Visit will be tribute to hero bobby who won Victoria Cross
A leading police officer will make a pilgrimage to France to pay respects to a former bobby whose bravery earned him a Victoria Cross during the First World War.
Sgt Harry Wells fell at the Battle of Loos on September 25, 1915, while leading a platoon from the Royal Sussex Regiment towards German lines.
His platoon commander and half the men had been wiped out by machine-gun fire, but he remained calm and led the men on before he himself was killed just yards from the enemy.
Born in 1888, he lived most of his life in the village of Herne and joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1904 at the age of 16, mostly serving in India.
Then in 1911 he left the army and became a police constable in the Kent County Constabulary in Ashford but resigned in 1913 and became a barman at The Beaver Inn in South Ashford.
At the onset of the First World War he rejoined the Sussex regi- ment. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, with his mother collecting the award from King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1916.
Now, Ch Insp Mark Arnold will be visiting the Dud Corner Cemetery, near Loos-en-Gohelle, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death.
He said: “Sergeant Wells is the only person to have served as a police officer in Kent and to have been awarded the Victoria Cross, so we are very proud of him.
“At the Battle of Loos he took command and led his men for- ward to within 15 yards of the German wire. Nearly half the platoon were killed or wounded, but he rallied them and led them forward.
“His citation says he gave a magnificent display of courage and determination and I am honoured to be able to pay tribute to his bravery on the centenary of his death.”
Retired officers and John Gredhill have organised the trip as part of the North Kent branch of the Kent Police Recreational Association.
Patrons at The Beaver Inn are being asked to raise a glass to Harry at 6pm on Friday, Septem- ber 25, at the pub in Kingsnorth Road.
There will also be a memorial service and a stone-laying ceremony at St Martin’s Church in Herne at noon the same day.
This painting by Ernest Ibbetson depicts the heroic Sgt Harry Wells, who died leading an attack on German lines at the Battle of Loos in 1915; he made it to within 15 yards of the wire
The war memorial at St Martin’s Church, Herne, carries the name of Harry Wells VC
Drinkers at the The Beaver Inn, above, will be asked to raise a glass to Harry Wells; right, Ch Insp Mark Arnold