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Dudley headmaster war hero gave medal to enemy's wife

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 09, 2014

  • Second Lieutenant Joseph Greenaway MM

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THIS week the centenary of the First World War has been marked across Europe. In Britain we remember the fallen of the war but also the 88% of troops who returned home, some terribly injured, to face fresh hardship in a world that had changed forever.

One of those wounded servicemen who came home and made his mark in the Black Country was Second Lieutenant Joseph Greenaway MM, and details of his life have been provided for us by the Woodside Memory and History Group:

"Joseph Greenaway was a Dudley man who enlisted in 1915, serving initially with the 2/8th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he soon attained the rank of sergeant. He was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1/8th Worcestershire Regiment.

"The battalion saw action in France, Belgium and Italy, where Greenaway was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valour.

"The citation read, 'While out with a patrol, this officer discovered an enemy strong point defended by thick wire. He immediately attacked it with wonderful sangfroid and regardless of the dangers in overcoming the obstacles, paying no heed to the violent fire from an enemy machine gun a little distance away, always in front of his men he got through the wire and rushed the position, destroying the machine gun and capturing the whole gun squadron.'

"This account does not tell the whole story. Far from being 'gung-ho', Greenaway was a quiet, unassuming man. During the patrol his batman was killed by machine gun fire and in a fit of rage Greenaway led the attack and injured several of the enemy. One of these was a fatally wounded Austrian whom the remorseful young lieutenant nursed.

"Greenaway promised the dying Austrian that he would visit his wife and tell her that her husband had died a brave man. After the war he kept his promise, presenting her with his own Silver Medal for Valour.

"Greenaway was badly wounded in the left shoulder in the action and was discharged on July 1, 1919. Like many other soldiers, however, he had to fight for his war pension from the state. Having won his case, Greenaway helped many wounded ex-soldiers whose war pensions had been withheld, setting up an office for claimants at the Lion Inn, Pensnett.

"Greenaway went on to become a popular and long-serving headmaster at Holly Hall Secondary School, Dudley, retiring in 1961."

The Woodside Memory and History Group is holding its 1914-1918 Centenary Weekend at St Augustine's Church, Holly Hall.

On Saturday, August 9, from 11am to 3pm there will be an exhibition, which will include Joseph Greenaway's campaign chest, uniform and medals and his Second World War civil defence memorabilia.

From 10.30am to midday, Sunday, August 10, there will be a memorial service where the names of the 73 men from the Woodside ward who gave their lives in the Great War will be read out.

For more details call Len Hughes on 01384 565291 or Val Worwood on 01384 865495.

Have you attended a First World War centenary service? What are your thoughts on the commemoration? Write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL or email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk

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