Paving stones in honour of Leamington war heroes to be unveiled on Sunday

Pte Henry Tandey
Pte Henry Tandey

One hundred years after the end of the conflict commemorative paving stones for two Leamington heroes of the First World War will be unveiled at the town's war memorial.

The paving stones will be unveiled at a special ceremony by relatives of Lt John Cridlan Barrett of the Leicestershire Regiment and Pte Henry Tandey of the Green Howards and Duke of Wellington Regiment, who were both awarded the Victoria Cross in September 1918.

Lt John Cridlan Barrett VC

Lt John Cridlan Barrett VC

The tribute forms part of the Government-led initiative by the Department for Communities and Local Government to provide a lasting legacy of Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War by laying a paving stone in the birth place of each of the 454 UK-born residents.

The event, which takes place at the memorial in Euston Place on Sunday from 10.45am, will be attended by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, the High Sheriff, Vice Chairman of the District Council and Mayor of Leamington together with representatives of the military including members of the Regimental Associations in which John Barrett and Henry Tandey served during the First World War

Henry Tandey was the most decorated soldier ranked as a private during the war.

A blue plaque has been installed in his memory outside the Angel Hotel in Regent Street, which backs on to the former Swains Buildings where he was born in 1891.

Mr Tandey, who died in 1967, was made a Freeman of the Royal Borough of Leamington after the war.

Town clerk Robert Nash said: “During the First World War Mr Tandey had the unique distinction of winning the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. “

He was also mentioned in despatches on several occasions for his bravery.”More controversially, the former Green Howard soldier is credited with not shooting a wounded German Lance Corporal - who turned out to be Adolf Hitler - in 1914.

Whether this was true, or Hitler simply battened on to an English war hero when he met Neville Chamberlain in 1938, is open to dispute.

John Cridlan Barrett was educated at Arnold Lodge School in the early 1900s and later went on to serve with the army until being discharged in 1920.

King George V presented him with the Victoria Cross at an investiture in 1919 at Buckingham Palace.

During the same year, he was made a Freeman of the Royal Borough of Leamington.

He picked up his medical studies after the Armistice and had a long and distinguished career as a surgeon, becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1928. He died in Leicester in March 1977 at the age of 79.

The incident for which he was awarded his VC was described in some detail in the London Gazette citation (14 December 1918): “Owing to the darkness and smoke barrage a number of men lost direction.

“Lieutenant Barrett found himself advancing towards Forgan’s Trench which contained numerous machine guns.

“Without hesitation he collected all available men and charged the nearest group of machine guns, being wounded on the way.

“In spite of this, he gained the trench and vigorously attacked the garrison, personally disposing of two machine guns and inflicting many casualties.

“He was again severely wounded, but nevertheless climbed out of the trench in order to fix his position and locate the enemy.

“This he succeeded in doing and, despite exhaustion from wounds, gave detailed orders to his men to cut their way back to the battalion, which they did.

“He himself refused help and was again wounded, so seriously that he could not move and had to be carried out.

“In spite of his wounds he had managed to fight on, and his spirit was magnificent throughout.

“It was due to his coolness and grasp of the situation that any of his party were able to get out alive”.