The design of the paving stone which will commemorate recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War, was unveiled by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on 4th November 2013.
Charlie MacKeith of London was announced as the winner of the main paving stone competition launched on 5 August 2013 as part of the government’s plans to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
His circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission, bringing this well understood layout into cities, towns and villages across the United Kingdom.
His design reflects 5 years of learning about memorials from veterans and communities on 2 Heritage Lottery funded centenary projects in Preston and Fleetwood.
Mr MacKeith is an architect and the director of Research Design Architecture and works from studios in Lee, south east London and Barrow. His design impressed the judges with its simple and elegant qualities, while being suitable to be replicated for all branches of the armed forces.
The paving stone was unveiled at an event at the Army and Navy Club in London – originally founded for former and serving officers of the British and Commonwealth Armed Services, and was attended by the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in over 30 years, Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry.
Young people were represented by members of Middlesex Air Cadets, part of ‘Youth United’ who provide volunteering opportunities with uniformed organisations such as the Scouts, Sea Cadets and Girl Guides and some school children who entered the competition.
The winning design was selected by a panel of 7 judges, these were: Lord Ashcroft, Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, Michael Burleigh, Major General Patrick Cordingley, Sebastian Faulks, Dame Helen Ghosh and Diane Lees.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“It was an honour to reveal the winning design that will take pride of place in our communities and enable people of all ages to appreciate the sacrifices of the fallen brave”.
“I was incredibly impressed with the variety of excellent entries that were submitted for the competition. It was fantastic that so many were from young people who could use this as an opportunity to learn about the First World War and the legacy that it has had on their local communities”.
The winning paving stone is a fitting tribute to the centenary of the war and will keep the memory of local war heroes alive for hundreds more years to come.
A large number of entries were received from primary and secondary schools and their designs were judged separately. Winners will have a full size replica awarded to their school as a record of their success and a permanent tribute to their local heroes.
Irfhan Ahmed, age 18, from Queen Mary’s Grammar School in Walsall won the secondary school category for his striking design which impressed the judges with the way it conveys a sense of a line of Victoria Cross winners by showing a row of medals.
Kiara Hines, age 11, from St Margaret Ward RC School school in Sale, Cheshire was triumphant in the primary school category for her high quality design which depicts a sketching of 3 lions below the Victoria Cross.
The judges all remarked on how impressed they were with the drawing skills displayed in this entry.
More than 200 entries were received for the main competition and the judges found it very difficult to pick a winner given the high standard of the entries.
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, a member of the judging panel and owner of the largest collection of Victoria Cross medals said:
“This was a truly splendid crop of designs, many of which showed that their creators had put massive effort into their submissions. There were also some exceptionally good entries from children with great imaginative powers”.
The competition winner, Charlie MacKeith, said:
“It is a fantastic privilege to win and have my design as a permanent marker for heroes who won the highest award for gallantry”.
“It is humbling to think that the making and laying of this design will continue until 100 years after the last selfless, heroic act in conflict”.
“The name I used for the stone design – Private William Young VC, identified by Preston veterans – summarised for me the humanity we will find in all the stories of those who served in the First World War”.
The primary and secondary winners paving stones were created for free by Brent Stevenson Memorials – part of the National Association of Memorial Masons; the winning paving stone was created for free by Marshalls Stone Masons.
Laying of the commemorative stones
The first paving stone will be laid in August 2014, to represent the date that the first 2 Victoria Crosses were awarded in the First World War, in August 1914 to Charles Garforth of Willesden Green (Brent) and Sidney Godley of East Grinstead (Mid Sussex District Council).
Over 400 communities across the United Kingdom will receive paving stones to commemorate those First World War soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’.
The design will also incorporate an electronic reader which people will be able to scan using their smart devices to discover more information about their local Victoria Cross recipient.
All Victoria Cross heroes of the First World War will be commemorated; for those born overseas but who have a local connection in the UK, the relevant local council will be offered a paving stone.
There are also plans to ensure that all heroes who were awarded the Victoria Cross, but who were born overseas, are commemorated.
Highest Military Decoration
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration for gallantry and valour in the face of the enemy awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen.
A total of 363 Victoria Crosses were awarded to English born recipients, 44 to Scottish born recipients and 15 to Welsh born recipients; 32 Victoria Crosses were awarded in pre-partition Ireland, 8 in what is now Northern Ireland and 24 in what is now the Republic of Ireland.
The Victoria Cross continues to be awarded with two of the most recent being; Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes in Iraq on 1 May and 11 June 2004 and British Lance Corporal James Ashworth in March 2013, who showed a courage “beyond words” during a fierce battle with the Taliban in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj district, Afghanistan, and was fatally wounded as a result.
Victoria Cross Trust – Dedicated to the upkeep of graves and the memory of Victoria Cross recipients.
North West Evening Mail Article – Barrow Based Architecht to Design Victoria Cross Paving Stones.
Royal Navy Article – WW1 Stones of Honour Will Remember the Navy’s VC Heroes in Their Home Towns.