Last Westminster Victoria Cross recipient remembered

Thu, 04/10/2018

Today Westminster City Council’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Lindsey Hall, unveiled a commemorative paving stone in memory of Field Marshal John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort who bravely led an attack at the battle of the Canal du Nord.

An event has been held for each of the VC recipients from the Great War born in Westminster. Viscount Gort was the highest ranking recipient of the VC from the city and is the twelfth and final of these individuals to be commemorated since 2014.

John Vereker, was born in Knightsbridge and Belgravia on 10th July 1886 into a military family. He was educated at Harrow and succeeded to the title of Viscount on the death of his father in 1902, when he was just sixteen.  Vereker, was a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards at the time of his VC action in September 1918.

Gort took part in the battle of the Canal du Nord, part of the bloody 100 Days Offensive, which claimed the lives of 30,000 allied soldiers.

Gort men launched an attack on 27 September which the Viscount led ‘fearlessly’ in the face of heavy shelling and machine gun fire.

Despite severe injuries and significant blood loss the Lieutenant Colonel showed utter disregard for his personal safety to ensure the attack was successful even getting up off of a stretch to continue directing the attack.

Viscount Gort went on to have a prestigious military career, eventually leading to his appointment as Chief of the Imperial Staff in December 1937. In this role he commanded the British Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of the Second Word War, and later took the decision to retreat the Forces from France in the 1940 Dunkirk retreat. He passed away in 1946, but left a strong legacy and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended the ceremony today. 

On laying a wreath The Lord Mayor said: “The Viscount’s story of barely believable courage is truly humbling. It is hard to imagine how anyone could cope is the circumstances facing our soldiers during World War One. Yet some people, like the Viscount, mange to lead and do so selflessly.”

Westminster City Council Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Rachael Robathan said: “It is an honour to gather here today to remember and commemorate the actions of Field Marshal John Standish Surtees Prendegast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort.”

“We are thankful for this opportunity to bring together the military and civilian communities in Westminster in common purpose. Our experience of commemorating the Victoria Cross recipients born in this City is that their acts of bravery and leadership have the power to resonate across generations, and bring us closer in understanding the experiences of those who fought one hundred years ago.”

“The Victoria Cross Commemoration events are one of the many ways in which the City of Westminster and the Armed Forces have honoured those who served during the First World War during the centenary period of 2014 to 2018.”

Last updated: 14 January 2019