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Pavement tribute to Islington’s Victoria Cross heroes

Soldiers were awarded Britain’s highest war medal for their service during the First World War

23 March, 2018 — By Mahmoud Shukri

A memorial stone for Lance Corporal John Sayer is laid at Islington Memorial Green

TWO Islington-born soldiers who were both awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest war medal, for their service during the First World War were remembered by the Town Hall this week.

Memorial stones were laid to honour Lance Corporal John William Sayer and Lieutenant Colonel Frank Crowther Roberts at Islington Memorial Green on Wednesday, 100 years after their heroic actions.

Lance Corporal Sayer, born in Wellington Road, now called Lough Road, single-handedly seized and defended an isolated outpost near Le Verguier in Northern France on March 21, 1918. His actions have been cited as having had an immense effect on holding back the German offensive, which stalled as they were held up by the Queen’s Regiment.

The family of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Roberts at Islington Memorial Green

He was wounded in action and died four weeks later aged 39.

Lieutenant Colonel Roberts, who was born in Ham­il­ton Road – now Hamilton Park – in Highbury, led a counter attack which temporarily drove the enemy out of a village on the Western Front in 1918, giving cover to withdrawing British troops. He remained in the Army after the war, attaining the rank of Major General, and retired in December 1939. He died in January 1982.

The ceremony was attended by over 50 family members from around the country along with the Mayor of Isling­ton, serving members of the armed forces, veterans and local councillors.

Colin Sayer, grandson of Lance Corporal Sayer, said the family were “very proud” to see the plaque be laid.

Lance Corporal John Sayer (photo: Islington Local History Centre) and, right, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Roberts (photo: Islington Local History Centre)

Councillor Gary Poole, Islington Council’s armed forces champion, said: “Both men showed great courage under fire and risked their own lives. Today we also remember the brave servicemen and women who serve their country today, and who still put their personal safe­ty and lives on the line.”

Dennis Sharrocks, chairman of Islington Veterans’ Association, said it was “only right for the borough to remember them and commemorate what they did for their country”.

The ceremony marked the final two of five memorial stones laid in Islington as part of the national Victoria Cross Paving Stones project, supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Across the UK, paving stones have been laid in honour of each of the 627 men who were awarded Victoria Crosses between 1914 and 1918. Each stone is laid in the town where the recipient was born.

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