Copdock Victoria Cross veteran remembered 100 years on from brave deeds at Ypres
PUBLISHED: 18:15 17 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:24 17 September 2017
A Suffolk war hero who was one of just six men in the county to win a Victoria Cross medal in the First World War has been permanently commemorated with a paving stone memorial on the eve of the centenary of his exploits.
Copdock-born William Henry Hewitt was awarded the VC during the Third Battle of Ypres-Passchendaele in 1916, when he was almost killed capturing a German pillbox.
The brave soldier threw a grenade into the pillbox doorway, but was knocked back by a German stick bomb which struck his face and knocked out four teeth.
Fearing his fiancee back home would no longer find him attractive, he continued to assail the pillbox, attempting to use another grenade at the back of the pillbox, which he himself was forced to dive for cover from.
With just one grenade left, he crept to the loophole and pushed the grenade through, getting shot in the hand in the process. The plan worked though, with the occupants rushing out into the waiting remainder of Mr Hewitt’s section.
The lance corporal’s official citation labelled his deeds as that of “most conspicuous bravery”.
Now, ahead of the centenary on Wednesday, a three-and-a-half year project to get a memorial paving stone in his memory was completed in Copdock village on Sunday when the stone was unveiled, serving as a permanent reminder of his efforts.
Local historian and parish recorder Jennifer Jones said: “I think memorials like this are terribly important.
“A lot of people, even of my age who grew up between the two world wars don’t know much about what went on in the First World War because people didn’t talk about it.”
She added that his story gave children learning about the war a local link.
More than 150 people gathered for the presentation, including two of Mr Hewitt’s great-grandchildren, three great-nephews, and a great-great-nephew and niece – with some even coming from as far as Australia and California.
Others included the High Sheriff, Framlingham Cadet Corps, and Lord Lieutenant.
His VC medal is now owned by Framlingham College and has been permanently loaned to the Imperial War Museum in London.