A reminder of the bravery of Watford war hero awarded Victoria Cross

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The Watford Observer has teamed up with Watford Museum and its curator Sarah Priestley to take a journey back to the town’s past through items or places of historical significance.

Number 43 in our ‘history of Watford in 50 objects’ is something you may have walked past very recently without realising it was there or its significance – it is a paving stone embedded into the pavement on the Lower High Street just south of the main entrance to the shopping centre which commemorates the bravery of Captain George Pearkes who served in the Quebec Regiment in the First World War.

Sarah said: “Captain Pearkes was born in 1888 at 127 High Street over the draper’s shop his family owned. In 1906 he emigrated to Canada where he joined the Royal Mounted Police. In 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Mounted Rifles to serve in the First World War in Europe. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 for his outstanding valour whilst leading Canadian troops at Passchendale in Belgium, Britain’s highest service award for gallantry.

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“After the war he was able to return home to Canada where he continued his military service and before entering federal politics. He made a special visit to his birthplace and maintained an affection for Watford, and when he died in 1984 at the age of 96 was buried with full military honours.

“The paving stone was granted to the town as part of events to mark the centenary of the First World War, and is a lasting reminder of the bravery and service of those who fought in the First World War.

“The stone was unveiled in 2017 by the Mayor of Watford, British Legion and representatives from the Canadian and British Armed Forces. It is very appropriate to share this with Armed Forces Day on June 26.”

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Watford Museum has now reopened to the public. Admission is free but book first – call 01923 232297 or email [email protected] For more information, visit www.watfordmuseum.org.uk

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