Wellingborough World War One hero honoured with commemorative stone

Yesterday's unveiling of the commemorative stone
Yesterday's unveiling of the commemorative stone

Schoolchildren were among the guests at the unveiling of a tribute to a British flying ace.

To celebrate the centenary of the end of World War One, Wellingborough Council set up a World War One Working Party which commissioned the Victoria Cross Paving Stone in honour of the life of Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock.

The commemorative stone

The commemorative stone

The monument commemorates war heroes who were awarded the Victoria Cross, which was given in recognition of bravery of the first order in aerial combat from June 17 to July 22, 1918.

Wellingborough mayor Malcolm Ward officially unveiled the stone at the town’s Swanspool Gardens yesterday (Tuesday).

Although not born in the borough, Mick Mannock moved to Wellingborough by the age of 24 where he became an active member of the community.

He lodged with the Eyles family at 183, Mill Road, and came to regard Wellingborough as his home town.

Major Edward 'Mick' Mannock

Major Edward 'Mick' Mannock

He was working in Turkey when war broke out.

After being interned as a prisoner of war, he was badly treated and fell ill.

Believing him to be unfit for service, the Turkish authorities sent him home.

But Mannock recovered, joined the Royal Engineers, transferred to the Royal Army medical Corps and then to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

By February 1918, he was a fighter ace with 16 victories to his name and a flight commander with 74 Squadron.

In July, he became commanding officer of 85 Squadron, but was killed in a dogfight on July 26, 1918, over the Western Front.

A year later he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mannock’s body was never recovered, but his name is on the RFC Memorial at Arras in France and Wellingborough’s War Memorial.

He is honoured elsewhere in the town, including Mannock Road and the Mannock Medical Centre at Isebrook Hospital.

Ahead of yesterday’s commemorations, pupils were asked to research a World War One serviceman or woman from the local area and add this to a factsheet to be displayed in Swanspool Gardens until after Remembrance Sunday.

Schools which took part included Great Doddington Primary School, Irchester Primary School and Victoria Primary Academy.

Several pupils from these schools joined officers and members of the council, along with dignitaries including Air Marshal Deputy Lieutenant Andrew White for the unveiling.

Other guests included representatives from 378 Mannock Squadron Air Cadets, which is named after Mick Mannock, Wellingborough’s Royal British Legion branch and the Friends of Wellingborough Library.

Cllr Ward said: “I am honoured to be able to officially unveil the Victoria Cross Paving Stone at Swanspool Gardens and I hope that the pupils enjoyed learning about all of the brave men and women from our borough who fought in the First World War.”

Cllr Jon-Paul Carr, chairman of the World War One Working Party, said: “Communities across the country are coming together to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

“The World War One Working Party aims to remember those brave service men and women from our borough, and the Victoria Cross Paving Stone celebrates Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, who spent much time in our town before heading to war.”

Council leader Martin Griffiths said: “Wellingborough is rich in history and culture making it a place for us all to be proud of.

“We wish to commemorate the past sacrifices made by brave servicemen and women and celebrate the present and future of our wonderful borough.”