V.C. London Gazette 11.6.1901 'During the action at Plewman's Farm, near Arundel, Cape Colony, on 24 February 1900, Lance-Corporal Blackman having been wounded and lying exposed to a hot fire at the range of from 400-500 yards, Sergeant Firth picked him up and carried him to cover. Later in the day, when the enemy had advanced to within a short distance of the firing line, 2nd Lieutenant Wilson being dangerously wounded and in a most exposed position, Sergeant Firth carried him over the crest of the ridge, which was being held by the troops, to shelter, and was himself shot through the nose and eye whilst doing so.'
Sergeant James Firth, V.C., was born on 15.1.1874 at Wincobank, Sheffield, son of Charles Firth, steel smelter, of Jarrow-on-Tyne, and Mrs. Charles Firth. He was educated at Stalwell, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, and joined the Army on 29.7.1889. He had been promoted Sergeant by the time he left to serve in South Africa.
Lieutenant Umfreville of the 1st West Riding Company, 15th Mounted Infantry, described the action of 24.2.1900 in his Recommendation of Firth:
'On the 24th February 1900, in the vicinity of Plewman's Farm, six miles N.W. of Arundel, Cape Colony, the 1st West Riding Mounted Infantry Company had driven the Boers out of one range of koppies and followed them up to another - but arriving at the crest of this second range they found themselves under a very heavy fire from higher koppe's [sic] to their direct front and also their right and left fronts from a vastly superior force. No. 4673 Lance-Corpl. Blackman was hit just over this crest and lay exposed to the enemy's fire (at a range of 4 to 500 [yards]). Sergt. Firth picked him up and carried him under the shelter of the rocks.
Shortly afterwards, the enemy attempted to rush our position, covered by the fire from the dominating koppe's [sic], they reached the ridge and 2nd Lieut. Wilson (now Lieut.) was shot thro' the head in a most exposed place. Sergt. Firth carried him over the crest to shelter, but was himself shot thro' the nose and eye and fell beside his Officer - the remains of his eye had to be subsequently removed.
On 22nd February this Non-Commissioned Officer had previously brought natives out of a farm, who were required for intelligence purposes, under a very severe cross fire, this instance was also mentioned in the prior report of the late Colonel Le Gallais' (War Office records refer).
Firth was awarded the Victoria Cross but was wrongly gazetted as 'W. Firth'. Seriously wounded in his life-saving exploits, Firth wore an eye-patch for the rest of his life. He died at Sheffield on 29.5.1921 and has a memorial in the Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.