Street tribute to VC war hero 'shameful'

Sandwell | News | Published:

It should have been a tribute honouring West Bromwich's only Victoria Cross recipient – a man who performed an amazing act of bravery during the First World War.

But instead the naming of a road has been labelled 'shameful' after Sandwell Council failed to get the name of the hero right.

Well-known historian Terry Price has spent the last six years campaigning tirelessly with the council to have Edwin Phillips Drive renamed, so that it properly honours the town's only VC hero Robert Phillips. He was first made aware of the problem in 2008 by Dr Derek Pinches, the nephew of Robert Edwin Phillips – nearly eight years after the road was named after the First World War soldier.

He has on a number of occasions asked for the roads name to be changed and has written to the council demanding something be done. Now, with this year marking the centenary of the First World War, he hopes the council will decide to replace the sign.

"I think it's shameful that a man who risked his life for this country and was awarded Britain's highest accolade for bravery, cannot have his name spelt correctly on a sign to honour him," said the author from West Bromwich.

"His family were very upset when they heard that his name hadn't been put right on the sign. Sandwell Council should be ashamed of themselves."

Robert Edwin Phillips, or Bob as he was known to friends and family, was born on April 11 1895 in Queen Street, Hill Top as the son of a foundry worker

Following the promotion of his father Alfred, the family moved to Holyhead House in Hill Top, where in 2008 a Blue Plaque was unveiled to mark Robert's childhood home. As a youngster he attended King Edwards VI Grammar School before securing a position in the inland revenue, where he began a career spanning forty years, interrupted only by his service during the First World War. In 1913 he was transferred to the London office of the Inland Revenue and while their enlisted with the 1st/15th Company of the London Regiment, on March 17 1914. Just over half a year later he was commissioned in the 13th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, but was attached to the 9th Battalion as a Temporary Lieutenant, where he was later promoted to the rank of Captain.

His Battalion was involved in fierce fighting against the Turkish army near Kut in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.


On the January 25, 1917 a Turkish counter attack had driven the leading British troops out of their trenches. Colonel Edward Elers Delaval Henderson, his commanding officer was severely wounded during the Battalion's attack to regain the British position. Lieutenant Phillips went out no-man's land between the trenches under intense enemy fire with his comrade, Corporal Scott and they succeeded in bringing Colonel Henderson back to the British lines.

For his valiant act he was awarded Britain's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, the citation for his act of 'supreme gallantry' said he had shown 'sustained courage in its very highest form.'

After the war Captain Phillips returned home and married Beatrice Brockhouse, continuing his job as an Inland Revenue officer. He died in 1968 at Lostwithiel in Cornwall.

To show support for Mr Price, Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, is calling on people to contact him if they are concerned about the name of the road. He said: "I think it would be a fitting tribute to have the name corrected in the year of the centenary of the First World War and I would like to hear from residents in the area If they think it is something that should be pursued."

Robert Edwin Phillips was one of three men born in the borough awarded the honour who are each having a special paving stone laid in their memory as part of the First World War centenary commemorations.

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