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Stourbridge VC winners to be honoured with commemorative paving stones
10:02am Tuesday 29th April 2014 in News
STOURBRIDGE is expected to qualify for two commemorative paving stones in honour of two town born men who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.
Edward Felix Baxter and Thomas Bryan are among VC recipients from the First World War set to be honoured in their home towns as part of efforts to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War.
Communities across the UK are to receive commemorative stones as part of a national four-year centenary programme to recognise soldiers who were awarded Britain's highestand most prestigious award for gallantry.
Stourbridge is to receive plaques to remember Edward Felix Baxter who was born on September 18 1885 at 'Thornleigh', Hagley Road, Oldswinford, in the house that became The Crabmill pub; and Thomas Bryan - who was born on January 21 1882 in Bott Lane, Lye.
Twenty eight stones, designed by London architect Charlie MacKeith, will be unveiled across the country this year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914.
Other stones will be unveiled each year up until 2018.
Each will also have a QR reader, which people can scan using a smartphone to reveal details about the recipient.
Baxter’s and Bryan’s memorials are expected to be unveiled in 2016 and 2017 respectively - 100 years after their medals were awarded.
Stourbridge-born Edward Felix Baxter went to boarding school at Christ’s Hospital, London, and later moved to Liverpool where he married Birmingham-born Leonora Cornish in 1906.
The couple had two children, but one died as an infant, and Edward worked as a tutor at a business training college before joining the Royal Engineers and later the Kings Liverpool with whom he won his VC.
Little is known about the early life of Thomas Bryan who left the Stourbridge area as a youngster with his parents between 1882 and 1891.
Second Lieutenant Baxter, who competed in the 1920 Isle of Mann TT, was awarded the VC for bravery after saving comrades on the night he is believed to have died in April 1916.
While cutting wire close to enemy lines he held a bomb with the pin withdrawn ready to throw and on one occasion it slipped and fell but he managed to pick it up, unscrew the base plug and take out the detonator, which he smothered in the ground - preventing the alarm being raised and saving many casualties.
Later, the courageous 30-year-old led the storming party and was the first man into the trench, shooting the sentry with his revolver.
He also helped to bomb dugouts and climbed out of the trench to help the last man over the parapet.
But he was not seen again, although search parties went out to look for him.
He is buried in Fillievres British Cemetery, France.
Thomas Bryan moved from Lye as a child with his family to Hunt Street, Whitwood, West Yorkshire, and he later played rugby league for Castleford in 1906-7.
A lance-corporal in the 25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, he was awarded the VC for courage shown during the Battle of Arras.
Wounded, the brave 35-year-old managed to silence a machine gun that was causing carnage on April 9 1917.
After working his way along the communication trench - he approached the gun from behind, disabled it and killed two of the team.
Unlike Edward Baxter - he survived his heroics and died in Doncaster in 1945, aged 63. He is buried in Arksey Cemetery, Doncaster.
Dudley Council's chief executive John Polychronakis said the council will be working with relatives and the community to determine where the commemorative stones should be laid.
He added: "We have a long and proud history of honouring the heroes of our armed forces, and are pleased to have the opportunity to commemorate First World War Victoria Cross winners in the borough.
"This is part of a huge nationwide project and will take time to honour all the recipients, but we are in contact with the Government to establish when we will receive our proposed commemorative paving stones.
"The stones will be laid in towns across the country over the next four years and we will announce the dates for our borough as soon as we have them.
"This is one of a number of events we have in Dudley to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War."
As part of national centenary celebrations - Thomas Bryan's grave will also be spruced up through a £100,000 scheme to restore the UK resting places of First World War VC heroes.
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