Press release

Bravery of Lambeth First World War hero honoured

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Minister for Communities joins servicemen, cadets and Lambeth residents in a commemoration service for a First World War hero.

Communities Minister Lord Ahmad today (7 November 2014) joined servicemen, cadets and Lambeth residents in a commemoration service in Lambeth for World War One hero Captain John Vallentin VC .

One hundred years ago today at the First Battle of Ypres, Captain John Vallentin VC inspired the men around him with his exceptional bravery for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour.

Speaking at the ceremony in Lambeth where a Victoria Cross paving stone was laid in Captain Vallentin’s honour, Lord Ahmad said:

Today we have come together to remember the bravery of a local Lambeth man.

One hundred years ago, men like Captain Vallentin signed up to fight what they hoped would be the war to end all wars. Displaying exceptional bravery, they inspired those around them – their comrades, their friends – to reach deep inside themselves and achieve great deeds.

Their sacrifice was not in vain. The service of Captain Vallentin and those like him in the past has meant that your todays and tomorrows are free.

The stone that we lay here today is a small token of our gratitude and I hope that for many years to come it will remind us all of the gallantry of the brave men of this community and their role in the history of the First World War.

Young cadets at the ceremony
Young cadets at the ceremony
Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC with soldiers of the Mercian Regiment and their Regimental ram, the mascot of the regiment
Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC with soldiers of the Mercian Regiment and their Regimental ram, the mascot of the regiment

This August saw the start of the nationwide campaign to honour those who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War. Over the next 4 years on a date corresponding or close to when they were awarded the VC, commemorative paving stones will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war.

469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The programme will also see 35 VC recipients commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate those born overseas.

John Vallentin was a 32-year-old captain in the 1st Battalion of The South Staffordshire Regiment. On the 7 November 1914, Captain Vallentin, who was in temporary command of the battalion, led an attack on a trench near Zillebeke, Ypres. Despite being severely wounded he pressed on with the attack before succumbing to machine gun fire.

Captain Vallentin’s citation for the award of his Victoria Cross read:

…when leading an attack against the Germans under very heavy fire, Captain Vallentin was struck down and on rising to continue the attack, was immediately killed. The capture of the enemy’s trenches which immediately followed was in a great measure due to the confidence which the men had in their captain, arising from his many previous acts of great bravery and ability.

Paving stone for John Vallentin
Paving stone for John Vallentin

Further information

Follow the laying of the commemorative stones on Twitter #VCpavingstones, and on Pinterest.

The decision about the site of each stone has been taken by the relevant local authority. Guidelines to local authorities encouraged them to site the stones in a location that would have had resonance with the VC recipient, such as outside a house that they lived in or near their old school. Most importantly, the stones should be part of the community and sited in a position where they will be visible to members of the public.

A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of 7 experts. The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country. The circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission.

The paving stones are made of Scoutmoor Yorkstone a hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.

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