Copley resident and local bus driver, Sergeant Hanson Victor Turner, was awarded the highest honour, the Victoria Cross, for bravery on the night of the 6th - 7th June 1944.
In June 1944, the eyes of the world were on the beaches of Normandy as the Allied invasion forces began the liberation of Europe. At the same time, a ‘Forgotten War’ was still raging in the Far East. In a five-foot-deep hole in Burma, ready to face a Japanese attack day or night, 33 year old Hanson Victor Turner was a long way from his home in Copley and his peacetime job as a bus conductor on the Savile Park route for Halifax Corporation Passenger Transport.
On the night of June 6th/7th 1944, Sergeant Turner defended his position against a determined Japanese attack. After his platoon of the West Yorkshire Regiment had taken heavy casualties and come close to being overrun, Turner fell back and reorganised his defences. Then, showing astonishing bravery, he single-handedly took the battle to the enemy. Five times he went forward alone, despite being wounded, showering his attackers with hand grenades at close range. On his sixth attempt he was tragically killed.
His selfless actions were recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry. It was presented to his widow, Edith Turner, at Buckingham Palace by King George in July 1945. The couple's five-year-old daughter, Jean, was too young to be allowed in the Palace. She was cared for outside by one of Edith’s sisters.
Portrait of Sergeant Hanson Victor Turner, V.C.
This oil on canvas portrait was painted in 1944 by John Joseph Mulroy (1888-1960). Mulroy had followed in his father’s footsteps and joined Crossley’s Carpets when he left school at 13. A few years later he enrolled at Halifax Art School. In 1912 he established the first advertising agency in Halifax, John Mulroy & Co. He quickly established a portfolio of local clients including Whitaker’s Brewery, The White Swan Hotel and the Skipton Building Society.
The portrait, based on a photograph, was presented to the Corporation Bus Depot at Skircoat, where Turner had been based as bus conductor before the war as a memorial. It was later donated to Bankfield Museum, after Sergeant turner's Victoria Cross medal was acquired by Calderdale Council.
Sergeant Turner’s Last Letter
Sergeant Turner’s father James had enlisted with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 1904, serving throughout the First World War until his discharge in 1920. He had married a Halifax girl and the Turners were a close family. They had five sons, all of whom were in the forces, and four daughters, all of whose husbands were also serving. Two of them were prisoners in Japanese hands.
In 1940 Hanson Turner also joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, before being transferred to the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1944. This lightweight ‘airgraph’ letter was sent to his sister Emily a few weeks before his death. It was the last letter she ever received from him.
Victoria Cross Citation of Corporal (Acting Sergeant) Hanson Victor Turner, V.C.
"In Burma, at Ningthouk soon after midnight on the night of 6th/7th June, 1944, an attack was made by a strong force of Japanese with medium and light machine guns. In the first instance the attack largely fell on the south-west corner of the position which was held by a weak platoon of about twenty men of which Sergeant Turner was one of the section commanders. By creeping up under cover of a nullah [a stream or watercourse], the enemy was able to use grenades with deadly effect against this portion of the perimeter. Three out of the four light machine guns in the platoon were destroyed and the platoon was forced to give ground.
Sergeant Turner, with coolness and fine leadership, at once reorganised his party and withdrew forty yards. The enemy made determined and repeated attempts to dislodge them and concentrated all fire they could produce in an effort to reduce the position and so extend the penetration. Sustained fire was kept upon Sergeant Turner and his dwindling party by the enemy for a period of two hours. The enemy, however, achieved no further success in this sector. Sergeant Turner with a doggedness and spirit of endurance of the highest order repelled all their attacks, and it was due entirely to his leadership that the position was ultimately held during the night.
When it was clear that the enemy was attempting to outflank the position, Sergeant Turner determined to take the initiative in driving the enemy off and killing them. The men left under his command were the minimum essential to maintain the position which he had built up with such effect. No party for a counterattack could therefore be mustered and speed was essential if the enemy was to be frustrated. He at once, boldly and fearlessly went forward from his position alone armed with all the hand grenades he could carry and went into the attack against the enemy single-handed. He used his weapons with devastating effect and when his supply was exhausted, he went back for more and returned to the offensive again. During all this time the enemy kept up intense small arms and grenade fire.
Sergeant Turner in all made five journeys to obtain further supplies of grenades and it was on the sixth occasion still single-handed, while throwing a grenade among a party of the enemy, he was killed.
His conduct on that night will ever be remembered by the Regiment. His superb leadership and undaunted will to win in the early stages of the attack was undoubtedly instrumental in preventing the enemy plan from succeeding. The number of enemy found dead the next morning was ample evidence of the deadly effect his grenade throwing had had. He displayed outstanding valour and had not the slightest thought of his own safety. He died on the battlefield in a spirit of supreme self-sacrifice."