As part of our series looking into the lives of the RUSI members who were Victoria Cross holders and fell in the Great War, we profile Captain Garth Neville Walford.
Garth Neville Walford, an only son, was born on 27 May 1882 in Frimley, Surrey. He attended Harrow and, after winning the Sayer Scholarship, studied at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1902, Walford joined the Royal Artillery and three years later he was made second lieutenant.
In 1907, he married Betty Trefusis and they had two daughters.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Walford saw action in France, where he narrowly avoided enemy shells on two occasions: the first caused minor injuries to his arms, while the force of the second explosion knocked off his cap. Captain Garth Walford was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Sedd el Bahr, Gallipoli, Turkey, on 26 April 1915 following the landing at V Beach on 25 April. The landing had been stalled by Turkish forces in strongly held positions on the high ground above the beach—leaving the British forces unable to either advance or retreat without suffering massive losses.
A plan was developed overnight, and the British forces attacked on three fronts in the early morning of 26 April 1915. Walford and his men were met by machine gun and sniper fire as they advanced into Sedd el Bahr. Walford saw that a group of men had come under heavy fire just as they reached the gate into the eastern side of the village. He went forward to lead them into the village, preventing their attack from losing impetus. It was at this postern gate that Walford was killed later that same day, as he led another group of men into the village. Y Company now engaged in a ferocious battle for control of the village where, as the Hampshires’ historian noted, ‘they met desperate resistance. The Turks contested every house and had to be ousted with the bayonet from one after another. Some lay quiet, concealed in cellars or ruins, till our men had passed by and then fired into their backs’.
Walford’s colleague, Lieutenant Colonel C H M Doughty-Wylie, came ashore and took command. The village was eventually brought under British control and unfortunately Doughty-Wylie was also killed, by a shot to the head. Both Walford and Doughty-Wylie were awarded the VC for their actions that day in a joint citation, which was gazetted on 23 June 1915. A colleague wrote of them: ‘no honour could be too high for them … They achieved the impossible. They showed themselves Englishmen in the old mould. I esteem it an honour and a privilege to have known such gallant men’.
Walford was buried outside the walls of the old fort in Sedd el Bahr. His remains were later reinterred, and he is now buried in Gallipoli, Turkey, in the V Beach Cemetery, Row O, Grave 1. His VC is not publicly held.
Ashley Ryan is an RLMH volunteer and 2016 Trench Gascoigne Essay Prize third place winner.
This article is the seventh in a nine-part series to be published in the RUSI Library News.
Part I For Valour: The Victoria Cross, RUSI and the First World War
Part II Captain Charles ‘Fitz’ FitzClarence
Part III Brevet Major John Edmond ‘Johnnie’ Gough
Part IV Captain Francis Octavius Grenfell
Part V Major Charles Allix Lavington ‘Cal’ Yate
Part VI Lieutenant John Henry Stephen Dimmer
If you would like to learn more, go to https://RUSI.org/GreatWar
Kevin Brazier, The Complete Victoria Cross: A Full Chronological Record of All Holders of Britain's Highest
Award for Gallantry (Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2010).
RUSI Journal, ‘Great War Stories: RUSI’s Fallen Members’ (Vol. 162, No. 3, June/July 2017), pp. 4–10.
Stephen Snelling, VCs of the First World War: Gallipolli (Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2010).