STRATFORDIANS gathered to pay tribute to one of World War One’s bravest combatants – Victoria Cross winner Reginald Warneford.
A plaque was unveiled to honour his service on Monday (June 8) – exactly 100 years to the day since he was given the highest award for bravery.
Reginald “Rex” Warneford was a former KES student so it was particularly fitting the ceremony was held just outside the school’s grounds on Church Street.
Hundreds of students were joined by members of the public who took to the streets to pay their respects to the ex-serviceman.
On June 7 1915, Rex was the first pilot to single-handedly bring down a German Zeppelin.
After chasing the Zepplin across Belgium, Rex succeeded in dropping bombs onto the flying machine from a height of only a few hundred feet, causing a huge explosion which set it alight.
The explosion was big enough to also damage his own aircraft so Rex was forced to make an emergency behind enemy lines.
Using his ingenuity, he managed to repair his damaged plane with only a cigarette holder and a handkerchief – returning to base fifteen minutes later.
The following day he was contacted by King George V, who awarded him a Victoria Cross, to added to his Knight’s Cross of the Legion d’Honneur – the highest French honour.
Sadly, only a few days after receiving both medals, Rex died in the British Military Hospital in Versailles after being thrown from his aircraft in an accident.
Rex’s commemorative plaque was almost not allowed to be installed as Government regulations stipulate any commemorative stones dedicated to VC winners must be exclusively for those born in Britain.
Rex was born in India and was therefore not due to receive a plaque, but a campaign was launched to reverse the decision with support from the Old Edwardians – King Edward VI’s alumni.
The decision was then overturned and a plaque was allowed to be built at the school.
Headmaster Bennet Carr said: “Our thanks to all those who supported our campaign for a commemorative stone.
“This memorial will ensure Rex’s conspicuous bravery will be remembered for generations to come in the town which he considered home.”