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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

Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Lord Lieutenant of Suffok, Countess Euston, Jennifer Jones, Village Recorder, Diana Robertson and Piers Colvin, Grandson and Granddaughter with Great Nephews, Ian Gordon and Richard Williams. Picture :NIGEL BROWN

Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Lord Lieutenant of Suffok, Countess Euston, Jennifer Jones, Village Recorder, Diana Robertson and Piers Colvin, Grandson and Granddaughter with Great Nephews, Ian Gordon and Richard Williams. Picture :NIGEL BROWN

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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.

Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

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.

William Henry Hewitt was one of only six from Suffolk to be awarded a VC during the First World War William Henry Hewitt was one of only six from Suffolk to be awarded a VC during the First World War

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.

Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN Dedication of the centenary paving stone for the Copdock born VC Hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

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.

William Henry Hewitt at the VC centenary parade in Hyde Park, London, in 1956 William Henry Hewitt at the VC centenary parade in Hyde Park, London, in 1956

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.”

William Henry Hewitt receiving his VC medal William Henry Hewitt receiving his VC medal

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.

Crowds gather for the unveiling of the paving stone memorial for VC hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN Crowds gather for the unveiling of the paving stone memorial for VC hero, W H Hewitt. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

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.

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