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Anniversary of war hero's death to be remembered with unveiling of Edmund De Wind memorial in home town

By Brett Campbell

A First World War hero from Co Down who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross is to be honoured in his home town, 100 years after he was killed in action.

Edmund De Wind VC Centenary Committee has planned a year-long programme which will culminate in the unveiling of a plinth commemorating the courageous soldier in Comber Square on the 100th anniversary of his death next year.

Committee member, Jim Hamilton, hopes the memorial will help De Wind's remarkable life story reach a new generation.

"Now is the right time to honour and reflect on the valour of this extraordinary person. There is a new generation who aren't familiar with him and, hopefully, this will help draw them into this famous piece of history," he said.

Retired Lisbane GP, Dr Ian Moles, will launch the Edmund de Wind Memorial Fund at 8pm next Thursday, March 23, at Comber Recreation Football Club, Parkway.

World War One Memorabilia and historic photographs of Comber will be on display at the event which aims to provide insight into the life of the former Campbell College student.

Keynote speakers include local author, historian and former chief archivist at Campbell College, Keith Haines, and prominent Comber Historical Society member, Desmond Rainey, who has also written a number of local history books.

Mr Hamilton, who is also on the Comber Regeneration Project committee, is optimistic that the project will attract strong local and international support.

"Edmund's great-nephew, Josh de Wind, he actually owns the Victoria Cross medal but he lives in New York City, and other family members live in Canada," he explained.

"We are hopeful that Josh will be able to attend the official ceremony next year, he has certainly been very supportive of the project.

"We will also invite other family members."

The VC, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry, was presented to Edmund's mother, Margaret Jane De Wind, by King George V at Buckingham Palace on June 21, 1919.

Comber already has a street named after the late war hero, and Mount de Wind in Alberta, Canada, is also named after the local soldier who was born in the Co Down town in 1883.

"This international dimension makes us confident that we will get a positive response. There aren't too many Canadians out there with a Victoria Cross," commented Jim.

Second Lieutenant Edmund de Wind VC gave his life in the final year of the war when he almost single-handedly maintained a vital position at Race Course Redoubt near Grugies in France, for seven hours despite already being badly wounded.

He was killed on March 21, 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the missing because he has no known grave.

In 2007, an Ulster History Circle blue plaque was unveiled at Bridge Street Link in Comber. Following the First World War, a German gun was placed in the town Square as a memorial, but was later removed to be used as scrap metal during World War II. Jim Hamilton said: "In many ways the plinth, which will be unveiled next year, is a way of replacing the gun that was removed."

After working for a period for Bank of Ireland in Cavan, Edmund de Wind later emigrating to Canada where he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 and served at the Somme, St-Eloi and Ypres, later receiving a Commission with the Royal Irish Rifles in the 15th (Service) Battalion.

He fought in the battles at Thiepval (1916), Messines Ridge (1917), the third Battle of Ypres (1917), Cambrai (1917) and the great German attack in 1918.

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