The Bradford Brothers
Only two brothers were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War - George and Roland Bradford of Witton Park, County Durham. They belonged to a family of four remarkable brothers, known as the ‘Fighting Bradfords’, who all achieved honours for their service in the 1914-18 war.
The Bradford Brothers in Witton Park
On the 100th anniversary of Roland’s incredible gallantry in the face of the enemy, this memorial space 1, was funded by Durham County Council, working in partnership with Groundwork NE & Cumbria, with the assistance of villagers and representatives of the DLI. It is now home to two of the county’s seven commemorative Victoria Cross stones.
George Bradford 1887 - 1918
George Nicholson Bradford, born at Carrwood House, Witton Park, on 23 April 1887, was the second oldest Bradford brother. Having attended the Royal Naval School from the age of 13, George joined HMS Britannia as a cadet in 1902. He soon made his name as the Navy’s Welterweight boxing champion, and for his bravery rescuing a boy from a sinking trawler.
When war broke out in 1914, George was serving on HMS Orion. He was involved in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander the following year.
In 1918 George volunteered to take part in a daring naval raid on the Belgian coast at Zeebrugge. On 23 April 1918, St. George’s Day, Lieutenant Commander Bradford was in command of storming parties on a commandeered River Mersey ferry, HMS Iris II. During the raid, he was hit by machine gun fire and fell into the sea. It was his 31st birthday. George’s body was later recovered and buried in Blankenberge Communal Cemetery, Belgium.
George Bradford was posthumously awarded the VC in March 1919, presented to his mother by King George V at Buckingham Palace in April 1919.
Roland Bradford 1892 - 1917
Roland Boys Bradford was the youngest and most exceptional of the ‘Fighting Bradfords’.
An outstanding soldier, he became the youngest General in the British Army of modern times.
Born on 23 February 1892 at Carrwood House, Roland joined the Durham Light Infantry in 1910. In action in France with 2 DLI from September 1914, he was awarded the Military Cross in February 1915 and moved to 7 DLI before taking command of the 9th Battalion in August 1916.
On 1 October 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, Roland’s battalion was part of an attack on Eaucourt l’Abbaye, led by 6 DLI. When Roland arrived at the front line British troops were under heavy fire, but he mobilised the two battalions, reformed the attack and led the capture of the position.
He was awarded the VC in November 1916. King George V presented it at Hyde Park in June 1917.
At the age of 25 Roland was appointed Brigadier General, only days before he was killed by a German shell during the Battle of Cambrai on 30 November 1917.