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Corner of an English field for overseas VCs

13 March 2015

PA

Blood brothers: Prime Minister David Cameron meets Johnson Beharry, VC, at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Blood brothers: Prime Minister David Cameron meets Johnson Beharry, VC, at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

THE Prime Minister has paid tribute to the 145 servicemen from overseas who received the Victoria Cross for their actions alongside British armed forces during the First World War.

The Victoria Cross is Britain's highest award for valour in the in the face of the enemy. To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Government is laying commemorative paving stones in the towns of the recipients' births.

The stones for the 145 recipients from foreign and Commonwealth countries were laid last week at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, in Staffordshire.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony on Thursday of last week, Mr Cameron said: "Our friends from overseas served and died alongside our own forces, and it is absolutely right that here, in our National Memorial Arboretum, where so many great acts of courage are commemorated, these paving stones should provide a permanent memorial to heroes from 19 different countries whose bravery and service won them the Victoria Cross.

"A century may have passed since these extraordinary acts; but the courage of these men remains as encouraging and inspiring today as it was back then. Today we write the names of these Victoria Cross winners into the soil of our land. They may have been born overseas; but they will have a home here for generations to come.

"They are heroes among heroes. Their legacy is our freedom. Their courage is our inspiration. And their friendship is a gift that we will treasure forever."

The title paving-slab was unveiled by Grenadian-born Sgt Johnson Beharry, one of only six living Victoria Cross recipients. His presence at the ceremony, he said, was "proof that what happened 100 years ago is still happening today", in terms of British armed forces' recruiting from Commonwealth countries.

"In uniform, we are all one. There is no 'me' and there is no 'you'. There is a body of men moving forward, and we look after each other, regardless of the colour of your skin or which country you are from."

The Chaplain General to the Army, the Revd Dr David Coulter, welcoming the "poignant" ceremony, said that it was right to commemorate the individual acts of bravery, 100 years on. "These things aren't for the Instagram," he said. "They are for ever."

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