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Passchendaele Victoria Cross heroes killed by snipers remembered at moving Westminster service

Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson and Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt both lost their lives on the first day of the bloody battle

A soldier who captured enemy machine guns and another who led an attack while seriously injured during the Battle of Passchendaele have been remembered in a special centenary ceremony in Westminster.

Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson and Second Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt, both from the borough and Victoria Cross (VC) recipients, were honoured once again with commemorative stones unveiled during a memorial at Victoria Embankment Gardens.

The stones were unveiled by west London war hero Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry, and family members of both the VC recipients.

The men died shortly after their heroic deeds, killed by snipers on July 31 1917 on the first day of Passchendaele, infamous for the scale of its casualties but also for its muddy battlefields.

Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson VC captured enemy machine gun before his death(Image: UGC TMS)

With just a sergeant and five men, 21-year-old Captain Colyer-Fergusson, who studied at Harrow School managed to capture an enemy trench and a machine gun which he turned on his assailants.

He soon after captured another enemy machine gun with just his sergeant, but was killed by a sniper’s bullet.

Lieutenant Hewitt, 19, led his company under heavy machine-gun fire while seriously wounded and in pain.

Second Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt VC lwed his company under heavy gunfire despite being seriously injured and in pain(Image: UGC TMS)

The teenager successfully captured and consolidated his objective but was killed by a sniper soon after.

The ceremony marking the men’s gallantry and service was led by the Lord Mayor of Westminster Cllr Ian Adams, Westminster’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Rachael Robathan and Colonel Crispin Lockhart MBE Chief of Staff London District.

British Army officers also attended the event to mark the men’s gallantry and service during the First World War.

Cllr Robathan said: “It is extremely important we never forget the outstanding sacrifices made during the First World War.

“Today, we not only honoured the exceptional bravery of these two young men but also paid tribute to the service men and women who continue to keep us safe.

“It was an honour to meet the families of both Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson and Second Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt and hear their stories.

Among those attending the service were relatives of the First World War heroes(Image: UGC TMS)

“Westminster is home to many Armed Forces’ personnel and we will continue to support their families and the wider military community.”

The Lord Mayor told the crowd he was “proud” to commemorate the two VC recipients and added: “These flagstones commemorate extraordinary acts.

“They are visual reminders of the debt we owe to our Armed Forces for living our daily lives in peace.

“Commemorating our heroes is an opportunity both to honour our Armed Forces, and to promote the values they stand for – courage, respect, integrity and pride.”

The Lord Mayor of Westminster Cllr Ian Adams at the service(Image: UGC TMS)

The 1 Royal Anglican chaplain Revd Iorwerth Price said a blessing before a trumpeter played the Last Post and three minute silence.

As part of the centenary 628 Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War are being honoured in their birthplaces.

By 2018, all the paving stones in Westminster’s garden will have been replaced with engraved stones, each representing one of the local VC recipients from the First World War.

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