The Faithful City rememberied the day the Worcesters saved civilisation in full and fitting style.
For many the crowning moment came on Friday, October 31, when Major Edward Hankey's only grand-child, Julia Brotherton, unveiled a new memorial stone of Malvern granite, dedicated to all ranks of the Worcestershire Regiment.
“I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to unveil the memorial stone," Julia said before the ceremony. "My grandfather Major Hankey would have been immensely proud that the exploits of the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment are being commemorated one hundred years after the battle.
"As a Freeman of the City, he would also have wanted tributes paid to the people of the city and the county who have kept the memory of Gheluvelt alive over the intervening years.
“As one reads the accounts of the charge by the Battalion, it's extraordinarily humbling to think of the bravery of those men who managed to plug the hole in the line and stop the German advance on Calais. Sir John French’s tribute to them, as a unit to be singled out for especial praise, says it all.”
Worcestershire legends headed for Gheluvelt
In Gheluvelt itself, 286 miles away, Nigel Bradford and Ian Smith arrived in a pair of Morgan sportscars to lay wreaths from the Regiment, Morgan Motors, Kings School Worcester and Malvern College at the Worcestershire’s memorial near the site of the original battle.
“Gheluvelt Park was a huge part of my childhood," said Nigel before the successful trip. "Such a wonderful place with a wonderfully exotic sounding name. A place of great fun but, as I recognised in later life, tinged with solemn remembrance. So I decided to set out on an adventure to commemorate its name.
“We'll travel in two Morgans, cars that would not have seemed that unfamiliar 100 years ago, and built in the county. So we'll be taking little bits of Worcestershire to Gheluvelt itself, leaving England in expectation and high spirits, as all soldiers did. Then we shall return to the city after acts of Remembrance in Belgium, mindful of the many who did not, but thankful for their deeds on that day 100 years ago.”
In the words of the people
At Worcester Art Gallery and Museum, the words and mementoes of Worcestershire’s people will be brought together in public for the first time as part of the First World War in the words of Worcestershire’s people through diaries, letters and local artefacts that include the silver-mounted hooves of Jerry, a German horse rescued at the Western Front by the Worcester Regiment, who lived out his life giving rides to local children off Pitchcroft.
The Art Gallery and Museum is also host to an exhibition focused on the Battle of Gheluvelt in the Worcestershire Soldier gallery.
“October 31 is a significant moment in Worcestershire’s history," says Dr Adrian Gregson, Worcestershire World War One Hundred Project Director. "Through our programme, we hope we've created a range of ways for the people of Worcestershire to commemorate and remember Battles, such as Gheluvelt, that had such a huge impact at the front and at home.
"Over the coming four years, we'll continue to encourage people to explore, through our events and activities, what the Great War really meant for the people of Worcestershire as well as the legacy it left behind.”
In the footsteps of the Worcesters
In addition to the events taking place on the day, October 28 sees a special seminar at The Hive, Worcester.
In Centenary of the Battle of Gheluvelt, Dr Spencer Lewis and Dr Janis Lewis will give perspectives from the battle itself and, on the home front, the women left behind who became widows.
The same day, history teacher Andrew Trickett will begin his journey to Gheluvelt by bike. His aim is to complete the 286-mile ride to raise funds for Acorns Children’s Hospice on the day of the centenary itself.
The events and exhibitions taking place on and around October 31 are part of Worcestershire World War One Hundred, which is funded through Heritage Lottery Fund. It's one the largest programmes of events across England commemorating the First World War and will involve cultural and heritage organisations county-wide through to 2018.
Faithful City residents can play their part in the commemorations by donating or loaning their Great War artefacts, memorabilia or stories for inclusion in the People’s Collection which will open at The Hive during the commemorations and run until 2018.
For the full Worcestershire World War One Hundred programme, click the link.