Joseph Harcourt Tombs

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Joseph Harcourt Tombs
Victoria Cross Medal without Bar.png
Born 23 March 1887
Birmingham, England
Died 28 June 1966 (aged 79)
Toronto, Canada
Buried Pine Hills Cemetery, Toronto
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Royal Canadian Air Force
Years of service 1912 - 1920 (UK)
1939 - 1944 (Canada)
Rank Corporal (UK)
Sergeant (Canada)
Unit The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Victoria Cross
Cross of St George 4th Class (Russia)

Joseph Harcourt Tombs VC (23 Mar 1887 – 28 June 1966), born Frederick Griffith Tombs, who under the name Joseph Tombs, was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award of the British (Imperial) honours system. The VC is awarded for ‘most conspicuous bravery … in the presence of the enemy’.[1][2]

VC action[edit]

Tombs was born in Birmingham and was a 28-year-old Lance-Corporal in the 1st Battalion, The King's (Liverpool Regiment), British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.[3] On 16 May 1915 near Rue du Bois, France, Lance-Corporal Tombs, on his own initiative, crawled out repeatedly under very heavy shell and machine-gun fire to bring in wounded men who were lying about 100 yards in front of our trenches. He rescued four men, one of whom he dragged back by means of a rifle sling placed round his own neck and the man's body.[4][5]

Later life[edit]

He was promoted corporal and after the war, in 1921, emigrated to Canada where he spent the rest of his life. During World War II Tombs enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and served at the Flying School in Trenton, Ontario. A 1952 operation to remove some of the shrapnel still embedded in his stomach was not completely successful, and in 1964 he suffered a stroke.[6] His Victoria Cross is held by the Royal Regiment of Canada Foundation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. [7]


  1. ^ Baptised Frederick Griffith on 8 April 1877. The son of Frederick and Mary Tombs of Chester Road, Erdington, Warwick. The profession of his father was Secretary of the South Birmingham Conservative Association
  2. ^ Clause three, Warrant recoding the conditions of award of the Victoria Cross, incorporating the increase of pension and the extension of this to commissioned officers, Special Army Order 65 of 1961 Signed by John Profumo on 30 September 1961
  3. ^ Valiant Men: Canada's Victoria Cross and George Cross winners edited by John Swettenham, 1973, Hakkert. Many British references incorrectly state he was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1884 or 23 March 1888. The UK Government Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones program lists Birmingham as his place of birth, see
  4. ^ "No. 29240". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 July 1915. p. 7280. 
  5. ^ The action was on 16 May 1915 not 16 June 1915 as stated in the citation published in the London Gazette.
  6. ^ The Victoria Cross and the George Cross: the complete history, Volume II, the First World War, 1914-1918, Methuen, 2013, ISBN 978 0 413 77751 5
  7. ^


  • VCs of the First World War - The Western Front 1915 (Peter F. Batchelor & Christopher Matson, 1999)
  • Victoria Cross and the George Cross: the complete history (Methuen, 2013)
  • Valiant Men: Canada's Victoria Cross and George Cross winners (edited by John Swettenham, 1973)

External links[edit]