A Former Cheshire Chief Constable who led a moonlit mission to thwart an enemy trap during the First World War is remembered this month.

Godwin Edward Banwell, who was Chief Constable from 1946 until retirement in 1963 was awarded the prestigious Military Cross for his brave deeds. Cheshire Museum of Policing archives tells how Banwell was injured on July 1, 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and wounded for a second time later the same month.

His story and medals are featured in the museum along with those of several other heroic officers. Banwell received the Military Cross for action on June 7/8 1917 at Fosse 3 de Lieven, south west of Lens in France.

Archives recall: “His citation stating for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in leading his party in bright moonlight to destroy hostile wire, which would inevitably have held up the attack on the following day.”

On one occasion when clearing a trench alone he met four of the enemy.

“Although he had no bombs and had expended all his ammunition he rushed the four Germans, killing one with his bayonet at which the other three fled,” states the archive.

“During the attack he personally accounted for eight of the enemy with bayonet and set a magnificent example to the attacking troops.”

Banwell was born in Edmonton in Middlesex in 1897. In January 1916 he was appointed to a Commission as Second Lieutenant 5th Battalion, Leicester Regiment, and was posted to France.

He was further honoured in 1918, and awarded a Bar to the Military Cross for leading his Companies during a difficult movement in heavy fog. During the War he was wounded five times in total and was recommended for the Victoria Cross.

After the War he served with the Indian Police from 1919 to 1939 reaching the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police in Rangoon. Here he received the Order of the British Empire and the Kings Police Medal for Gallantry.

This followed actions when Pegu was devasted by fire and an earthquake in May 1930 in which 500 people were killed.

The town was ablaze and it was 20 minutes before his men could get through the chaos. They worked hard to get things under control and rescue survivors.

The archives say “He extracted one man who was pinned by fallen debris at considerable risk to himself when the fire was all but on him.  He dealt with panic in the sub-jail where 150 prisoners made threatening disturbances when sparks were blown in and got them all safely out with a very exiguous guard.”

His distinguished career continued when he returned to the UK in 1939 when he became Staff Officer to the Chief Constable of Durham and later Chief Constable of East Riding, Yorkshire.

During his time as Chief Constable of Cheshire he was awarded an OBE and later a CBE.

He died in Hythe, Kent, in October 1981.

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