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Family research

18 July 2014

MIGHT Private Ernest Sykes VC, a hero of the First World War, who later became a railwayman and died in August 1949, feature in your family tree? If so, do get in touch with the Revd Richard Cook, who is the Railway Chaplain for the North West.

Private Sykes once had an LNWR locomotive named after him, with the name-plate later transferred to an LMS railway engine. When that loco was withdrawn, the name-plate was then presented to the Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland, at Alnwick Castle.

Now he is to have a plaque at Mossley Railway Station, in Greater Manchester, where he was on the staff, and Mr Cook is seeking his relatives and descendants in the hope that they can attend the ceremony on 11 August.

Private Sykes's heroic action took place in Arras, France, in April 1917, when he, "despite heavy fire, went forward and brought back four wounded men. He made a fifth journey, and remained out under conditions which appeared to be certain death, until he had bandaged all those who were too badly wounded to be moved.

"These gallant actions, performed under incessant machine-gun and rifle-fire, showed utter contempt of danger."

He received his Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace in July, and, a week later, the people of Mossley turned out in their thousands to welcome him home. He sustained severe injuries to his foot, and narrowly escaped having it amputated. After several operations he was posted back to France and Flanders.

Mr Cook says that Sykes was an extraordinary man who lived in extraordinary times. If you can claim him as a relative, phone Mr Cook on 07718971915.

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