The Duke of Cambridge visited the Hall of Memory in Birmingham to unveil ten commemorative paving stones in honour of local Victoria Cross recipients. He was welcomed by Lord Mayor Cllr Raymond Hassall and met with five groups of relatives and representatives from their Regiments.
Order of Service –
The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals played outside the Hall of Memory and the Bishop of Birmingham The Right Revd David Urquhart led the dedication and prayers. After the Act of Remembrance and Act of Commemoration the bugler played The Last Post. There then followed a two minutes silence and the bugler played the Reveille. The Bishop of Birmingham then read the Kohima Epitaph before the Lord Mayor invited The Duke of Cambridge to lay a wreath. Brigadier Anderton-Bown gave the address and the The Duke of Cambridge and the Lord Mayor unveiled the Victoria Cross Commemorative Paving Stones.
The Victoria Cross Paving Stones ceremony was one of many that have taken place around the country to honour VC recipients in the First World War. The campaign, launched by the Communities Secretary in 2013, sees commemorative paving stones laid in the birth place of all First World War VC recipients, to honour their bravery, provide a lasting legacy of local heroes within their communities and enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how their area fitted into the First World War story.
Victoria Cross recipients (details courtesy of Department for Communities and Local Government) –
Lance-Corporal Joseph Tombs of The King’s Liverpool Regiment, from Lincolnshire, who on May 16, 1915, in sodden Rue du Bois, repeatedly braved heavy fire to crawl out and drag colleagues to safety. The 28-year-old rescued four men. In 1921, Joseph emigrated to Canada and served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two. He died in Toronto on June 28, 1966
Herbert James, from Ladywood, On July 3, 1915, the 26-year-old second-lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment led a group of bomb throwers, tasked with taking a Turkish communication trench in Gallipoli. Apart from Herbert, the entire party was wiped out. He stood alone in the face of murderous fire and kept the enemy at bay until back-up arrived. He was later promoted to Major and died in Kensington on August 15, 1958.
Arthur Vickers, from Aston, a private in the 2nd battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On September 25, 1915, at Hulloch, France, the 33-year-old braved a firestorm of shells and machine gun bullets to cut through the maze of barbed wire which was holding up his battalion. In broad daylight and with explosions all around him, Arthur carried out the back-breaking work standing up. He died in July, 1944, and is buried at Witton Cemetery. His medal is displayed at Warwick’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum.
Thomas Turrall, from Hay Mills, earned his VC at La Boiselle on July 3, 1916. The Worcestershire Regiment private stayed with a wounded officer for three hours under incessant fire. Despite being completely cut-off, the 30-year-old managed to carry the wounded superior to British lines. Thomas died in his home city in 1964 and is buried at Robin Hood Cemetery.
Albert Gill, from Ladywood, who aged 36, with his men pinned down by snipers only 20 yards away, he decided on drastic action. Knowing it meant certain death, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps sergeant stood up in the quagmire corner of Delville Wood, France, to direct his soldiers’ fire. He was killed instantly. And the date of his death – July 27, 1916 – was his birthday.
Alfred Knight, from Ladywood, a 29-year-old sergeant in the London Regiment, who, despite heavy fire, single-handedly captured a German machine gun at Ypres on September 20, 1917. He also carried out other acts of bravery during a day which saw all platoon commanding officers killed or injured. Alfred died in 1960 and is buried at Oscott Road Cemetery, Sutton Coldfield,
Norman Finch, from Handsworth, gained his medal for gallantry at sea on April 22, 1918. Aged 27, the Royal Marine Artillery sergeant was second in command of pom-poms and Lewis gun on HMS Vindictive as it prepared for battle off Zeebrugge, Belgium. Despite facing a storm of shells and shrapnel, Sgt Finch and the commanding officer kept-up continuous fire. Severely wounded, he continued to harass the enemy. Norman, who served in World War Two as a quartermaster, died in Portsmouth on March 15, 1966. His medal is on display at Southsea’s Royal Marines Museum.
Alfred Wilcox, from Aston, was pinned-down by a bombing party, on September 12, 1918, so decided to give the enemy a taste of their own medicine. The 33-year-old lance-corporal with The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry picked-up the scattered stick-bombs and hurled them back. He led his company in the capture of three machine guns near Laventie. He died in 1954 and is buried at St Peter and St Paul Churchyard.
William Amey, from Duddeston, “for most conspicuous bravery” at Landrecies, France, on November 4, 1918. The 37-year-old lance corporal single-handedly stormed a farmhouse machine gun post, killing two and driving the rest of the garrison into a cellar until help arrived. He then rushed another post, taking 20 more prisoners.
James Neville-Marshall, from Stratford, earned his VC for “most conspicuous bravery, determination and leadership” in the November 4, 1918, attack on the Sambra-Oise canal. The Irish Guardsman showed total disregard for his own safety when a bridge-building party were decimated. Under intense fire, he led volunteers to the bridge, and when it was repaired the lieutenant colonel attempted to rush across and was fatally wounded.