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Forces War Records Blog

COMMEMORATING THE OUTSTANDING BRAVERY AND SERVICE OF A WWI HERO

Blogger: GemSen The WWI Centenary is fast approaching and to help mark the important anniversary, a number of commemorative paving stones will be laid in the hometowns of every UK soldier awarded the Victoria Cross, during the conflict. The total of 28 stones will provide a legacy in local communities promoting their local heroes, and will hopefully encourage a better understanding of the First World War. Most importantly they will give a nod to the outstanding bravery and service of such heroes who valiantly fought for their country.
 
You’d expect then, that the first man to single-handedly shoot down a Zeppelin and return to a heroes welcome during the Great War would have been on the list. That was not the case initially though, because fighter pilot, Rex Warneford, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was born abroad, in India. The government had decided not to include anyone that was not born in the UK, when the list was first revealed, earlier this year.


This quite rightly didn’t go down too well in the town and the local newspaper ‘The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald’, and the 'King Edward VI School', where Rex studied for five years, started a campaign to make sure the local war hero was remembered.

The government have since changed their decision to ignore VC winners born abroad and have subsequently notified the headmaster of the King Edward VI School, that an official paving stone will be placed in the town. One will also be sent to the school, reported the Herald. Bennet Carr, the headmaster, told the Herald: “I am delighted that common sense has prevailed and that Rex Warneford will be properly commemorated in the place he considered home. “This stone will help ensure that Rex Warneford’s conspicuous bravery will be remembered for generations to come.” According to the article in the local Herald paper, Rex is to be commemorated in Exmouth too, where the community have also campaigned for a stone. Honouring Rex Warneford Born in October 1881 in the foothills of the Himalayas, Darjeeling, Rex studied at KES for five years and then joined the Royal Navy Air Service for pilot training when the war broke out. On 7th June, 1915, the 23-year-old fighter pilot was involved in a four-plane attack on German zeppelin sheds in Belgium. Sub Lieutenant Warneford lost his comrades in the dark and spotted a zeppelin heading to attack England - he chased it in his small tiny single-seater plane, and armed with just a revolver, a carbine, and six bombs, he shot at the zeppelin, before climbing above it. He dropped his bombs on the aircraft, but the huge explosion engulfed his tiny plane and he was forced to crash-land, just 35 miles behind enemy lines. This didn't stop Rex who ended up fixing his fuel line with a cigarette lighter and went on to fly home to a hero’s reception and was later awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V also the Legion d’honneur — France’s highest military decoration. Sadly, shortly after receiving these great honours the heroic fighter pilot was killed during a short test flight with an American journalist. The commemorative paving stone should help Rex Warneford's legacy live on... A fitting tribute to First World War heroes, the stones will be specially commissioned and unveiled next year to commemorate the medals awarded in 1914, and others will be laid in every year up to 2018. The first paving stone will be laid in August 1914, 100 years after the first two Victoria Crosses were awarded in WWI. Source: Stratford-upon-Avon Herald Find out more with Forces War Records… Do you know enough about your ancestors who fought in the First World War? Why not log on to Forces War Records and find out more  - there could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered, and remembered… Why not delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting War diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – completely free of charge. Discover interesting facts about your ancestors, become more knowledgeable about history, and reveal some of the fantastic characters involved in war…What are you waiting for?
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