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  1. ITV Report

Commemorative paving stone in honour of World War One hero

A Bradford World War One hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross is being honoured with a commemorative paving stone in the city.

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious military decoration and is awarded for valour in the face of the enemy.

Private George William Chafer was awarded the Victoria Cross for an outstanding act of bravery.

The stone is being laid in Norfolk Gardens exactly 100 years to the day that 22-year-old Private George William Chafer was awarded the Victoria Cross for an outstanding act of bravery.

For conspicuous bravery during a very heavy hostile bombardment and attack on our trenches, a man carrying an important written message to his company commander was half buried and rendered unconscious by a shell. Private Chafer, at once grasping the situation, on his own initiative, took the message from the man’s pocket, and, although severely wounded in three places, ran along the ruined parapet under heavy shell and machine gun fire, and just succeeded in delivering it before he collapsed from the effects of his wounds. He displayed great initiative and a splendid devotion to duty at a critical moment.

– Private Chafer's medal citation

Commemorative paving stones are being laid across the country to honour recipients of the Victoria Cross.

The stone for Private Chafer is the second of three stones to be laid in Bradford to commemorate the actions of Victoria Cross recipients from the city. Each stone is being laid on the 100th anniversary of the action for which the VC was awarded.

Private George William Chafer of The East Yorkshire Regiment, was born in 1894 in Bradford and moved to Epworth, Lincolnshire, with his mother who died shortly after. Will was raised by his aunt in Rotherham and before joining the army, he worked as a clerk.

He joined the army on 2 June 1915, not having signed up before as he was unsure he would be accepted owing to his small stature. After training for six months in England, he was posted to C Company, 1st Battalion, stationed at Meaulte just south of Albert in France. It was here that he was awarded the VC for an outstanding act of bravery on 3-4th June 1916 – his soldier friends then named him ‘Willie the youngest and smallest VC’.

Willie survived the war, but with severe injuries to his leg and he later had a false limb fitted. He tried his hand at dairy and poultry farming and ended his working life with a job at the Ministry of Labour in Rotherham, where he died in 1966 at the local hospital.

The outstanding bravery of Private Chafer was long ago recognised by his country with the VC. However, at a time when a number of families in Bradford are thinking about sacrifices made by young men in 1916, it is right that the city itself should commemorate in a very special way the courageous initiative of Private Chafer and the honour in which he was held by both by fellow soldiers friends and by the nation.

– Lord Mayor of Bradford Coun Geoff Reid