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First World War hero honoured at Whitehall

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

Tributes for Lieutenant Frank de Pass, the first person of the Jewish faith and the first Indian Army Officer to receive the Victoria Cross.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles joined the tributes to Lieutenant Frank de Pass, the first person of the Jewish faith and the first Indian Army Officer to receive the Victoria Cross (VC), at a special event in Whitehall today (25 November 2014).

The event marked the 100-year anniversary of Lieutenant de Pass’s brave actions in saving a fellow soldier which earned him Britain’s highest military honour.

Speaking following the ceremony, where a Victoria Cross paving stone was laid in Lieutenant Frank de Pass’s honour, Eric Pickles said:

Lieutenant de Pass displayed exceptional courage 100 years ago, in the cause of liberty.

The legacy of men like Frank and their acts of supreme valour in service of their country is the Britain of today, united by shared values, where there is mutual respect and tolerance of all faiths.

Over the course of the centenary, we have the opportunity to stop and reflect on these great displays of bravery and by the laying of commemorative stones we will ensure that there are permanent memorials to all of our First World War heroes.

Tributes for Lieutenant Frank de Pass
The Secretary of State with Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Kitson the great nephew of Lieutenant Frank de Pass.

The Lord Mayor of Westminster Councillor Audrey Lewis, said:

In describing Frank’s actions, a fellow officer described his conduct as ‘most intrepid’ and ‘a magnificent example to the men of the Detachment’. Even in the midst of war, his exceptional bravery and valour was recognised by his comrades.

Memorial

The ceremony was attended by Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Kitson a member of Lieutenant Frank de Pass’s family who was joined by Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC, the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in over 30 years, the Head of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women and veterans from the Royal British Legion. The stone was blessed by the Military chaplain Rabbi Reuben Livingstone.

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. 35 VC recipients will be commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate those born overseas.

The National Army Museum in Chelsea displays the Victoria Cross awarded to Frank de Pass alongside an ‘In Memoriam’ leaflet.

Commerorative paving stone

Biography of Lieutenant Frank de Pass VC

Frank de Pass was born in Kensington in April 1887 to a family of Spanish/Portuguese Jews, who originally came to England in the 1660s.

He was commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery in 1906 and transferred into the 34th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Poona Horse in 1909.

On 24 November 1914, near Festubert, France, Lieutenant de Pass entered a German sap (deep trench) and destroyed a traverse in the face of the enemy’s bombs. Later that same day, he rescued, under heavy fire, a wounded man lying exposed to enemy bullets in the open. The next day, 25 November 1914, Lieutenant de Pass, was shot and killed by an enemy sniper after engaging the sniper to protect his men whilst supervising the repair of a parapet. He was 27 years old.

His ‘In Memoriam’ booklet at the National Army Museum contains a passage which states:

Many brave deeds have been performed during the war, but there are few instances of gallantry more conspicuous than that displayed by this heroic young soldier. He was the very perfect type of the British officer.

He united to singular personal beauty a charm of manner and a degree of valour which made him the idol of his men. He was honoured in death by the Victoria Cross. No one in the war earned in better.

Further information

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

See the dates of upcoming paving stone laying ceremonies.

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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