We have already featured Roland Edward Elcock on this blog, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in October 1918. The only other man from our area to receive this high honour was Major George Onions, who was originally from Bilston.
Onions was born in 2 March 1883 at High Street, Bilston. His parents were Zachariah Webb and Amy Susan Onions (nee Skemp). Unfortunately George’s mother died a year after he was born, and his father remarried Jane M. Farquhar in 1887. By the 1901 census the family had moved to Abersychan in Monmouthshire where the now 18-year-old George was employed as an assistant to an analytical chemist. In 1904, George emigrated to Australia, where he met and married his wife Florence Macfarlane Donaldson. They had a son, George Zachariah, born in 1909. The family later moved back to England, settling in Sale in Cheshire.
In 1915 he enlisted with the 3rd Hussars Reserve, and he served in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. He later moved to the 3rd Kings Own Hussars Cavalry Regiment, and then to the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, serving in Belgium and France. His brave actions on 22 August 1918 in Achiet-le-Petit in Northern France earned him the Victoria Cross nomination. His citation, published in the London Gazette on 14 December 1918, reads as follows:
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative south of Achiet-le-Petit on 22nd August, 1918, when, having been sent out with one man to get touch with the battalion on the right flank, he observed the enemy advancing in large numbers to counter-attack the positions gained on the previous day.
Realising his opportunity, he boldly placed himself with his comrade on the flank of the advancing enemy, and opened rapid fire when the target was most favourable. When the enemy were about 100 yards from him, the line wavered and some hands were seen to be thrown up. L./Cpl. Onions then rushed forward, and, with the assistance of his comrade, took about 200 of the enemy prisoners and marched them back to his company commander.
By his magnificent courage and presence of mind he averted what might have been a very dangerous situation.
On the same day, Onions was badly gassed and transported back to England for treatment and convalescence in Liverpool. After the War, he was promoted to the rank of Major.
He died in Birmingham on 2 April 1944. His Victoria Cross and other World War One medals are on display at the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester.