Wales

Victoria Cross won by Welsh WWI hero on display

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Media captionLewis Evans' medal is on display at the Imperial War Museum

A Victoria Cross awarded to a badly wounded Welsh brigadier for capturing two enemy positions while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire during a World War I battle in Belgium is on display at the Imperial War Museum.

Lewis Pugh Evans from Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, had served for 20 years with the British Army when he carried out his actions in 1917 at Zonnebeke.

The citation accompanying his medal reads "For conspicuous bravery and leadership" and goes on: "His example of cool bravery stimulated in all ranks, the highest valour and determination to win."

The medal is now among a private collection held by the former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft.

In 1917 Brigadier Evans was appointed to command the First Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment and within a few months he carried out the actions which led to his VC award.

"Lewis Pugh Evans took his battalion through a terrific enemy barrage," Lord Ashcroft said.

"He ran at an enemy machine gun firing his revolver through the loophole and seized the position."

Image caption Lewis Pugh Evans did not like to draw attention to his medals, family say

Brigadier Evans was severely injured while capturing the first objective, but he refused to be bandaged and reformed his troops.

He then pointed out a new objective and led his men forward again.

"He was badly wounded for a second time, but nevertheless he continued to command until the second objective was won," said Lord Ashcroft. "He then collapsed from a loss of blood.

"It's an incredible story and that's why in the history of the Victoria Cross just under 1,500 have been awarded."

But Brigadier Evans' grandson Christopher Evans says he almost missed out on the award.

"When a committee of generals looked at his citation, they weren't sure he should be put forward," he said.

To carry out his act of bravery, Lewis Pugh Evans had left his post - something the generals took exception to.

'Brave brigadier general'

"They thought he hadn't acted like a commanding officer of 500 men," said Mr Evans. "He achieved the result and the award was given."

Like many who have served in conflicts, Brigadier Evans was reluctant to talk about his experiences, even to his family.

His great-niece Sarah Clifton, who lived with him in Aberystwyth, said he was not one to show off.

"He would wear his medals on Armistice Day for the service by the war memorial and that's the only time I ever really saw them because he didn't want any attention drawn to him," she said.

"I always found it immensely funny that this rather elderly man who got up every morning and went to watch his beloved jersey cows being milked, to think of him as a brave brigadier general was extraordinary."

The VC awarded to Brigadier Evans for his actions on 4 October 1917 is one of around 200 on display at the Imperial War Museum in London - 188 of which are owned privately by Lord Ashcroft.

He hopes the collection will forever be a memorial to the men who have won them.

He said: "The collection is on long-term loan to the museum, but I would expect to do something in my will to ensure the collection is on public display and will never leave this country."

For more on this story, listen to Good Morning Wales on BBC Radio Wales on Monday from 06:00 GMT.

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