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What a grave insult to a forgotten Bilston VC hero

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 24, 2014

By John Workman

  • The neglected grave of Victoria Cross hero George Onions at Quinton Cemetery, Halesowen, and INSET: Lance Corporal Onions in military uniform

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BUGLE reader John Selway was intrigued to read in the Devon Family Historian magazine about a First World War hero who had won the Victoria Cross - and who was born in Bilston.

George Onions was presented with the bravery award after helping take 200 of the enemy prisoners on Thursday, August 22, 1918, at Achiet-le-Petit in France, while he was with the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment.

"The citation printed in the London Gazette, December 14, 1918, reads: "He observed the enemy advancing ... Realising his opportunity, he boldly placed himself with his comrade on the flank of the advancing enemy and opened fire.

"When the enemy were about 100 yards from him, some hands were seen to be thrown up. Lance Corporal Onions rushed forward and, with the help of his comrade, took about 200 of the enemy prisoners and marched them back to his company commander."

John, who lives in Pelsall, approached The Bugle, to see if we knew where George was buried and if we had any more details about him.

We didn't and our research in Bilston showed no one else knew about their forgotten hero.

We tracked down his grave to Quinton Cemetery, near Halesowen, where George Onions had been buried on April 2, 1944, aged 61, after a car accident.

It was so neglected and in such a terrible state that we contacted the Victoria Cross Trust. This group, formed in 2011, cleans up the graves of recipients of this bravery award, and where necessary arranges a suitable memorial.

Gary Stapleton, the Chairman of the VC Trust, said that the cleaning and restoration of George Onions' grave would hopefully be carried out very soon.

When The Bugle told John Selway about the trust's clean-up plans, he said he was delighted.

He added that this year, of all years, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, we should be honouring such heroes and providing a fitting tribute.

"George was born in Bilston and as a region we should be remembering him for his extraordinary bravery on the battlefield," said John.

Full story - Page 13

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