Soldier’s war award to be remembered

Published Tuesday 28 May 2019 at 11:41

A Blackburn soldier will be honoured in a special ceremony.

Private James Pitts fought in The Second Boer War and was awarded the Victoria Cross medal for bravery in battle.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest honour given to the armed forces – for his deeds in battle and will be commemorated with a commemorative stone outside Blackburn Town Hall. The ceremony will take place from 11am on 31 May at Blackburn Town Hall.

He is one of only four men in Blackburn with Darwen to receive the award and the only one from the Boer War.

A special ceremony will be held outside Blackburn Town Hall at 11am on Friday 31 May. People are welcome to attend. This will be the final commemorative stone to be placed at the town hall.

James Pitts was born in Barton Street, Blackburn, in 1877, one of 16 children and the son of an umbrella seller. He left school at the age of 13 and entered the cotton trade as an apprentice weaver. After five years he enlisted in the British Army.

He joined the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (now the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment), and was stationed in Gibraltar before being deployed to South Africa at the outbreak of The Boer War.

The Second Boer War was fought between The British Empire and two Boer States in what was then called the South African Republic, over control of the country, from 1899 to 1902.

During a battle in Ladysmith in the Natal Province, on 6 January 1900, Private Pitts and a fellow soldier were the only survivors and held their post for 15 hours without food or water under extremely heavy fire.

Following the Boer War, Private Pitts was stationed in Singapore before returning to Blackburn in 1904, where he was given a celebratory presentation at Blackburn Town Hall. He struggled to find work at first but was eventually given a job in Blackburn

He re-enlisted in the army during the First World War and served in Turkey and Egypt in 1916 and then in France where he remained until the Armistice in 1918. For his service in this war he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

He died aged 77 in Blackburn Infirmary in 1955.

Family members will attend the ceremony along with civic dignitaries. The Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Jim Shorrock, The High Sheriff of Lancashire Mr Anthony Attard OBE DL, Lord Lieutenant Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO and The Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones, Dean of Blackburn will also be in attendance.

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

Private James Pitts served in a war that is perhaps less known among the general public but this should not take away from his brave conduct and allegiance to his regiment.

He sounds like an exceptionally brave man and a well-deserved recipient of the Victoria Cross. We are truly proud to celebrate him and include him with the three other gentlemen who received their VCs during the First World War, a war in which James Pitts also served his country.”


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