Major Edward Hankey is, very simply, one of our nation's greatest unsung heroes. His courage and leadership don't need to be explained.

Actions speak louder than words. Here was a man who fought in two of the most savage actions of the Boer War, and was wounded in the thigh as a young lieutenant during the second. 

Here was a man who assumed command of the 2nd Worcesters just 44 days before that awe-inspiring attack on Gheluvelt Chateau on Saturday, October 31, 1914.

A man who'd led his troops through the depths of Polygon Wood, not once, but twice, seven days before. In its own way, a more savage and incredible feat of courage.

The more I researched this documentary, the more compelling it was that the remarkable Major Hankey should emerge as the kind of figure that's known to the nation as a whole.

Then, one Friday afternoon during a Christmas meal with work colleagues in 2013, my phone made a noise that signified the arrival of an email.

It was from Julia Brotherton. Major Hankey's only grandchild.

She'd read about the documentary on the Worcestershire Regiment website forum. She offered her help.

It's fair to say that the documentary wouldn't have been the same without her.

First, she lent her knowledge. Then she lent her voice.

It's fitting that a voice directly linked to Major Hankey should be heard in this commemoration.

It's doubly fitting that her son William – one of the major's three great-grandsons – should also lend his, reading the most iconic words associated with the Worcesters' deeds that day.

The 2nd Worcesters will take Gheluvelt. We can and will do it. Good luck to you all. Fix bayonets! Up lads and at ‘em. Let’s give them a bit of Worcestershire Sauce!

So, Major Hankey, the quiet hero. Here's how Julia Brotherton remembers her grandfather.


Major Edward Hankey’s name will live on in the history books as the man who led from the front when the 2nd Worcesters charged Gheluvelt Chateau on Saturday, October 31, 1914.

But, to me, he was simply my grandfather, ‘Bampa’, who taught me to ride my first pony and kept the stuffed head of a crocodile on the chest in the hall, jaws agape, as a repository for new laid eggs and things like chamois leather gloves for de-coking the car.

I knew he had shot the creature! Very exciting.

I lived with him and his wife, Katherine, in their house in Cirencester Park from April 27, 1942, when I was three-and-a-half, until May, 1945, when I was six-and-a-half.

I grew up there because my mother Kismet – my grandparents’ elder daughter – died at the age of 29. Her sad death left my father, Gerald King, with a baby just under three weeks old.

After my father came out of the Army, he re-opened our house in Bath and we went back there.

Earlier in the war, I had lived at my other grandparents' house in Bath until all the windows and doors were blown out by the bombing raids.

In 1946, my Hankey grandmother died and my grandfather moved into a flat in Cirencester. He used to come down to us every year on Boxing Day for lunch with my aunt, Marcia, his younger daughter.

I really only found out about Gheluvelt and the part my grandfather played when my Marcia moved into a bungalow in 1980, having been widowed in 1975.

As we moved stuff from her big house variously into my big house and her bungalow, things like the General’s medals emerged.

My son William first studied the Great War for his GCSE and took the First Battle of Ypres as his project topic for his history A level. We visited the Chateau and Polygon Wood with him to give some background.

But, like so many others who fought in the Great War, Ted Hankey didn’t like talking about it at all. Indeed, the great bundle of press cuttings about the battle and the Freedom of the City of Worcester ceremony remained in a bundle, tied up with a pyjama cord, until 1997 when my children and I put them into an album for my aunt’s 80th birthday.

His photograph albums, show little of the war years, although they give a very full picture of his life before and afterwards. So I knew very little about it, or his heroic status, until relatively late in life.

The General was an immensely modest man and was quite adamant that he did not require any sort of military funeral.

He was a fine horseman, polo player, a good shot and talented fisherman, a water-colourist and a photographer.

He played cricket for Eton against Harrow at Lord’s, became a member of the MCC.

I wish I had known him as a young man – he must have been quite something.


Battle of Gheluvelt commemoration in association with....

Worcester Warriors websiteThe audio documentary at the heart of this Battle of Gheluvelt commemorative project would not have been possible without the support of Worcester Warriors and The Duckworth Worcestershire Trust. Please click the logos for more details

Gheluvelt: The documentary

Worcetershire Regiment cap badge 1914Find out how the Gheluvelt documentary happened by following this link, and start reading the remarkable stories that didn't make the final cut.... 

The visit you ought to make

Gheluvelt 1914 detailLet's set you on your way so that you, too, can research your family connections to Gheluvelt, or visit the other battlefields of Flanders... and you should. 

Please tell us about your hero

Ypres cornflowerFamily or feedback? If you're related to a Gheluvelt hero, email and share his story with a grateful nation