Sol­dier’s coura­geous act is etched in stone


Uxbridge Gazette - - News - By MARTIN ELVERY martin.elvery@reach­ Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

LIKE a scene you might find in a war movie, a coura­geous Ac­ton sol­dier stood alone on a para­pet and gunned down Ger­man troops, dy­ing to save the lives of his men.

Sergeant Robert Spall – or Bob as he was known – was awarded the cov­eted Vic­to­ria Cross af­ter man­ning a Lewis gun alone twice and killing many en­emy sol­diers who were sur­round­ing his men, on Au­gust 13 1918, near Parvillers-le-Ques­noy, in north­ern France.

To re­mem­ber his sac­ri­fice, 100 years af­ter the bloody First World War bat­tle, a com­mem­o­ra­tive paving stone has been laid by Eal­ing mayor Te­jin­der Dhami in Spencer Road, Ac­ton, where Sgt Spall lived as a child, to re­mem­ber his brav­ery.

Sgt Spall was born on March 5 1890 and lived in Spencer Road with his par­ents be­fore mov­ing as a child to Canada.

In July 1915, at the age of 25, he joined the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force and trav­elled back across the At­lantic to Europe to fight on the Western Front.

He achieved the rank of sergeant – a non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer rank – in the Princess Pa­tri­cia’s Cana­dian Light In­fantry, but was killed at the age of just 28.

His VC ci­ta­tion from The Lon­don Gazette of Oc­to­ber 1918 reads: “For most con­spic­u­ous brav­ery and self-sac­ri­fice when, dur­ing an en­emy coun­ter­at­tack, his pla­toon was iso­lated.

“There­upon Sgt Spall took a Lewis gun and, stand­ing on the para­pet, fired upon the ad­vanc­ing en­emy, in­flict­ing very se­vere ca­su­al­ties. He then came down the trench di­rect­ing the men into a sap 75 yards from the en­emy.

“Pick­ing up an­other Lewis gun, this gal­lant NCO again climbed the para­pet and by his fire held up the en­emy.

“It was while hold­ing up the en­emy at this point that he was killed. Sgt Spall de­lib­er­ately gave his life in or­der to ex­tri­cate his pla­toon from a most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion and it was ow­ing to his brav­ery that the pla­toon was saved.”

Sgt Spall is also com­mem­o­rated on the Cana­dian Na­tional Vimy Memo­rial along with more than 11,000 other Cana­dian dead, whose re­mains were lost or never re­cov­ered.

Coun­cil­lor Dhami was joined by the leader of the coun­cil, Cllr Ju­lian Bell, Rec­tor of Ac­ton, the Rev­erend Dean Ayres, Lieu­tenant Colonel Stephen Day, Ac­ton His­tory Group sec­re­tary and trea­surer Amanda Knights and mil­i­tary and Royal Bri­tish Le­gion rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Mr Dhami said: “It is ex­tremely im­por­tant that we never for­get the out­stand­ing sac­ri­fices made dur­ing the First World War.

“I am hon­oured to lead this cer­e­mony pay­ing trib­ute to the ex­cep­tional brav­ery of Robert Spall.”

Each VC re­cip­i­ent is com­mem­o­rated in a sim­i­lar way.

The com­mem­o­ra­tive paving stones are pro­vided by the Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and in­clude the name, 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.

The Vic­to­ria Cross is the high­est award for gal­lantry that Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth ser­vice­man can achieve. It is linked with acts of ex­treme brav­ery and is awarded for gal­lantry of the high­est or­der.

The com­mem­o­ra­tive paving stone un­veiled at Robert Spall’s birth­place

Sgt Robert Spall, who lived in Ac­ton as a child, died while pro­tect­ing his men

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