Unveiling of relocated Victoria Cross commemorative stones in Thatcham, 3 April 2023

On Monday 3 April 2023, members of the Thatcham Branch of the Royal British Legion, Thatcham Memorial Foundation and Thatcham Town Council gathered in The Broadway to unveil the new location of the Victoria Cross Commemorative Stones.

At the low-key ceremony, Mayor of Thatcham, Councillor Jeff Brooks, said “We acknowledge our heroes, we acknowledge people who fought for this country, and died. People can now come here and reflect, and perhaps to do little research on these gentlemen, two of whom gave their life in battle and one who happily lived to an old age.”

Thatcham is the home of three recipients of the Victoria Cross. Commemorative Stones were provided by the Department of Communities and Local Government to the hometowns of 504 servicemen from the British Isles who were presented with the Victoria Cross during WW1.

Thatcham Town Council decided that the two soldiers who had fought in other wars should be honoured in the same way, and on Monday 28 September 2015, exactly 100 years after the battle that led to Second Lieutenant Alexander Buller Turner being posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, his stone was unveiled alongside stones honouring Private William John House and Lieutenant-Colonel Victor Buller Turner.

The stones were originally set in the central crossing of The Broadway as it was felt that this location provided more visibility, however, it became clear that such a busy location, was not ideal and the stones became damaged and were not observed with the dignity they deserved.

Councillor Owen Jeffery said “When the original stones were placed in The Broadway, it was felt that the location was the right one, but, on reflection, it is clear that set in the ground was not the right place for them. Working together [with the Royal British Legion and Thatcham Memorial Foundation], we agreed on the new location, where the stones can be respectfully observed.”

The Stones can now be seen in a quieter location at the southern end of The Broadway. The interpretation board will be relocated and the original stones removed in due course.

Chairman of the Royal British Legion Thatcham Branch, Brian Hare, thanked everyone for their efforts.

The VC Stones commemorate:

Alexander Buller Turner

Royal Berkshire Regiment, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s

The eldest son of Charles and Jane Turner who lived at Thatcham House. Alexander was born on 22nd May 1893 and came to Thatcham when his parents moved here in 1902. He was a commissioned Officer in the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

The citation for his award, published in the London Gazette on 18 November 1915 reads:

Second Lieutenant Alexander Buller Turner, 3rd Battalion (attached 1st Battalion), Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire Regiment) For most conspicuous bravery on 28th September 1915, at “Fosse 8,” near Vermelles.

When the regimental bombers could make no headway in Slag Alley, Second Lieutenant Turner volunteered to lead a new bombing attack: He pressed down the communication trench practically alone, throwing bombs incessantly with such dash and determination that he drove back the Germans about 150 yards without a check. His action enabled the reserves to advance with very little loss, and subsequently-covered the flank of his regiment in, its retirement, thus probably averting a loss of some hundreds of men.
This most gallant Officer has since died of wounds received in this action.

Private William John House

Royal Berkshire Regiment, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s, 2nd Battalion

William John House, son of Mr Thomas House of Park Lane, Thatcham, was born on 7th October 1879, enlisted into the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 3 November 1896 and was duly gazetted to the roll of the Victoria Cross on his 23nd birthday, in 1902. He received the Victoria Cross from HM King Edward VII on 24 October 1902.

On 2 August 1900, it was resolved to make an attack upon the Boer position at Mosilikatse Nek, and, for the purpose of ascertaining a better idea of the enemy’s force, a sergeant was sent forward to reconnoitre. Before he could, however, rejoin his comrades, he was seen by the enemy, who, opening fire, wounded him most severely. He lay on the open ground, in full view of the Boer marksmen, who kept up a hail of bullets on and around him. House, though cautioned that almost certain death lay before him, sprang out from the cover, behind which he and the rest of the troops were concealed and attempted to carry in his wounded comrade. While making this heroic attempt he himself was badly shot, and, though lying fully exposed, in his turn, to the Boer rifle fire called to his comrades not to come to his assistance until the advance was made.

This act, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross was performed under the immediate command of Captain Sir Edward Pasley, Bart., Sir Ian Hamilton being Chief.

Major (temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) Victor Buller Turner

Rifle Brigade, The Prince Consort’s Own

Victor Buller Turner was the younger brother of Alexander Buller Turner. Victor was born on 17 January 1900 in Reading and moved to Thatcham House in 1902. After WW2 Victor moved to Norfolk and retired from the army in 1949. In 1950 was appointed to the Royal Household, with a post in the ceremonial King’s Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard and rose to be “Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant” of the Guard in 1955. He was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 1966 in connection with his services to the Royal Household and was promoted to Lieutenant of the Queen’s Bodyguard in 1967. He died on 7 August 1972 in Ditchingham, Norfolk.

For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 27 October 1942, in the Western Desert. Lieutenant-Colonel Turner led a Battalion of the Rifle Brigade at night for 4,000 yards through difficult country to their objective, where 40 German prisoners were captured. He then organised the captured position for all-round defence; in this position he and his Battalion were continuously attacked from 5.30 a.m. to 7 p.m., unsupported and so isolated that replenishment of ammunition was impossible owing to the concentration and accuracy of the enemy fire.

During this time the Battalion was attacked by not less than 90 German tanks which advanced in successive waves. All of these were repulsed with a loss to the enemy of 35 tanks which were in flames, and not less than 20 more which had been immobilised.

Throughout the action Lieutenant-Colonel Turner never ceased to go to each part of the front as it was threatened. Wherever the fire was heaviest, there he was to be found. In one case, finding a solitary six-pounder gun in action (the others being casualties) and manned only by another officer and a Sergeant, he acted as loader and with these two destroyed 5 enemy tanks. While doing this he was wounded in the head, but he refused all aid until the last tank was destroyed.

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