THE life-saving actions of a heroic Portsmouth soldier during the First World War have been commemorated in his home city.
In 1917 James Ockendon was awarded the Victoria Cross for selflessly capturing an enemy machine gun and killing its crew to save his platoon.
Yesterday his son and extended family were guests as a commemorative paving stone bearing his name was unveiled at the junction of Yorke Street and Norfolk Street. It was installed free of charge by city council contractor Colas.
Exactly 100 years ago yesterday, on October 4 1917, Sergeant Ockendon killed the gun’s crew before leading an attack on a farm east of Langemarck in Belgium.
Under heavy fire the 26-year-old rushed forward and called on the garrison to surrender, but as the enemy continued to shoot at him he opened fire, killing four and forcing the other 16 to surrender.
Sgt Ockendon, then in the 1st Battalion, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, is one of only four Portsmouth residents to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He died in 1966.
Yesterday his son Jimmy Ockendon, 95, said he was ‘very proud’ of his father.
He said: ‘It is a wonderful day. He did such a great thing during the war.’
Sgt Ockendon’s granddaughter, Elaine Ferris, said: ‘We are so honoured to be here. It’s amazing. We’re all so proud.’
His grandson Malc Ockendon added: ‘It was something he never really told anyone about when he was alive.’
Sgt Ockendon was born at 56 Albert Street, Landport, on December 10 1890, as one of nine children.
He went to school at St Agatha’s School in Landport, and worked at Messrs Chalcraft’s drapers in Russell Street before joining the army.
Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones said: ‘To have Sgt Ockendon’s family here has made the occasion very special and I am delighted to be able to support them.’
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, who was also present, said: ‘It is only fitting that we honour this amazing resident from our great city – Sgt James Ockendon VC – with a lasting tribute in the heart of Portsmouth.
‘We recognise the important contribution he made and it is a privilege to be part of this occasion to mark his bravery.’
The ceremony, also attended by Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Ken Ellcome and Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Nigel Atkinson, was held as part of a Department of Communities and Local Government campaign to honour all Victoria Cross recipients.
The campaign aim is to install the stones at, or close to, the birthplaces of holders.
It is hoped that the stones will honour bravery, provide a lasting legacy of VC recipients and help people gain a better understanding of how their area contributed to the war.