THE HERALD'S campaign to get Stratford-upon-Avon's forgotten war hero officially commemorated for the 100th anniversary of the First World War has been successful.
Ignored in the government’s original plans to honour Victoria Cross winners with a commemorative paving stone because he was born abroad, Rex Warneford was mentioned personally in Eric Pickles’ letter announcing a revision to the plans.
The Communities Secretary said: “It has always been our intention to commemorate all First World War recipients of Victoria Crosses and to ensure this happens we are in discussion with our colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see whether overseas recipients can be remembered in their country of birth.
“However, we also acknowledge that there are a number of Victoria Cross recipients who may have been born in India, like Sub-Lieutenant Reginald ‘Rex’ Warneford, that have local ties to this country. In cases like this, we are happy to provide the appropriate local authorities with a commemorative paving stone.”
An ex-King Edward VI school pupil, Warneford was awarded a Victoria Cross after becoming the first man to single-handedly shoot down a zeppelin in June 1915.
Later that month he died in a plane crash aged 23, but his famous effort meant thousands attended his funeral.
When the government announced their plans last month to immortalise British-born VC winners in stone in their place of birth, the Herald joined forces with KES and launched a campaign to get ‘Rex’ remembered. Stratford’s MP Nadhim Zahawi wrote to ministers on the issue and national think-tank British Future also campaigned on behalf of Warneford.
Steve Ballinger from the British identity think-tank British Future, said: 'Now this loophole is closed, people in Stratford and across the country should be able to commemorate their local heroes.”
So Warneford will not be forgotten, but to get the official paving slab Stratford may have to fight it out with the town of Exmouth in Devon, where Rex also lived for a brief period.
KES headmaster, Bennet Carr said: “This is undoubtedly good news for anybody concerned about Rex Warneford being remembered properly.
“I think we would all be delighted to have Rex commemorated in both Stratford and Exmouth but we do believe that Rex considered Stratford to be his home in Britain. Indeed, a letter from Warneford’s mother to the headmaster at the time, Cornwell Robertson, confirms that Stratford was where Rex, who lived in Chapel Street, felt most at home.
“Having said this, it is not a time to begin a conflict with others who simply want to commemorate Rex. We should be grateful that common sense has prevailed!”
It is now up to the local authorities of each town to apply for a commemorative stone. Yesterday (Wednesday) Stratford Town Council confirmed it was in favour of the scheme, and vouched to look into the application.
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