Belfast Telegraph

Fresh honour for Victoria Cross heroes in Northern Ireland

Streets will be paved with special stones to hail Great War gallantry

By Ellen Branagh

The streets of towns across Northern Ireland are to be paved with commemorative stones remembering those awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

They will be laid in the home towns of all those in the UK awarded the highest military decoration, awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy".

The move is part of efforts to mark the centenary of the Great War next year, with VC recipients at the heart of plans to mark it.

New measures to restore war memorials across the country have also been announced.

Other plans include a programme of cultural events, candlelit vigils and a service of commemoration attended by Commonwealth leaders.

A national competition is to be held to design the stones, which will be unveiled each year between 2014 and 2018.

There will be 28 stones unveiled next year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914.

Each stone will also have a QR reader, which people can scan using a smartphone to reveal details about the recipient.

One town that would seem certain to have a stone laid is Lurgan, Co Armagh, where William 'Billy' McFadzean was born.

The Rifleman in the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles was killed during the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, when a box of grenades slipped into a crowded trench. In a heroic act, the 20-year-old threw himself on top of the box, which exploded and killed him – but he had saved the lives of everyone nearby.

Thousands of Irishmen from across the island died in the battle, which has left a lasting legacy in many parts of Northern Ireland.

Other recipients of the award include Co Antrim soldier Robert Quigg who received the VC for his bravery on the same day in the same battle as McFadzean.

Dodging German machine-gun fire, he set off seven times into 'No Man's Land' to search for an officer, and found another colleague who he dragged back to safety. His statue stands in Bushmills.

There are other similar stories of heroism, that could see paving stones laid in Comber, Co Down; Cookstown, Co Tyrone; Newmills, near Dungannon in Co Tyrone and Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Laying stones to mark these heroes will ensure that there is a permanent memorial to all the fallen who fought for our country and the competition is a great way for people from all corners of the UK to get involved.

"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."

 

PINNACLE OF COURAGE...ULSTER WINNERS OF THE ULTIMATE WARTIME AWARD

 

Eric Norman Frankland Bell

(28 August 1895-1 July 1916)

Born in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

From his citation: "He was in command of a Trench Mortar Battery, and advanced with the Infantry in the attack. When our front line was hung up by machine gun fire Captain Bell crept forward and shot the machine gunner. Later, on no less than three occasions, when our bombing parties, which were clearing the enemy's trenches, were unable to advance, he went forward alone and threw Trench Mortar bombs among the enemy. When he had no more bombs available he stood on the parapet, under intense fire, and used a rifle with great coolness and effect on the enemy advancing to counter-attack. Finally he was killed rallying and reorganising infantry parties which had lost their officers. All this was outside the scope of his normal duties with his battery. He gave his life in his supreme devotion to duty."

 

William Frederick 'Billy' McFadzean

(9 October 1895-1 July 1916)

Born in Lurgan, Co Armagh

From his citation: "While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack, the box slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out. Private McFadzean threw himself on the bombs. The bombs exploded blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment's hesitation gave his life for his comrades."

 

Robert Quigg

(28 February 1885-14 May 1955)

Born in Ardihannon, Co Antrim

From his citation: "He advanced to the assault with his platoon three times. Early next morning, hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying out wounded, he went out seven times to look for him under heavy shell and machine gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man. The last man he dragged in on a waterproof sheet from within a few yards of the enemy's wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and finally was so exhausted that he had to give it up."

 

Robert Morrow

(7 September 1891-26 April 1915)

Born in Newmills, Dungannon, Co Tyrone

From his citation: "For most conspicuous bravery near Messines on 12 April 1915, when he rescued and carried to safety several men who had been buried in the debris of trenches wrecked by shell fire. Private Morrow carried out this gallant work on his own initiative and under very heavy fire from the enemy."

 

Brigadier John Alexander Sinton

(2 December 1884-25 March 1956)

Born in Cookstown, Co Tyrone

From his citation: "For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Although shot through both arms and through the side, he refused to go to hospital, and remained as long as daylight lasted, attending to his duties under very heavy fire. In three previous actions Captain Sinton displayed the utmost bravery."

 

Edmund de Wind

(11 December 1883-21 March 1918)

Born in Comber, Co Down

From his citation: "For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 21st March, 1918, at the Race Course Redoubt, near Grugies. For seven hours he held this most important post, and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be got to his help. On two occasions, with two NCOs only, he got out on top under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many. He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed. His valour, self-sacrifice and example were of the highest order."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph