First World War centenary: 2014 to 2018

Westminster City Council is a member of the First World War Centenary Partnership led by the Imperial War Museum.

 

1. Events

Westminster City Council is commemorating the centenary of the First World War by hosting 11 private commemoration events between 2014 and 2018, for the 12 local recipients of the Victoria Cross who were given their award for acts of extreme bravery during the First World War. At the events, commemorative paving stones are laid in Victoria Embankment Gardens to mark the names and regiments of the VC recipients.

Visit First World War Centenary for details of commemoration events taking place across the UK in 2018.

Royal Air Force centenary event

Join us at St. Clement Danes Church, Strand on Friday 27 April 2018 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Royal Air Force. The event will be an opportunity to find out more about the rich history of the RAF and its strong connections to Westminster and there will also be a First World War sing-along with Westminster Music Library. It is open to Westminster residents aged 65 and over.

A variety of speakers will reveal the history of the RAF over the past 100 years and Westminster Archives will tell the story of Flight Lieutenant Ferdinand Maurice Felix West who was awarded the Victoria Cross aged 22 in recognition of his outstanding bravery in aerial combat during the First World War.

Lunch and refreshments will be served.

Event details

Venue: St. Clement Danes, Central Church of the Royal Air Force, Strand, WC2R 1DH
Date: Friday 27 April 2018, 10am

​Apply for tickets

There are 60 tickets available via a prize draw. If there are more applications than spaces available, tickets will be allocated in a prize draw. A further 60 tickets will be allocated via community and voluntary organisations.

You can apply for tickets up to Monday 5 March 2018.

We will only contact you if you are allocated a ticket in the prize draw. Your ticket will be posted to you at the end of March.

Terms and conditions:

  • you must be a Westminster resident
  • you must be aged 65 or over
  • each application will receive one ticket only unless you apply for an extra guest ticket
  • each applicant can apply for one guest ticket only
  • your guest must be a Westminster resident aged 65 or over
  • if you wish to apply for a guest ticket, you must provide their name and full address
  • you will only receive a letter if you are successful in the free prize draw
  • if you apply for a guest ticket, it will be sent directly to the name and address provided
  • event details may be subject to change. Details will be provided when you receive your ticket
  • if you do not complete the application form correctly, you will not be entered into the prize draw

Contact

If you have any questions about the event, please email rsvp@westminster.gov.uk.

2. Westminster Remembers

In Westminster we remember those who lived, fought and died in the First World War by sharing their stories, bringing together local events and improving the monuments dedicated to their memory. 

There are many ways you can commemorate the centenary of the First World War such as:

3. Westminster heroes

Edward Harrison from Millbank

Educated at the United Westminster Schools and then the School of Pharmacy at the University of London, Edward Harrison invented the gas mask after joining the new chemists' corps of the Royal Engineers in 1915. His invention was regarded as the most effective gas mask of the war and was adopted by American forces in a modified form.

In November 1918, weakened by 2.5 years of constant work and the gas inhaled during the early stages, Harrison died a hero.

Memorials to him were unveiled by the Pharmaceutical Society in Bloomsbury Square, and the Chemical Society at Burlington House, and both organisations continue to award prize medals in his memory.

Sir Geoffrey Keynes, Smith Square

Geoffrey Keynes served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I and then worked as a consultant surgeon, becoming an expert in blood transfusion. His work to create a portable blood transfusion device was recognised as saving thousands of lives during World War I.

He designed and pioneered a portable blood transfusion kit for patient-to-patient transfusions, to solve the problems of keeping stored blood in field hospitals. His pioneering work on blood transfusion was the primary reason for his eventual knighthood. After the war, in 1921, he co-founded London’s Blood Transfusion Service, and a year later published Britain’s first textbook on the subject.

Solomon J Solomon, Maida Vale

Solomon J Solomon was a landscape and portrait artist who lived at 120 Maida Vale, had studios at 2 St John’s Wood Studios and ran an army camouflage school just north of the Magazine building in Hyde Park.

During World War I, Solomon was a pioneer of camouflage techniques and in March 1916, became a technical advisor to the army. In May he began helping  to develop tank camouflage and in December established a camouflage school in Hyde Park (which was eventually taken over by the army).

Lena Ashwell, Paddington

During the World War I Lena Ashwell was an enthusiastic supporter of British war aims. In 1915, she began to organise companies of entertainers to travel to France and perform; by the end of the war there were 25 of them, travelling in small groups around France. She also organised all-male concert parties to perform shows near to the front line. She is remembered as being the first person to organise large-scale entertainment for troops at the front.

Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson, Portman Square

Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson was born in London in February 1896.

He was 21-years-old and an acting captain for the 2nd Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment of the British Army, when he was shot dead by a sniper in Bellewaarde, Belgium. Colyer-Fergusson was commended for his bravery, leadership and determination during the battle that led to his death in July 1917.

Conditions on the battlefield that day were so bad that Captain Colyer Fergusson was left with only a sergeant and five men; however they carried out their attack nevertheless. Together they captured an enemy trench from a garrison and went on to successfully resist a heavy counter attack.

During the attack Captain Colyer-Fergusson captured an enemy machine gun, turning it on the enemy and driving many of them into the hands of an adjoining British unit. Later, working only with his sergeant, Captain Colyer-Fergusson captured a second machine gun, he was joined by other members of his company, and together they consolidated their position. Sadly he was killed shortly after this, by a sniper.

John Spencer, Dunville, Marylebone

John Spencer Dunville was born in May 1896 in Marylebone, London; he was educated at Ludgrove School and Eton and went on to pass up a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, to join the army.

Dunville was 21-years-old and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Royal Dragoons in the British Army during the First World War. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 24 and 25 June 1917, near Epehy, France.

Dunville was in charge of a party of Scouts and Royal Engineers, who were working toward the demolition of the enemy’s wire fencing. On observing the difficulty an officer of the Royal Engineers was having in the line of duty, he positioned himself between the officer and the enemy’s fire, in a display of great gallantry and with no regard for his personal safety. This act of selflessness enabled the officer to complete work of great importance. Although severely wounded, Dunville continued to direct his men in the wire-cutting and general operations until the raid was successfully completed

Second Lieutenant John Spencer Dunville set an example of courage, determination and devotion to duty to all ranks under his command that day. He died of his wounds the following day, 26 June 1917.

Neville Bowes Elliott-Cooper, Lancaster Gate

Neville Bowes Elliot-Cooper was in born in London in January 1889. He went to school at Eton College and studied at Sandhurst Military Academy.

At 28-years-old he was a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the 8th Battalion of The Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30 November 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai in France.

On hearing that the enemy had broken through the outpost line, Elliot-Cooper rushed out of his dug-out to find them advancing across the open. He mounted the parapet and ran forward, calling on the Reserve Company and details of the Battalion Headquarters to follow.

Unarmed, he made straight for the advancing enemy and under his direction his men forced them back over 500 meters. While still some 30 meters in front, he was severely wounded. Realising that his men were greatly outnumbered and suffering heavy casualties, Elliot-Cooper signalled to them to withdraw, in the full knowledge that he must consequently be taken prisoner.

Neville Bowes Elliot-Cooper’s prompt and gallant leading, gained time for the reserves to move up and occupy the line of defence.

Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt, Mayfair

Dennis George Wyldbore Hewitt was born in Mayfair in December 1897 and educated at Winchester College.

Hewitt was 19-years-old and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 14th Battalion, in The Hampshire Regiment during the First World War. 

On 31 July 1917 in north-east of Ypres, Belgium, Second Lieutenant Hewitt organised his company and moved forward. Whilst waiting for concentrated artillery bombardment to lift, he was hit by a piece of shell which caused an explosion and set fire to his equipment and clothes. He extinguished the flames and then, despite his wounds and severe pain, led his company forward under very heavy machine-gun fire, capturing and consolidated his objective. He was subsequently killed by a sniper while inspecting the consolidation and encouraging his men.


Last updated: 10 January 2018
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