Friday, 3 October 2014

Michael Heaviside VC

The above video © IWM (IWM 1179), is available courtesy of the Imperial War Museum under their non-commercial licence.

Michael Heaviside was born in Gilesgate, in 1880. Whilst still a boy, Michael moved with his family from Durham to Kimblesworth, where his father worked in the colliery as head keeker [inspector] and Michael went to the local Council school. Later, the family moved to Sacriston.

Following the death of his mother, Michael Heaviside joined the Army and served as a stretcher bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps in South Africa during the Boer War. After he left the Regular Army, he joined the Army Reserve and found work as a miner at Burnhope colliery. About 1913, he began work as a hewer at Oswald Pit and moved with his wife, Elizabeth, to Craghead, near Stanley.

On 7 September 1914, Michael Heaviside re-enlisted in the Army and joined the 15th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, and went with his battalion to France in June 1915, and, once again, served as a stretcher bearer.

On 6 May 1917, during the Battle of Arras, Private Michael Heaviside crawled across No-Man’s-Land under heavy rifle and machine gun fire to take water and first aid to a wounded soldier lying in a shell hole. Later that night Michael Heaviside led two other stretcher bearers to the wounded soldier and carried him back to safety. For his bravery, Michael Heaviside was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 12 July 1917, Michael Heaviside returned to a hero’s welcome in Craghead, where he was presented with a gold watch. After the presentation, he told the crowds that he had only done his duty and that he was proud to have brought honour to Durham and to Craghead. A few days later, Private Heaviside travelled by train to London and was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V. There is a newspaper report of this return to Craghead here, read it, then view the video.

After the war, Michael Heaviside returned to work as a miner at Craghead. On 26 April 1939, he died at his home at Bloemfontein Terrace, aged just 58 years, his health damaged by his years underground and his time on the Western Front. His funeral was at St Thomas’s Church, Craghead.

This text was produced by Steve Shannon, a longer version can be found at

If anyone knows who the Stanley Nobblers were, as mentioned in the newspaper article, let us know at

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