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Victoria Cross hero to be remembered with day of commemoration

Published July 07, 2017 1.48pm

The homecoming of a Victoria Cross hero from County Durham is to be re-enacted 100 years after he returned to his home town from the First World War.

Private Michael Heaviside
Private Michael Heaviside
Durham Light Infantry Victoria Cross recipient Private Michael Heaviside returned to Stanley from battle on 12 July 1917 and was given a hero's welcome after crawling across No-Man's Land under heavy fire to take water and first aid to a wounded soldier lying in a shell hole during the Battle of Arras, later risking his life to bring him back to the trenches.

His homecoming - which was recorded on film - will now be re-enacted on Stanley Front Street on Wednesday, 12 July to mark 100 years since the event.

The parade, which is set to start at 2pm, will involve local schoolchildren dressed in a number of costumes provided by Beamish Museum, Craghead Colliery Band and local miners' banners.

Three horses and a charabanc - an early form of bus - will also join the procession, with Pte Heaviside's grandson Norman playing the role of his grandfather on the steps of the former Town Hall.

Celebrate and remember

Earlier in the day, a Michael Heaviside VC Commemorative Stone, which will include his name, rank, regiment and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded, will be unveiled at a site in Craghead adjacent to the former Bloemfontein Terrace and current Greylingstadt Terrace where he lived and died. 

A Stanley Town Council Commemorative Plaque for Pte Heaviside will also be unveiled on Bloemfontein School, following which invited guests and Heaviside family members and relatives will be invited into Craghead Village Hall to look at specific DLI collection pieces and VC Commemorative banners.

Daniel O'Brien, Stanley Area Action Partnership Coordinator said: "Local county council members, members of Stanley Town Council, Heaviside family members and local residents wanted to celebrate and officially remember the heroics of Michael Heaviside VC as Craghead was his home.                                                                                   

 "The Centenary Project has really grown and has involved a number of key partners and funding streams to bring it to fruition."

Film screenings

As well as the memorial day, other events will be taking place as part of the project including two First World War film nights.

On Tuesday, 11 July Stanley Civic Hall will host the original 1917 film The Battle of the Somme, which will be accompanied by music from Cobweb Orchestra as part of the Somme100FILM project.

The next evening, there will be screened footage of Pte Heaviside returning home, accompanied by a newly commissioned piece of brass band music, followed by the Battle of Arras Film with commentary from WW1 film expert Alastair Fraser.

Tickets for both film evenings are free and can be reserved by visiting Stanley Civic Hall's website.

The project has been funded by a number of organisations and partners including:

  •  Heritage Lottery Fund
  •  Somme100FILM Project
  • Cllr Mark Davinson and Cllr Carole Hampson through their Neighbourhood Budgets
  • Members of Stanley Town Council
  • Stanley AAP
  • Durham County Council
  • Department for Communities and Local Government