Family of South Ribble’s sole First World War VC winner to attend special ceremony this weekend

John McNamara, awarded the VC during First World War
John McNamara, awarded the VC during First World War
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The proud family of South Ribble’s only First World War Victoria Cross recipient will join the crowds for a special ceremony on Sunday.

A poignant new memorial honouring Corporal John McNamara is to be unveiled in Bamber Bridge.

To mark the centenary of the end of the military campaign, each soldier from across the country who was bestowed the VC - the top military honour - will be remembered with a new plaque in their home town.

Corporal McNamara was stationed in Solesmes, France, when he died on October 16, 1918.

Only weeks earlier, he was out in the trenches, rescuing wounded comrades and escorting them to safety – despite intense enemy fire.

It was this ‘bravery, initiative and devotion to duty’ that earned him the VC, awarded after his death.

Cpl McNamara’s granddaughter, Stella Holmes, 76, from Leyland, said: “My grandfather died before I was born and my mum was only nine years old at the time. Still, ‘Grandad McNamara’ remains a big hero to all the family.

“We’re very, very proud of him. We’ve all got the cuttings; we’ve all been to the war grave in Ypres, Belgium; and we’ve been learning the story of how we came to win the Victoria Cross.

“We’re all so proud of him as he’s the only person from South Ribble to receive this huge honour. He’s one of the borough’s greatest historical icons.

“It will be a special day when the new plaque is unveiled in Bamber Bridge and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of support from people locally.”

A new exhibition has now opened at the South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre commemorating the lives of more than 600 local men who lost their lives in the conflict.

Historian Charles O’Donnell has selected the stories of 10 of those men as illustrative of the whole; drawn from engagements throughout the war.

Corporal McNamara’s is one of the ten portraits and the museum has been fortunate in obtaining a number of items from his archive, which is held by the Surrey Regimental Museum. Donations to South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre have also been used to buy exact replicas of his medals – and these are now on display at the museum on Church Road in Leyland.

Dr David Hunt, curator of South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre, said: “John McNamara’s actions were of unparalleled bravery. Under intense enemy fire, he showed amazing courage combined with thought for others.

“That is why, today, we remember the heroics and sacrifice of Cpl McNamara and his comrades from South Ribble and mid-Lancashire.”

The tribute to Corporal John McNamara will be unveiled at the new community garden in Withy Grove where the sculpture of the new iron tree sits.