Like a scene you might find in a war movie, a courageous Acton soldier stood alone on a parapet and gunned down German troops, dying to save the lives of his men.
Sergeant Robert Spall – or Bob as he was known – was awarded the coveted Victoria Cross after manning a Lewis gun alone twice and killing many enemy soldiers who were surrounding his men, on August 13, 1918, near Parvillers-le-Quesnoy in northern France.
To remember his sacrifice, 100 years after the bloody First World War battle, a commemorative paving stone has been laid by mayor of Ealing , Councillor Tejinder Dhami, in Spencer Road, Acton, where Sgt Spall lived as a child, to remember his bravery.
Sgt Spall was born on March 5, 1890, and lived in Spencer Road with his parents before moving as a child to Canada.
In July 1915, at the age of 25, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and travelled back across the Atlantic to Europe to fight on the Western Front.
He achieved the rank of sergeant – a non-commissioned officer rank – in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, but was killed at the age of just 28.
His VC citation from The London Gazette of October 1918 reads: “For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice when, during an enemy counter-attack, his platoon was isolated.
“Thereupon Serjt. Spall took a Lewis gun and, standing on the parapet, fired upon the advancing enemy, inflicting very severe casualties.
“He then came down the trench directing the men into a sap 75 yards from the enemy.
“Picking up another Lewis gun, this gallant N.C.O. again climbed the parapet, and by his fire held up the enemy.
“It was while holding up the enemy at this point that he was killed. Serjt. Spall deliberately gave his life in order to extricate his platoon from a most difficult situation, and it was owing to his bravery that the platoon was saved.”
Sgt Spall is also commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial along with more than 11,000 other Canadian dead, whose remains were lost or never recovered.
Councillor Dhami was joined by the leader of the council, Cllr Julian Bell, Rector of Acton, the Reverend Dean Ayres, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Day, Acton History Group secretary and treasurer Amanda Knights and military and Royal British Legion representatives.
Mr Dhami said: “It is extremely important that we never forget the outstanding sacrifices made during the First World War.
“I am honoured to lead this ceremony paying tribute to the exceptional bravery of Robert Spall.”
Each VC recipient is commemorated in a similar way.
The commemorative paving stones are provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government and include the name, rank and regiment of the individual at the time the VC was awarded and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry that British and Commonwealth serviceman can achieve. It is linked with acts of extreme bravery and is awarded for gallantry of the highest order.