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.
The two men, both Victoria Cross recipients, were honoured once again with commemorative stones unveiled during a memorial at Victoria Embankment Gardens.
The two young Londoners fought and died on July 31, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, infamous for the scale of its casualties but also for its muddy battlefields.
With just a sergeant and five men, Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson VC managed to capture an enemy trench and a machine gun which he turned on his assailants. He attacked again, with just his sergeant, and captured another enemy machine gun. Soon afterwards the 21-year-old was killed by a sniper.
Second Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt VC led his company under heavy machine-gun fire while seriously wounded and in pain. The 19-year-old 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 Rachael 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.
“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 stones were unveiled by Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry and family members of both the VC recipients.
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.
Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson VC
Born: Portland Square, London, 18/02/1896
Education: Harrow and Oriel College, Oxford
Background: In September 1914, aged 18, he joined the Public Schools Battalion. In February 1915 he was granted a temporary commission as a 2nd Lt in the 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. His permanent commission was confirmed in December 1915. Shortly after this, Captain Colyer-Fergusson went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme. He was appointed as Acting Captain of the 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment in January 1917. As an Acting Captain, he was noted as being thorough, keen and confident by his Senior Officers. He held this reputation to the last and performed the brave deeds which earned him the Victoria Cross, on 31 July 1917 in Bellewaarde, Belgium. He died later that same day at just 21 years old.
Second Lieutenant Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt VC
Born: Mayfair, London, 18/12/1897
Education: Winchester College and Sandhurst where he obtained a commission in the Hampshire Regiment
Background: He was sent to the front in September 1916, aged 18, and took part in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme. From June 1917, Second Lieutenant Hewitt and the 14th Hampshires were then billeted at Houlle, near St Omer, thirty miles behind Ypres. They were moved closer to the front and were in position for the bombardment which preceded the Third Battle of Ypres, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele. Captain Dennis Hewitt led an attack and performed the brave actions for which he was awarded his VC in St Julien, Belgium on 31/07/1917, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. He died the same day aged just 19.