First world war Victoria Cross heroes to be honoured in their Norfolk and Suffolk towns and villages

Harry Cross presents hi Victoria Cross to David Niven to wear in the film Carrington VC. edp sun 28.01.06

Harry Cross presents hi Victoria Cross to David Niven to wear in the film Carrington VC. edp sun 28.01.06

Nearly a dozen of our region's heroes who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the first world war are set to be honoured with commemorative paving stones in the towns and village they were born in.

The proposals are at the heart of government plans to mark next year's centenary of the outbreak of the first world war, and will see memorials installed for Norfolk men born in Billingsford, Wymondham, Norwich, Drayton and Shipdham.

Men to be honoured in Suffolk include people from Kirkley, Lowestoft, Stowmarket and Theberton.

Military historian and Broadland MP Keith Simpson, (pictured below), who sits on the prime minister's advisory board for the first world war centenary, supported the plans.

He said: 'I think, very importantly, it's the local basis. These men, on the whole, had direct links locally.


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'The first world war was 100 years ago and, for a lot of people, trying to link that to communities is not easy, and I think this is one worthwhile method. The thinking was that because you had hundreds of thousands of men who served in the armed forces, and you had women as well in a more auxiliary role, it was a way to try to make it personal.

'One person said VCs were disproportionately given to officers. I'm not sure about that. A disproportionate number of casualties were junior officers. The majority of the limited number of VCs we have from Norfolk were non-commissioned. And someone said why are we just commemorating VCs from the first world war and why not the other VCs. I don't think that's relevant. We are talking about this in terms of commemorating the first world war.'

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Harry Daniels VC is already commemorated by Harry Daniels Way in Wymondham, his birth town, and mayor Dianne Fernee said she was proud of the connection. She said: 'I think it's a wonderful idea, but I would probably have liked to see something a little bit more, but it's up to each council whether they want to embellish it. I'm of an age where I can remember my grandparents and so for me it's still very real. I remember my grandfather and how he could not walk properly because he had trench foot.'

Drayton, near Norwich, has also put its Victoria Cross hero, Harry Cator, on the map, with Cator Road being named after him. Parish council chairman Hilary Kisby said: 'I'm sure everyone in Drayton will be very proud that someone from our village has won the VC.

'We are very much a community and we think of ourselves as a village, and I think most people would be honoured that we have this hero.' There will be 28 stones unveiled next year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914, and other stones will be unveiled each year up until 2018. Each stone will also have a QR reader, which people can scan using a smartphone to reveal details about the recipient.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: 'It is our duty to remember the British and Commonwealth troops who lost their lives fighting in the Great War and we are determined to make sure their bravery for King and country is not forgotten.

'Laying paving stones to mark these Victoria Cross heroes will ensure that there is a permanent memorial to all the fallen who fought for our country.

'This will connect communities to their shared history, help residents understand how their area played its part in the Great War, and ensure memories of that sacrifice for British freedom and liberty are kept alive for generations to come.'

The government also announced more help for local communities to restore and refurbish their first world war memorials. A new website will be created to make sure people across the country can get funding and support so that all memorials are in good condition in time for the centenary of the armistice that ended hostilities in November 2018.

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