Chorley tribute to World War I Victoria Cross hero

18 May 2015

A commemorative paving stone is set to be unveiled in Chorley next week to honour the memory of local Victoria Cross winner, Rifleman William Mariner VC.
Chorley Council has arranged for the Victoria Cross paving stone to be installed in the grounds of St Laurence’s Church on Union Street during a special ceremony which will take place on Friday 22 May 2015.  It is part of a national scheme that will see all 628 Victoria Cross recipients of the First World War commemorated with a paving stone in their place of birth.
Rifleman William Mariner VC was born in Wellington Street, Chorley in 1882 and served in a number of battles until his death near Loos on 30 June 1916, aged just 34 years old.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, in 1915 after he single-handedly attacked and destroyed a machine gun post on the battlefield of Cambrai.
There are very few traces of William Mariner VC in and around Chorley; however, a slate plaque was unveiled in his honour at St Laurence's Old School on Parker Street in 2002 by Chorley Civic Society.
The Deputy Leader of Chorley Council, Councillor Peter Wilson, said: “Not a lot of people know about William Mariner and the brave, heroic acts he performed during the First World War.  It is only fitting that we pay tribute to him locally and it is a great honour for Chorley to have this commemorative stone.
“The church yard of St Laurence’s was identified as the ideal location for the stone as local people and visitors will be able to view it and it is not too far away from where William Mariner was born.  Winning a Victoria Cross is a rare and prestigious honour and residents should be proud of William Mariner’s supreme act of gallantry and what the commemorative stone stands for.
“The installation of this commemorative stone is also an opportune time to appeal to anyone who has information about the whereabouts of William Mariner’s Victoria Cross to come forward and contact the council.  The Victoria Cross was last seen in 2006 when it was sold at auction in London and it would be the ultimate tribute to William Mariner to know that his Victoria Cross was in safe hands.”
Brigadier Christopher Coles, Commander of Preston-based 42nd Infantry Brigade and HQ North West, said: "William Mariner had been a Regular solider between 1900 and 1912, and so when the First World War started, he returned to his old regiment as a Reservist.
“His heroism and strength of character is shown not only by how he won his Victoria Cross, but also in the manner of his death while fighting in a German trench the following year. It is, therefore, very right and fitting that the Army and the town commemorate Rifleman Mariner in a way which shows that no matter what adversities we have to overcome, we can all perform great acts.”
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Sawers, Rifles Regional Colonel, said:  “The Rifles as successors to Rifleman Mariner’s regiment, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, are honoured to have been invited to take part in this VC stone unveiling ceremony so that we can continue to commemorate the valiant deeds of our forebears.  The courage shown by today’s Riflemen in conflicts around the world and demonstrated repeatedly in battle, indicates that the same determination and valour which William Mariner showed 100 years ago, is still an intrinsic element in the heart and mind of the modern, thinking Rifleman.”
Notes to editors:
The media are invited to attend a special ceremony at 2.30pm on Friday 22 May at St Laurence’s Church, Union Street, Chorley where William Mariner’s Victoria Cross Commemorative Stone will be unveiled.  Please confirm your attendance in advance.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is currently helping local communities around the UK to commemorate Victoria Cross (VC) recipients of the First World War by presenting councils in areas where they were born with commemorative paving slabs.
The Victoria Cross was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria and is the highest military decoration. It is awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
William Mariner was presented with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 12 August 1915.  His service details are:
1902   King's Royal Rifle Corps – India Served 1902 -1909
1909  Transferred to Reserves
1914   Re-joined Old Regiment as Rifleman 2nd Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
1915   Cambrin sector (2nd Battle of Ypres)Attacking and Destroying Machine Gun Post
1915   12 August Victoria Cross Investiture Buckingham Palace London England Investiture by King George V
1915   24 August Wounded France sent back to England
1915   12 October Returned to France
1916   30 June Death near Loos
2006   23 November Victoria Cross sold in London for £105,000
For further information and to confirm your attendance at the ceremony, please contact Campaigns and Engagement Manger (Events) Louise Finch on 01257 515062

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