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The story of VC recipient Serjeant John Harold Rhodes

Today marks 100 years since Serjeant John Harold Rhodes was killed during action at Fontaine-Notre-Dame, France, shortly after being awarded the Victoria Cross.

John was born in Packmoor, Stoke-on-Trent, in May 1891, to former soldier and miner Ernie, and Sarah Rhodes. He attended school in Newchapel and was a keen sportsman.

After school, John followed in his father’s footsteps and became a miner at the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery before joining the Grenadier Guards. He served for three years after which he returned to the colliery. However, following the outbreak of war John was recalled.

John was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1915. In May 1915, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery during the Battle of Festubert. Three months later a bar was awarded to his medal.

John was wounded during the fighting and sent home to recover. During his time at home he married his sweetheart Elizabeth Meir, known as Lizzie, and the couple were soon expecting their first child. However, John was sent back to France and never got to meet his son.

Back on the frontline, John was promoted to Lance-Sergeant and it was while fighting in the Third Battle of Ypres he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The London Gazette reported: “For most conspicuous bravery when in charge of a Lewis gun section covering the consolidation of the right front company. He accounted for several enemy with his rifle as well as by Lewis gun fire, and, upon seeing three enemy leave a “pill-box”, he went out single-handed through our own barrage and hostile machine-gun fire, and effected an entry into the "pill-box". He there captured nine enemy including a forward observation officer connected by telephone with his battery. These prisoners he brought back with him, together with valuable information.”

However, as the news of his VC was coming through, he was killed in action at Fontaine-Notre-Dame, France, on 27 November 2917. He is buried in CWGC Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Guards Regimental Headquarters in Wellington Barracks, London. There is also a memorial plaque at Chatterley Whitfield Mining Museum, a road named in honour of John at Tunstall, and a memorial in Packmoor village outside Packmoor School.