August 2006

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Corporal John Cunningham,
2nd Bn, Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )

The Imperial War Museum in London has acquired on loan the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Corporal John Cunningham, 2nd Bn, Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment.

On the 12th April 1917 the Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment were to make an assault, their objective being the Bois-en-Hache to the north-east of Souchez and the strongpoint known as Pimple, on the northern edge of Vimy Ridge. At 5.00 a.m. the attack began and three companies moved off in two waves accompanied by a British barrage. Landmarks were quickly concealed by the snow and the ground, comprising mainly of shell holes and craters, quickly became slushy.

The Leinsters continued their advance in these very poor conditions and the enemy opened a heavy rifle and machine-gun fire on them. After beating the Germans back from their first line, the leading men moved downhill towards the wooded slope and the German second line. Meanwhile, hostile enfilade fire from across the Souchez Valley continued and took its toll. Cunningham was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his work on this day.

[ London Gazette, 8 June 1917 ], Bois-en-Hache, France, 12 April 1917, Corporal John Cunningham, 2nd Bn, Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command of a Lewis Gun Section on the most exposed flank of the attack ( Bois-en-Hache, France ).

His section came under heavy enfilade fire and suffered severely. Although wounded, he succeeded almost alone in reaching his objective with his gun, which he got into action in spite of much opposition. When counter-attacked by a party of twenty of the enemy, he exhausted his ammunition against them, then, standing in full view, he commenced throwing bombs. He was wounded again, and fell, but picked himself and continued to fight single-handed with the enemy until his bombs were exhausted. He then made his way back to our lines with a fractured arm and other wounds.

There is little doubt that the superb courage of this N.C.O. cleared up a most critical situation on the left flank of the attack. Corporal Cunningham died in hospital from the effects of his wounds.

John Cunningham died of his wounds in hospital four days later on the 16th April 1917 and is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery near Noeux-les-Mines, France.


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Iain Stewart, 1 November 2007