HUNDREDS of flag-waving people thronged a town centre to recreate the rousing homecoming of a Victoria Cross hero 100 years ago.

Private Michael Heaviside stunned onlookers with his valour, crawling 60 yards across No Man’s Land under heavy fire to bring water and first aid to a wounded soldier lying in a shell hole during the Battle of Arras, risking his life to bring him back to the trenches.

The Northern Echo: COMMEMORATION: Norman Heaviside, in uniform, paraded through Stanley on a horse-drawn carriage Picture: GAVIN ENGELBRECHT

Loading article content

COMMEMORATION: Norman Heaviside, in uniform, paraded through Stanley on a horse-drawn carriage Picture: GAVIN ENGELBRECHT

The Durham Light Infantry soldliers’ homecoming on July 12, 1917, was re-enacted today on Stanley Front Street with a parade involving local schoolchildren dressed in a variety of costumes provided by Beamish Museum.

The procession, led by Craghead Colliery Band and including local miners’ banners, was joined by by Norman Heaviside, who played the role of his grandfather.

Arriving in a horse-drawn charabanc and dressed in period uniform, he addressed the crowds on the steps of the former Town Hall.

Mr Heaviside said later: “It has been a surreal experience.

“It was a great honour to play the part of my grandfather. I can only imagine what Michael was feeling when he came back from the First World War.

“We are very proud of him. He was a very humble man who did a great act. My father, also Norman, was a regimental sergeant major and talked about him incessantly.”

Earlier in the day, a Michael Heaviside VC Commemorative Stone, which includes his name, rank, regiment and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded, was unveiled at a site in Craghead next to to the former Bloemfontein Terrace and current Greylingstadt Terrace, where he lived and died.

A Stanley Town Council Commemorative Plaque for Pte Heaviside was also be unveiled on Bloemfontein School, following which guests and Heaviside family members and relatives were invited into Craghead Village Hall to look at DLI collection pieces and VC Commemorative banners.

Daniel O’Brien, Stanley Area Action Partnership Coordinator said: “The turnout has been absolutely excellent. The kids with their flags and period costume has really made the event.

“Local county council members, members of Stanley Town Council, Heaviside family members and local residents wanted to celebrate and officially remember the heroics of Michael Heaviside VC.

“We have had a number of schools involved as part of an education package.

“Pupils of Bloemfontein Primary School and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School all turned out to take part today.”