade on 24th November 1914, and by May 1915, he was serving with the Battalion in France on the Western Front. In 1916 Gregg was wounded on The Somme. After two years of suffering in the trenches, the last two years of the war would see Bill become the first British soldier to receive three gallantry awards.
He received the Military Medal on 26th March 1917, for crawling between the opposing lines under the eyes of the enemy to establish the identity of a dead German soldier. On 26th November 1917, for carrying messages between different sections of his battalion while under heavy machine gun fire, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Finally on 8th May 1918 at Bucquoy, France, when all the officers of Sergeant Gregg’s company had been hit during an attack on an enemy outpost, he took command, rushing two enemy posts, killing some of the gun teams, taking prisoners and capturing a machine-gun. He then started to consolidate his position until driven back by a counter-attack, but as reinforcements had by now come up, he led a charge, personally bombed a hostile machine-gun, killed the crew and captured the gun. When driven back again, he led another successful attack and held on to his position until ordered to withdraw.
Within the 13th Bn, Sergeant Gregg established a great reputation as a fighting soldier. One of his platoon Corporals said of him: “He was completely fearless. He came through action after action unscathed. In fact, he went looking for trouble, particularly at night in No-Mans-Land, observing and searching for information of value. Indeed, a fine fighting man and one we would follow anywhere.”
He was gazetted for the VC on 28th June 1918, and later received his VC at the British Army HQ at Doullens in France from King George V on 9th August 1918. After returning to England, he went back to work as a miner, until retiring in 1959. When war was declared in 1939, he joined the National Defence Company of the Sherwood Foresters, saying “That if the country was worth living in, it was worth defending” but left in 1941 when he reached the upper age limit. He later served on one of the ferries evacuating survivors of the Dieppe raid in August 1942. Gregg died on 10th August 1969 in Heanor and received full military honours at his funeral at the Heanor Free Church on Midland Road, prior to cremation at Markeaton. His ashes were scattered. The Times newspaper ran an obituary for Mr Gregg, which perhaps goes some way to show how significant an achievement his was. He is remembered not only by a street name, but in the name of the town’s Leisure Centre, opened in 1970.
His medals were bequeathed to the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire, who also hold his Webley Revolver used in his VC action at Bucquoy on 8th May 1918.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER.
BURIAL PLACE: HEANOR CREMATORIUM, HEANOR, DERBYSHIRE. ASHES SCATTERED.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the reverse of the Gregg VC.
Brian Drummond – Image of the VC Stone at Heanor War Memorial.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Gregg Family Grave.