December 2018-January 2019 | Features

York Heroes

York Heroes

Not content with just one World War I hero in A. J. Knight, VC, the Rotary Club of York also had four Military Cross recipients who later joined its membership.

Between 1914 and 1920, it is estimated over 37,000 Military Cross medals were distributed to members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces for “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land”.

Four of those recipients went on to join York Rotary Club in the years after the First World War.


Noel Blenkin, MC, OBE, TD

Noel joined the Rotary Club of York in 1950.

During the Great War, he served with as a Lieutenant with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Miners’ Battalion). Noel was awarded his Military Cross for conspicuous courage and devotion to duty.

The citation said: “When commanding his company in the front line which was broken at the village of Couronne in April 1918, he displayed great skill in regaining touch with the troops on his right, and obtained valuable information as to the enemy’s dispositions before being wounded.”

Noel was a freelance journalist in York and much involved in amateur dramatics and a governor of the York Theatre Trust.

He was seconded to the Entertainments National Service Association during World War Two as a Lieutenant Colonel and was in charge of troop entertainments in the Middle East.

He was President of the Rotary Club of York in 1956, died in 1975, and was described as ‘an absolute gentleman’.


Leonard Evans MC

Leonard joined the club in 1927.  He was employed by Robinsons of Bristol, a paper bag and packaging company, as their representative in the York area.

During the Great War, Leonard was a Private with the Royal Army Medical Corps before becoming a Second Lieutenant with the Devonshire Regiment.

On November 1st, 1917, he received treatment for a revolver bullet wound to his right cheek.  It cannot be confirmed if this had anything to do with the MC.

He received a Silver War Badge in 1919 which was given to those soldiers discharged as wounded.

The Military Cross was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  The citation read: “When sent to reconnoitre the front line and bring back information, he was wounded and completed his task in broad daylight and reported the dispositions of the line to battalion headquarters before going to the aid post.”

Leonard became a Special Constable in 1941 and reached the rank of Inspector.  He was President of the club in 1957 (following Noel Blenkin, so two Military Cross holders in succession).

His only son was killed in action in 1944 and Leonard died on Christmas Eve 1975.


Harold Gardner MC

Harold joined the club in 1951. He was Station Master at York and died in 1953.

Harold served as a Second Lieutenant with the Sixth Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, which was attached to the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

His Military Cross citation was for conspicuous gallantry and able leadership on October 24th, 1918. The citation read: “During the attack at Rue du Pont, he led his company with great skill through the belts of wire in face of very heavy machine-gun fire, and finally overcame the enemy resistance. After the objective had been reached, he personally supervised the consolidation of the position.”


Alan Moncrieff MC

Alan joined the club in 1937. He worked for Cooke Troughton and Simms, a York firm of scientific instrument makers, later taken over by Vickers Instruments and no longer in existence. Unfortunately it has not been possible to track down his medal citation or anything else about him.


With thanks to Rotarian Barry Campbell, Rotary York

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