Press release

PM praises the remarkable valour and devotion to duty of the overseas-born recipients of the Victoria Cross

145 commemorative paving stones were unveiled to create a permanent memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

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

WWI

Prime Minister David Cameron today paid tribute to the “remarkable valour and devotion to duty” of the overseas born recipients of Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross (VC) for service in the First World War.

Speaking at a special ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, where 145 commemorative paving stones were unveiled, the Prime Minister said:

Today we write the names of these Victoria Cross winners into the soil of our land. A century may have passed since these extraordinary acts but the courage of these men remains as humbling and inspiring today as it was back then.

It is absolutely right that here in our National Memorial Arboretum where so many acts of courage are commemorated these paving stones should provide a permanent memorial to heroes from 19 different countries around the Commonwealth whose bravery and service won them the Victoria Cross.

David Cameron and Eric Pickles at the National Memorial Arboretum
David Cameron and Eric Pickles at the National Memorial Arboretum.

In August 2013, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced a campaign to honour Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War as part of the government’s centenary programme.

Over the course of the four years (2014 to 2018) on a date corresponding or close to when they were awarded the VC, a commemorative paving stone is laid close to where the local hero was born or lived following the war.

Victoria Cross map

See our interactive map for details on where commemorative paving stones have been laid and infomation on VC recipients.

469 stones are being laid in communities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 35 VC recipients are being commemorated in the Republic of Ireland.

However, Britain did not stand alone and the war effort was made up of people from every corner of the globe. And today the government is paying tribute to the 145 servicemen born overseas, across 19 different countries, by establishing a permanent memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

These men fought for a country and a society which spanned continents and places that in many ways could not have been more different. But these servicemen did not allow themselves to be separated by their differences. Instead they were bound by their shared values and experiences, united by common ground.

They fought together, shoulder-to-shoulder, for liberty and their legacy forms the fabric of our society as we know it.

A commemorative paving stone
A commemorative paving stone.

Further information

145 servicemen born in 19 different countries were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. They are Australia (52), Canada (32), India (17), New Zealand (14), South Africa (5) Pakistan (4) United States of America (4) Denmark (2) Germany (2), Netherlands (2), Nepal (2) and Sri Lanka (2) Belgium (1) China (1), Egypt (1), France (1), Iraq (1) and Ukraine (1).

For more details and selected biographies see the brochure Commemorating the overseas-born Victoria Cross heroes.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are also placing commemorative plaques in countries around the world for men born overseas who received the Victoria Cross, for service in the First World War.

The first Victoria Cross paving stones were laid on 23 August 2014 to mark exactly 100 years to the day that the first Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War. The last stones will be laid in November 2018.

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.

Four commemorative paving stones
Four commemorative paving stones

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

For details of upcoming ceremonies see the Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones page.

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Published 5 March 2015