John Sherwood Kelly VC CMG DSO

Sherwood Kelly VC

John Sherwood Kelly was born in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa on 13 January 1880 and served from the age of 16 in various corps in the Matabele War, Boer War, Somaliland Campaign, Zulu Bambatha Rebellion, First World War (Gallipoli and Western front), and briefly in the invasion of North Russia.

When he returned from Russia and wrote letters published by the Express newspapers in September-October 1919, the Army prosecuted him for a breach of King's Regulations. Although his letters openly opposed the war against the Bolsheviks it was decided that the substance of the charges against him would be confined to communicating his opinions to the press 'without special authority'. He was found guilty at his court martial on 28 October 1919, was awarded a Severe Reprimand. Kelly retired several weeks later with the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

He died aged 51 on 13 August 1931 and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery, London. His Victoria Cross is in the collection of the National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He was 37 years old when, as an Acting Lieutenant-Colonel in the Norfolk Regiment, he assumed command of the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 20 November 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai at Marcoing, France. Notification of his award appeared in the 'Supplement To The London Gazette, 11 January, 1918' and stated:

Maj. (A./Lt.-Col.) John Sherwood-Kelly,
C.M.G., D.S.O., Norf. R., comd. a Bn., R.
Innis. Fus.

For most conspicuous bravery and fearless
leading when a party of men of another unit
detailed to cover the passage of the canal by
his battalion were held up on the near side
of the canal by heavy rifle fire directed on
the bridge. Lt.-Col. Sherwood-Kelly at
once ordered covering fire, personally led
the leading company of his battalion across
the canal and, after crossing, reconnoitred
under heavy rifle and machine gun fire the
high ground held by the enemy.
The left flank of his battalion advancing
to the assault of this objective was held up
by a thick belt of wire, whereupon he crossed
to that flank, and with a Lewis gun team,
forced his way under heavy fire through
obstacles, got the gun into position on the
far side, and covered the advance of his battalion
through the wire, thereby enabling
them to capture the position.
Later, he personally led a charge against
some pits from which a heavy fire was being
directed on his men, captured the pits,
together with five machine guns and forty-six
prisoners, and killed a large number of
the enemy.
The great gallantry displayed by this
officer throughout the day inspired the
greatest confidence in his men, and it was
mainly due to his example and devotion to
duty that his battalion was enabled to capture
and hold their objective.