ON Saturday, the community around Witton Park – veterans and schoolchildren – will come together to commemorate the centenary of the astonishing self-sacrifice of Victoria Cross-winner Lieutenant-Commander GN Bradford.

When I write about his younger brothers Roland and James, who also won the Victoria Cross and the Military Cross during the First World War, I am quite happy to refer to them by their first names, but not GN.

The G stood for George and the N for Nicholson, but he always wanted to be known by his initials. “A curious thing,” he wrote in a letter home to Darlington, “I have never written George in my life.” That, though, was a sentence he could only write once.

GN’s story is fully told in tomorrow’s paper. It makes him the ultimate naval hero. In the heat of battle, when the mission was in jeopardy endangering the lives of 1,700 men, he made a split second decision to jump. He jumped because he knew jumping was the only way to save the mission; he jumped surely in the knowledge that jumping would inevitably condemn himself to instantaneous death.

What a decision!

Whenever I write about GN, I find it impossible not to put myself in his deck shoes. Would I have dared to jump?

Witton Park has embraced the Bradford brothers as their own, and the rules of the Department of Communities’ commemorations of Victoria Cross winners are that a special paving stone can only be placed at the winners’ place of birth.

Thus Witton Park – a small former colliery village at the head of the Stockton & Darlington Railway – gets two. It has used the commemorations brilliantly, getting children involved creatively, and commissioning Ray Lonsdale to make a trademark telling metal sculpture which has become the central feature of a new landmark memorial garden.

So today’s commemorations of the past create a sense of place for today and an identity for the future.

I don’t begrudge Witton Park any of this, but I do bemoan that Darlington has let the Bradford brothers slip through its fingers. The boys were born at Witton Park between 1887 and 1892, but in 1894 the family moved to Morton Palms, on the edge of Darlington, and in 1898 into the West End of town, where the boys went to school.

Just like George regarded himself as GN, so these Witton Park born boys regarded Darlington at home. So while the birthplace is commemorating them, with its youngsters writing, singing, performing, playing and – most importantly – thinking, the Bradfords seem to have passed their hometown by.

There was enough Bradford brilliance to be shared between birthplace and hometown.

AFTER writing last week about the roadside rubbish on the A167 south of Darlington, I feared I’d exaggerated, so I took another cycle out. There is definitely a section before Great Smeaton which seems to mark the point at which drinks purchased in Darlington are consumed so the empties are tossed out of the car window.

There’s a bottle or can or cup every square metre. Worse, two bottles had a murky light brown liquid in them which was not ginger ale. There was an ornamental watering can that a fortnight ago a garden centre had been selling with a primrose in it as a Mothering Sunday gift. There were long forgotten council roadsigns warning of "diverted traffic", and there was an entire bedroom.

Amazingly, in the seven days since I last passed along that main road someone had jettisoned a mattress, a bed, a bedside cabinet, a wardrobe and some shelves on the verge.

He jumped; we dump.