North Bersted family pays tribute to hero of First World War

C110923-2_JPOS_bog_victoria'Story of bravery - Diana Clay who researched the WW1 family history.
C110923-2_JPOS_bog_victoria'Story of bravery - Diana Clay who researched the WW1 family history.

A North Bersted woman has paid her first tribute to a war hero relative.

Diana Clay made her initial visit to the grave of Alfred Toye after she found out he was a Victoria Cross and Military Cross holder.

She was accompanied by her husband and their youngest son.

Mr Toye, her great-uncle, is buried in Tiverton Cemetery in Devon.

They laid a poppy wreath in Mr Toye’s memory and staged a two-minute silence.

Mrs Clay, 70, of Renoir Court, said: “We were quite tearful.

“It was an emotional moment.

“But it was nice to pay tribute to him.”

It was not until earlier this year Mrs Clay became aware of Mr Toye.

One of her brothers, who lives in New Zealand, was told about him.

He began to research their unknown relative and discovered the full extent of his heroism.

Her older brother also joined in, along with her youngest son, Kevin Clay.

Alfred Maurice Toye was an Acting Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The date of his outstanding bravery and leadership was March 25, 1918.

His citation reads: “At Eterpigny Ridge, France, he recaptured a single post three times, before fighting his way through the enemy together with an officer and six men of his company.

“He then gathered together 70 men of his battalion and mounted an attack which held the line until reinforcements arrived.

“He later covered his battalion’s retirement on two occasions and re-established a line that had been abandoned before his arrival.”

The action took place south of Peronne in the last big German offensive of the war a few days before A/C Toye’s 21st birthday.

He was suffering from two injuries but constantly roused his men to counter-attack.

He also covered the flanks of other units when his men were withdrawing in an action which cost a lot of British losses.

Eleven of the battalion’s 16 platoons were wiped out that day.

Mr Toye left home in 1912 when he was 15 to join the Royal Engineers as a bugler.

He worked his way through the ranks to become a brigadier.

For his gallantry in 1917, while serving with the Royal Engineers in the 3rd Battle of Ypres he was awarded the Military Cross between October 26 and November 10.

He also served in the second world war in the 6th Airborne Division and in GHQ Middle East. He died on September 6, 1955, aged 58.