Express & Star

Wreaths laid for Victoria Cross hero honouring his bravery

He was a Black Country war hero, awarded Britain's highest military decoration in recognition of his incredible courage under heavy fire.

Wreaths are laid to commemorate the life of VC hero Lt 'Gus' Bonner

Victoria Cross recipient Lieutenant Charles George 'Gus' Bonner showed "pluck and determination" during a bloody First World War battle at sea, helping members of his crew survive a relentless bombardment from a German U-boat.

This week his achievements have been celebrated at the site of his commemorative plaque in Aldridge, Walsall, where he grew up, some 68 years after his death.

Members of the Royal British Legion and the Friends of HMS Conway – the Naval Cadet school he attended – laid wreaths at his memorial, which is situated on The Green by Aldridge Parish Church.

VC medal recipient Charles George 'Gus' Bonner

Friends of HMS Conway member Alfie Windsor, said: "We are very proud of all of our VC holders.

"This was a great opportunity to remember and celebrate what Bonner achieved in his life."

The event was also attended by Peter Atkins MBE, Mr Bonner's nephew, David Partridge MBE, and biographer Sue Satterthwaite.

Mr Bonner moved with his family to Aldridge when he was a few months old. He trained on HMS Conway from 1899-1901, before going to sea in the Merchant Navy.

At the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for the Royal Naval Division (later the Riyal Naval Reserve) in December 1914. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1917, when his ship HMS Pargust sank an enemy submarine.

Later in that year he was appointed First Lieutenant of HMS Dunraven, one of the 'Q' or 'mystery' ships that were armed vessels disguised as merchant ships.

He was awarded the VC for his actions on August 8, 1917, when HMS Dunraven was shelled by an enemy submarine in the Bay of Biscay.

The life of VC hero Lt 'Gus' Bonner has been commemorated

Along with other crew members, Mr Bonner stayed hidden as the fire raged over the ship until the submarine came close enough to engage her.

He had been blown out of the gun turret by an explosion which hit the first depth charge but crawled back in, fully aware that it could blow up again.

They stayed at the station until it exploded, which showed the enemy that they were attacking a 'Q' ship not an innocent cargo ship, prompting them to fire off a torpedo.

As 'panic' parties were dispatched overboard, HMS Dunraven was left with only two guns operating.

Only one of HMS Dunraven's crew was killed, and HMS Christopher arrived to collect the survivors. The 'Q' ship would later sink.

The official record of Mr Bonner's role in the incident reads: "The lieutenant was in the thick of the fighting and throughout the whole of the action his pluck and determination had a considerable influence on the crew."

His VC was presented to him by King George V before notification had been published in the London Gazette, as he was rushing back out to sea in command of his own 'Q' ship, Eilian.

He later achieved the rank of captain in the Merchant Navy. After the war he became a salvage expert.

Mr Bonner died in Edinburgh, on February 7, 1951, aged 66.

His commemorative plaque was unveiled in November 2007, and he is also honoured with a memorial at Walsall Town Hall, alongside fellow VC recipients James Thompson and John Henry Carless.