Edward Colquhoun Charlton
|Edward Colquhoun Charlton|
|Born||15 June 1920
Rowlands Gill, County Durham
|Died||21 April 1945 (aged 24)
|Buried at||Becklingen War Cemetery|
|Years of service||1940–45 †|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Edward Colquhoun Charlton VC (15 June 1920 – 21 April 1945) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Charlton was a guardsman in the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards, Guards Armoured Division, British Army during the Second World War. On 21 April 1945 Guardsman Charlton was a co-driver of one tank of a troop that was supporting an infantry platoon. They occupied the village of Wistedt, Germany, which the German army then attempted to re-take. The numerically superior German forces consisted largely of officer cadets under the command of experienced instructor officers, supported by two or three self-propelled guns. Three of the four Irish Guards tanks were badly hit, while Charlton's had been disabled by a complete electrical failure before the attack began. Charlton had been ordered to dismount the turret 0.30 Browning machine gun and support the infantry.
The Irish Guards were in danger of being overrun by the Germans. Charlton, on his own authority, took the machine gun and advanced in full view of the attacking Germans, firing the weapon from his hip as he did so and inflicting heavy German casualties. The lead German company was halted and this allowed the rest of the Guards a respite in which to reorganise and retire. He continued his bold attack, even when he was wounded in his left arm. Charlton placed the machine-gun on a fence where he launched a further attack before his left arm was hit again by further enemy fire becoming shattered and useless. Charlton, now with just one usable arm, carried on his attack until a further wound and loss of blood resulted in the Guardsman collapsing. His courageous and selfless disregard for his own safety allowed the rest of the Irish Guards troop and infantry to escape. He later died of the wounds in enemy hands.
Charlton was awarded the posthumous VC, it was the last Victoria Cross of the European theatre, and the last, so far, awarded to a member of the Irish Guards. Unusually, much of the citation was based on German accounts of the fight, as most of his later actions were not witnessed by any of the Guards officers or surviving non-commissioned officers. His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Guards Regimental Headquarters (Irish Guards RHQ), Wellington Barracks, London, England.
- British VCs of World War 2 (John Laffin, 1997)
- Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
- "Europe's Last VC – Guardsman Edward Charlton", After the Battle (magazine) No. 49, 1985. Contains additional memoirs of the surviving Irish Guards officers and men and German officers which correct the original citation.