First World War heroes get paving stone tributes

Thomas Hunter VC is among those to be honoured.
Thomas Hunter VC is among those to be honoured.
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HEROES of the First World War are to be honoured with a specially designed paving stone in the Capital to commemorate their courageous exploits.

Stones all over the country will enshrine the names of 430 Britons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the war, which lasted from July 1914 to November 1918.

Undated file photo of a Victoria Cross. The Prince of Wales will today pay his respects to the valour of the heroic Victoria Cross holders in marking the 150th anniversary of the prestigious bravery medal at a commemorative service at London's Westminster Abbey.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday 26 June, 2006. Eight of the 12 surviving recipients of the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy are expected to attend the service, including Private Johnson Beharry, who last year became the first new holder of the honour in more than two decades. This particular Victoria Cross was awarded to legendary Second World War airman Warrant Officer Norman Jackson. See PA story ROYAL VC. Photo credit should read: Edmund Terakopian/PA.

Undated file photo of a Victoria Cross. The Prince of Wales will today pay his respects to the valour of the heroic Victoria Cross holders in marking the 150th anniversary of the prestigious bravery medal at a commemorative service at London's Westminster Abbey. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday 26 June, 2006. Eight of the 12 surviving recipients of the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy are expected to attend the service, including Private Johnson Beharry, who last year became the first new holder of the honour in more than two decades. This particular Victoria Cross was awarded to legendary Second World War airman Warrant Officer Norman Jackson. See PA story ROYAL VC. Photo credit should read: Edmund Terakopian/PA.

Each stone will be laid on the 100-year anniversary of the war, including one for 
Edinburgh’s Lieutenant Colonel, Walter Lorrain Brodie.

He led a charge to recapture a British trench near Becelaere in Belgium, bayoneting several enemy soldiers and leading to the capture of 51 prisoners.

Communities and local ­government secretary Eric Pickles, who announced the plan, said: “This generation can no longer hear the stories of Lt Col Brodie first hand.

“We have a responsibility to ­continue to inspire.”

DAVID STUART McGREGOR, recipient of Victoria Cross medal.

DAVID STUART McGREGOR, recipient of Victoria Cross medal.

The Victoria Cross is the highest award for military valour in the United Kingdom and is given for bravery “in the face of the enemy”.

The paving stones – ­designed by architect Charlie MacKeith, 50, in a competition – will also include a QR code to let smartphone users find out more about the person they commemorate.

Mr Pickles said: “The winning paving stone is a fitting tribute to the centenary of the war and will keep the memory of local war heroes alive for hundreds more years to come.

“The most remarkable thing about these folks is that they came back.

“They built families, they built happiness, they built a life – only to see their own children go off to war a few decades later.

“Behind all of these 430 paving stones that we are laying are similar tales of valour.

“These people didn’t start out life as heroes, we didn’t mark them out from an early age. These were ordinary people who did extraordinary things.”

A total of 363 Victoria Crosses were awarded to ­people born in England and eight to those in what is now Northern ­Ireland, with a ­further 44 going to Scottish recipients and 15 to Welsh.

Earlier this year, the Evening News led a successful campaign to preserve a warren of historic trenches in ­Dreghorn where thousands of Lothian soldiers prepared for life in the trenches of France.

Plans have been drawn up for major commemorations across Scotland to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War next year.

At Edinburgh Castle a ­special “drumhead” ­service will be held on the ­castle ­esplanade next August, ­replicating the church ­services conducted on the front line where neatly-piled drums were used as makeshift altars.

A five-year programme has been compiled by a specially-created Scottish Commemorations Panel headed by former Army Chaplain Norman Drummond. Scotland will mark the battles at Loos and Arras, where Scottish battalions suffered a high number of casualties, and incidents such as the loss of HMS Iolaire.

Cabinet Secretary for ­Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: “In ­Scotland a programme of events, overseen by our ­Scottish War Commemoration Panel, is planned to mark key dates over the centenary.

“Earlier this year, the First Minister announced an 
additional £1 million to restore Scotland’s war memorials, preserving the memory of Scotland’s war dead and ­paying attribute to those who gave their lives in service to this country.”

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com