Colourful pageant to honour VC heroes

MORE than 1,000 people are expected to turn out to honour soldiers awarded the highest military award for bravery under fire at the first event of its kind in the Midlands.

A colourful military pageant will greet 620 family members of 50 Victoria Cross recipients from across Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands at Lichfield Cathedral tomorrow.

Some are travelling from as far afield as Australia and America to attend the 150th Anniversary of The Investiture of The Victoria Cross service.

Set to be a unique and moving event, it will be attended by more than 200 Royal British Legion members, the Royal Navy, Staffordshire Regiment, West Midlands Regiment and The Grenadier Guards, who will provide a guard of honour.

They will be joined by a host of civic dignitaries including The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, James Hawley.

Hundreds of families are also expected to watch the military spectacle outside the cathedral at 3.30pm.

A message from The Prince of Wales will also be read out during the service.

As well as remembering soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross, the event will also remember 21 George Cross recipients - the highest civilian award which is also awarded to service personnel for bravery in the absence of an enemy.

They include a railway worker who died holding together a train's break cable to stop it crashing and killing passengers.

The event has been organised by Peter Elkins, whose ancestor Samuel Parkes, from Wigginton, near Tamworth, is one of the region's 56 soldiers to receive a VC and will be remembered at the service.

He won the honour in The Charge of The Light Brigade in 1854 some 153 years ago.

Like many others he was buried in a pauper's grave.

It lay undiscovered in London until 1999. A memorial plaque has now been erected at St Editha's Church in Tamworth.

Mr Elkin said: "It's about time these extremely brave, valiant soldiers from across the region were remembered. At least on this day at the service their names will be remembered again."

The 67-year-old, of Staffordshire Moorlands, who will release a dove of peace at the service, added: "Such a gathering of families of remarkable VC and GC recipients has never before happened in the Midlands.

"It is likely that in excess of 1,000 people may be at Lichfield Cathedral.

"I've been absolutely amazed by the response."

In a seperate ceremony, World War Two veterans will attend the dedication of a special memorial in their honour on Sunday.

Members of the Chindits Old Comrades Association will gather at the National Memorial Arboretum in Arlewas, near Lichfield.

The Chindits were the largest of the allied Special Forces of the Second World War.

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