Belgium plaque for East Lancs Victoria Cross winner

Historian Brian Hirst with some of his research into Pte Whitham

Historian Brian Hirst with some of his research into Pte Whitham

First published in News Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by

A PLAQUE is to be displayed in the exact spot where Worsthorne war hero Thomas Whitham earned the Victoria Cross.

Brian Hirst, and members of the East Lancashire branch of the Western Front Association, are working on the memorial, which will be erected in Belgium next year.

Mr Hirst and his colleagues are working on the project with Towneley Hall curator Mike Townend, Burnley Council, Thomas Whitham Sixth Form, and Mr Whitham’s family.

Two 3ft by 2ft plaques are in the process of being made, and will be displayed at Towneley, and the Barden Lane college, until they are taken to the municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle, in September 2015.

Mr Hirst, of Brookbank, Barrowford, said the memorial had first been touted in 2010.

He said: “In 2008 we were talking about Burnley’s VCs and realised we didn’t know exactly where Pte Whitham actually earned the VC. So we did that using a lot of maps. Then in 2010, I helped the sixth form with an exhibition, and I met the Whitham family. Someone said it would be nice to have a plaque in Belgium, and we took it from there.”

Mr Hirst has met with officials in Langemark, who responded positively to the idea, but had to delay the official dedication until next year because this year the mayor is too busy with events commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

Pte Whitham, who is buried in Fence, served in the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, and was awarded the VC for his gallantry on July 31, 1917, when he worked his way through shell-holes, under heavy fire, to capture an enemy machine-gun, saving many lives.

Mr Hirst said he hoped the plaques would be ready by the end of July, and said he expected large numbers to travel from Burnley to Belgium next year for the dedication of the plaques, which will be alternated every six months to be kept clean.

He said: “We want the event to be on a Saturday so as many people as possible can come from the college and the council.

“I’m already aware of one coachload planning to go, and it should be a very worthwhile occasion.”

Comments (1)

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2:50pm Fri 13 Jun 14

vicn1956 says...

His grave is worth a visit. There are many others in that graveyard.
In November take time to leave your poppy there. They all need to be remembered.
His grave is worth a visit. There are many others in that graveyard. In November take time to leave your poppy there. They all need to be remembered. vicn1956
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