Crowds gather to honour heroic soldiers at special memorial ceremony

Published Monday 23 April 2018 at 15:34

The Blackburn World War One soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery in battle and were remembered as two plaques were unveiled at Blackburn Town Hall.

Lieutenant Percy Dean and Second-Lieutenant John Schofield were both awarded the Victoria Cross for their deeds in battle during the great war, and were commemorated with paving stones outside Blackburn Town Hall.

Family of the two men travelled from Seattle in America, Scotland, Amsterdam, London, Oxford, Cambridge and Dorset to pay their respects

Family members joined civic dignitaries including The Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Colin Rigby, The Lord Lieutenant Lord Shuttleworth KG KCVO and Canon Ian Stockton from Blackburn Cathedral.

A choir from Our Lady and St John opened and closed the ceremony with classic songs including ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘Roll out the Barrel’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’.

Lieutenant Percy Dean was born in Buncer Lane, Blackburn, in 1877, and was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

He was awarded the VC for rescuing over 100 seamen during a raid on a German-occupied harbour in Belgium in March 1918. His boat came under heavy fire for an hour but He managed to save many of his men.

His Admiral said of his bravery: “I was much struck with the gallant bearing of Lieutenant Dean and the survivors of his crew.”

Following the war, he returned to Blackburn and became MP for the town in December 1918 until 1922 and then became a prominent businessman in the town. He died in March 1939, aged 62.

Second-Lieutenant Schofield, who served in the Lancashire Fusiliers, is the only local man to be awarded the VC after his death, as he lost his life in an enemy attack in Givenchy, France, on April 9th 1918 aged 26.

He was shot down while leading a small group of soldiers but was praised for his actions as he managed to capture 123 German officers and saved the eight men in his party.

He was described by his Commanding Officer as a ‘magnificent officer, absolutely fearless and a great leader.”

Born in 1892 in Wycoller Road in Revidge, Blackburn, Second-Lieutenant Schofield was originally turned down by the army twice when he attempted to enlist due to problems with his eyesight. He persisted, and was eventually accepted in a clerical role before being posted abroad.

Paving stones in the men’s honour were unveiled as part of a national initiative which sees commemorative paving stones laid at the birth places of Victoria Cross recipients of the Great War.

Speaking at the ceremony, Harry Catherall, Chief Executive of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

Lieutenant Percy Dean and Second-Lieutenant John Schofield displayed the finest qualities in the most horrendous circumstances. Both showed uncommon bravery in battle and both saved the lives of many of their fellow men.

Each recipient of the Victoria Cross displayed an incredible level of bravery into the face of unimaginable danger. Often they risked their own life to save the lives of their comrades. They remain an inspiration to this day. I am glad the remarkable stories of these two men are being remembered today.”

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