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Published on July 15th, 2014 | by Brook Chalmers

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Extraordinary Lives of Post Office Employees in World War 1: John Hogan

For the next installment of the ‘Extraordinary Lives of Post Office Employees in World War 1’ series for the Post Office Shop blog, we are going to look at the life of Victoria Cross winner John Hogan and his selfless act of bravery in a trench battle near Festubert in Northern France.

John Hogan was born on the 8th of April 1884 in Royton, Lancashire to Sarah Hogan. Four years later John’s mother married Matthew Creagan and went on to have five other children who would be John’s half siblings. When John was 11 his mother and step family emigrated to America, leaving him in the care of his maternal grandmother. Following the death of Matthew in 1898 his family returned to England to reside in the Oldham area, where they were reunited with John.

John’s first flirtation with military life began on 15th of August 1902 and came to an abrupt end only 5 weeks after joining the South Lancashire Regiment. Interestingly enough John was branded as ‘Not likely to become an efficient soldier’, by his superiors in the regiment.

John HoganJohn was not to be deterred by this and on the 5th of December 1902 he joined the Manchester Regiment, serving with them in South Africa and India before joining the reserve forces in 1912. His full time job would be as a Postman in Royton in the two years prior to the war. However, at the outbreak of war John Hogan, at the age of 30 years old, rejoined the Manchester’s to fight for his King and country.

World War 1 began on the 28th of July 1914 with the Austro-Hungarian’s firing the first shots in their invasion of Serbia, followed by The German Empire invading the neutral countries of Belgium and Luxembourg. When the German Empire invaded France, Britain joined the war and by the 29th of October 1914, John Hogan found himself fighting in the trenches of Northern France near the town of Festubert.

It is unlikely that the soldiers that took part in these early trench warfare battles would know that very little ground would be made during years of stalemate throughout the rest of the war to come. These brave soldiers defended their line and attempted to gain ground, often with very little regard for their own lives. Sergeant John Hogan was one of these brave soldiers who concluded two previously unsuccessful attempts to recapture a stretch of trench taken by the Germans.  John voluntarily recovered their position by taking on the enemy with one of his colleagues, Second Lieutenant James Leach. The fighting was at close quarters and the duo managed to kill 8 enemy soldiers, wound two of them and take 16 more enemy soldiers prisoner.

Sergeant John Hogan was unaware at the time that his act of bravery would be remembered. However, on the 20th of February 1915, Hogan was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George himself at Buckingham Palace, in recognition for his daring act of bravery during the early years of the Great War.

In January 1915, prior to being awarded the Victoria Cross and whilst he was still on invalidity leave from the army due to shrapnel injuries to his eyes and face , John Hogan had married widow Margaret Taylor. The couple had and son also called John, but sadly his wife Margaret died in 1926.

John died aged 59 on the 6th of October 1943 and his Victoria Cross can be found on display at Oldham Civic Centre.

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