‘Future ggenerations must see these people are remembered’
Two Victoria Cross recipients are buried in Chalfont St Peter and the village is due to be remember them with commemorative stones. Lorcan Lovett finds out the stories of these courageous heroes of the First World War
COMMUNITIES Secretary Eric Pickles announced a tribute to some of the bravest men of the 20th century last year. He said every town or city that has a Victoria Cross (VC) recipient from the First World War will receive a commemorative paving stone.
Ears certainly pricked up in Chalfont St Peter. Two VC winners from the war are buried in the village, yet there was one slight dilemma: the stones would go to the birthplace of the men and although Geoffrey Drummond and Francis Hubert lived in South Bucks, they were not born there.
Chesham Town Council negotiated a similar problem by naming a housing development after Hertfordshire-born VC recipient Alfred Burt who moved to the town after the First World War in 1925.
Chalfont St Peter Parish council leader Linda Smith wrote to Eric Pickles explaining the village’s pride in the men, and the fact they had set up an exhibition to them which was launched with the mens’ relatives.
Mr Pickles replied the birthplace was of most importance but allowed the council to buy replicas of the stones for £450 each.
Mrs Smith said: “We started the campaign to remember them in about 2008 because we felt very proud. They were very brave men and it is right we remember them.”
The mens’ stories chime of courage, and they deserve the title of ‘very brave’, or possibly ‘possessed’ when you learn of their actions.
Lieutenant Geoffrey Drummond (January 25 1886 - April 21 1941) was born in London and buried at St Peter’s Church cemetery.
While volunteering for rescue work, a shell burst on board his ship, killing an officer and a deck hand and badly wounding the coxswain and Drummond.
He helped escort two officers and 38 men and retained consciousness long enough to back his vessel away from the piers and towards the open sea before collapsing exhausted from his wounds.
He was awarded the VC on May 9 1918 in Belgium.
The Australian aviator Francis Hubert (Frank) McNamara VC, CB, CBE (4 April 1894 – 2 November 1961) is buried in St Joseph’s Priory in Austin Wood.
His story makes the adventures of fictional pilot ‘Biggles’ sound like a ride on the teacups.
McNamara was flying near Gaza when a shell prematurely exploded in his plane, badly wounding his leg.
While turning back to base, he spotted a fellow pilot who had crash landed. With the Turkish calvary approaching, McNamara foresaw the grisly fate of this man and took the plunge to save him.
He landed and the downed pilot held the struts of his wing but the weight was too much. They jumped out of the plane and set it alight then ran back to the other crashed plane, which they soon fixed.
McNamara, who was on the brink of blacking out, flew 70 miles back to base.
Chalfont St Peter Parish Council now need to decide where the commemorative stones for these men will go.
Royal British Legion (RBL) branch chairman for the area, Keith Bowler, said: “The RBL would like to see them in a prominent place. The men spent most of their lives in Chalfont St Peter and it is appropriate it is where they lived and where they were happiest.
“It is important future generations and visitors to the area see these people are remembered.”