Families gather for paintings tribute to Shropshire regiment heroes

Relatives of two Shropshire regiment heroes were honoured guests at the unveiling of specially commissioned paintings – the first to record the courageous exploits which saw them win the Victoria Cross and Military Cross.

Dr Alison Morgan with the picture depicting her father's heroism.
Dr Alison Morgan with the picture depicting her father's heroism.

Among those at the Army Reserve Centre at Dawley Bank, Telford, were 88-year-old Dorothy Whitfield, whose father Harold Whitfield won the VC during the Great War, and Dr Alison Morgan, whose father Bill Keymer won the MC in Italy in 1944.

Sergeant Harold Whitfield, VC.

The event marked the completion of a "Shropshire trilogy" of three paintings by artist David Thorp of Wellington celebrating the Shropshire Yeomanry which have taken pride of place at the centre, the home of the successor unit, D (Shropshire Yeomanry) Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry.

Captain Nick Trevor of D Squadron said: "This is the culmination of a three year collaboration between David and myself with the three paintings, the Shropshire trilogy as we call it.

"We wanted to celebrate the completion of the work with the Keymer and Whitfield families.

Bill Keymer won the Military Cross.

"It's our understanding these are the first paintings that have been produced of the brave actions of their relatives while serving in various evolutions of the Shropshire Yeomanry.

"So it's a mix of celebration and remembrance and thanks for their commitment to the Shropshire Yeomanry in its current guise of D Squadron Royal Yeomanry as it plays its part in inspiring the Yeomen of the future with the understanding of the historic significance of the actions of their Shropshire Yeomanry comrades of yesteryear."

The paintings have been hung on the walls of the mess, in the Harold Whitfield VC Rooms at the Dawley Bank premises.

David Thorp's painting showing Bill Keymer's exploit which won him the Military Cross.

Dorothy, who is from Llangollen, was one of about a dozen relatives of Harold Whitfield there, while five members of Bill Keymer's family were there.

After the curtain was pulled back Dorothy, seeing the painting for the first time, caused laughter when she said: "It does resemble him a little bit."

Dorothy Whitfield chats to Captain Nick Trevor.

But she added: "It's amazing. I think it's very good, I'm very pleased with it. He has got the little moustache that he always had."

She said she did not know what he would have thought.

"He would be very proud, I expect."

Harold Whitfield wins the VC, as depicted in David Thorp's painting.

Her father, who was from Oswestry, served in the Shropshire Yeomanry –which became the 10th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry – and won the VC in March 1918 when he stormed a Turkish machine gun post. He was a Private at the time and was promoted to Sergeant.

Members of the Whitfield family around the painting.

Bill Keymer, from Alderley Edge, served in the 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, and won the Military Cross for an incident in Italy on December 30, 1944. Ammunition dumps were hit and the then Lieutenant Keymer rushed out to separate the burning charges from others, preventing a large conflagration.

Alison, from Wells, Somerset, said of the ceremony: "My father would have been flabbergasted.

"He was a very modest and humble man. When I asked what he had been given an MC for he said 'misdemeanours in Italy.'"

Dr Alison Morgan with the picture depicting her father's heroism.

Bill did however once open up about what had happened to his nephew, Dennis Greenland, now 82.

"I asked him – schoolboys of 15 really want to know when they have somebody famous in the family who won the MC. That was 67 years ago now," said Mr Greenland, from Coventry.

"The impression he gave was that it was almost a ride in the park, easy, with no danger involved, although one thing I remember him saying was that he was somewhat exposed – in fact they were under a great deal of enemy fire."

Alison said of the artwork: "It looks really good. It's been done quite cleverly with a fair bit of interpretation and artistic licence. The action took place after dark and has been depicted during the day so they can show more personalities and values behind the event."

Her father lived in Wells at the end of his life.

"He died seven years ago. He would have been 100 had he been here today."

His widow, Faith, is in a care home.

The third painting in the trilogy is a composite work by David Thorp including various symbolic elements relevant to the heritage and history of Shropshire Yeomanry.

Replicas of Harold Whitfield's medals were taken to the ceremony.
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