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East Ham First World War hero honoured with Cenotaph stone

PUBLISHED: 17:54 11 April 2017

Colonel Vic Matthews, Chris Collins, Lance Sgt Johnson Beharry, young Mayor Khadija Sethi and Mayor Sir Robin Wales at the ceremony.

Colonel Vic Matthews, Chris Collins, Lance Sgt Johnson Beharry, young Mayor Khadija Sethi and Mayor Sir Robin Wales at the ceremony.

Archant

A war hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his service in the First World War has been honoured with a commemorative stone.

The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.

Lance Corporal Harold Sanford Mugford – who received the medal for his actions during the battle for Arras in northern France in April 1917 – was recognised for his bravery at the Cenotaph in Central Park, East Ham this afternoon.

The Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, who led the ceremony, said: “Newham is proud of the brave and selfless acts of Lance Corporal Harold Mugford and the other Newham residents who received the Victoria Cross for their actions in the First World War.

“It is only right that we create a permanent reminder of their selfless bravery in the face of the war.”

The unveiling of the commemorative stone was followed by a blessing from Royal British Legion chaplain Rev. Fred Ashford-Okai, a minute of silence and the laying of wreaths.

The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, lays a wreathThe Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, lays a wreath

The ceremony was also attended by VC recipient Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry and Lance Corporal Mugford’s godson Chris Collins.

Mr Beharry, who won the medal for twice saving members of his unit, said: “It is an honour to be here to support such a courageous man, and to show the people today – the younger generation – that 100 years ago this is what happened, but 100 years on it still lives on in the British Army.”

Speaking about the importance of the medal, Mr Beharry said: “It is a great honour; it is the best honour as a soldier you could ever receive.

“For me, it means more than a medal, to represent the British Army, those who are not here, those who didn’t make it, and the rest of the British Army.”

The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.

Mr Collins said: “Like so many people who have done extraordinary things, Harold was always reticent about the First World War and his part in it. But what an extraordinary and brave man – we knew he was special.

“Harold Mugford was an extraordinary soldier and citizen, modest and proud of his regiment, who carried his injuries without complaint and bore no malice, and who was an admired and useful member of society until his death.”

Lance Corporal Mugford, from East Ham, fought in the First World War with the Machine Gun Corps, and came under heavy fire on the battlefield in Monchy-le-Preux, a village east of Arras.

An incoming shell broke both of his legs, which later had to be amputated, and he used a tricycle to get around.

The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.The Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone Ceremony for Lance-Corporal Harold S.Mugford VC.

Despite his injuries Harold remained at his post, providing covering fire for his unit and inflicting significant damage on the enemy.

Following his return home, he married Amy Key in 1919 at All Saints’ Church, Forest Gate, before moving to Chelmsford.

His VC medal is currently displayed at the Imperial War Museum, and there is a memorial to him at Chelmsford Cathedral, where he was buried in 1958.

Lance Corporal Mugford’s commemorative stone is the fourth of five stones to be unveiled in Newham in honour of First World War VC recipients.

Sir Robin added: “In bestowing the highest honour of the Victoria Cross, Lance Corporal Mugford embodies the values of resilience, determination and solidarity.

“This is a lesson that serves Newham today as we stand together learning from the past and facing the future.”

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