Sandwell to mark end of First World War centenary

Plans are taking shape in Sandwell to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Council staff are drawing up a programme for the summer and autumn in the lead up to the centenary of the Armistice in November, when services and parades will also be held across the six towns with armed forces and veterans’ organisations.

Museums, libraries and archives staff are planning a poppy-related poster project called Sandwell Remembers as well as exhibitions, displays and creative sessions with schools.

A new floral display of poppies has been planted in the Oak House Museum historic orchard area and Manor House Museum will hold a 100 Years Garden Party on Sunday 5 August to commemorate the centenary of both the end of the war and the first women getting the right to vote.

In November, Sandwell will be hosting a special Festival of Remembrance event and taking part in a national beacon-lighting chain. An event will also be held at Victoria Park, Smethwick, on Saturday 25 August to unveil a commemorative paving stone in honour of Harold John Colley VC.

Further plans for the centenary will be announced in the coming weeks.

Smethwick-born Harold Colley – who was living in Cheshire Road during the war – was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on the Western Front in August 1918 when he was killed in action aged 24. Colley had already been awarded the Military Medal in 1917.

On 25 August 1918, Colley was an acting sergeant in the 10th battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers when at Martinpuich, France, he went without orders to help two forward platoons holding an advanced position. He rallied the men and formed a defensive flank to prevent the enemy breaking through. Sandwell Council leader Councillor Steve Eling said:

“It’s very important we remember and raise awareness of the sacrifices made by people from the Sandwell area and all over the world in the First World War. We need to make sure we pass on the story to the next generation.

“We have held a number of commemorative events and interesting exhibitions over the past four years to mark the centenary of the war, and this year’s programme will build on that as we mark the war coming to an end.

“It will be fitting to unveil the last of three commemorative paving stones to Victoria Cross recipients who were born in our area, on the 100th anniversary of Harold Colley’s sacrifice.

“It’s not only the brave people who served at the front who we remember, but also those who were bereaved or killed on the home front, including the civilian casualties of the Zeppelin raids over Tipton and Wednesbury in 1916.”

Government-funded centenary commemorative paving stones have already been unveiled for Joseph John Davies VC at Victoria Park, Tipton, and Robert Edwin Phillips VC at Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich, who were awarded the Victoria Cross in 1916 and 1917 respectively.


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