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Shropshire heroes of epic battle honoured 100 years on - with pictures and video

By Toby Neal | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Descendants of some of the heroes of a Shropshire regiment's finest hour shared stories of their illustrious forebears as the county paid a centenary tribute to their exploits at the Battle of Bligny.

A church service, reception, and public concert in Shrewsbury were the climax to 100th anniversary events to remember the men who fought the battle on June 6, 1918, in which the Fourth Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry successfully stormed the hill at Bligny, near Reims in France, under heavy fire.

The action gained the entire battalion a rare unit award of the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme from the admiring French.

Shrewsbury centenary tribute to Battle of Bligny heroes

A special guest at Saturday's events was Mark Adams, grandson of Lieutenant Geoff Bright, the young officer from Ludlow who found himself in command that day and led the men up the hill.

He was one of three men to gain individual awards of the medal.

Commemorations comprised a service at St Chad's Church, at which guests included Colonel Antoine de Loustal, the French Military Attache to the United Kingdom, followed by a reception and buffet lunch at Shropshire Regimental Museum at Shrewsbury Castle, and then a band and bugles concert in the castle grounds.

Mark Adams, whose grandfather Lieutenant Geoff Bright led the attack at Bligny, looks at photographs brought along by 86-year-old Brian Peace, whose father 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Peace of Wellington fought under Lieutenant Bright at Bligny.

Earlier, on the exact anniversary of the battle, June 6, there had been a ceremony at Bligny itself.

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Mark, a retired Major who lives near Milton Keynes, said the centenary events had been very fitting and added: "My grandfather would have been humbled."

At the castle he struck up a conversation with 86-year-old Brian Peace, son of 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Peace.

Mrs Sue Keen, whose grandfather Sergeant Tom Poole of Ironbridge was awarded an individual Croix de Guerre Avec Palme, chatting to Lieutenant Colonel John Marsham, president of the Bligny Officers' Club.

"He served under your grandfather," Mr Peace told Mark.

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"He fought at the Battle of Bligny. He just got away with it. He came back alive."

Mr Peace, who came to the ceremony from his home near Tiverton in Devon, said his father was from Wellington and was a lawyer with Littlewood, Peace and Lanyons.

Mark Adams read out his grandfather Lieutenant Geoff Bright's account of the Bligny attack at the centenary commemorations.

Mrs Sue Keen, who came up from Neyland in South Wales, is granddaughter of Sergeant Tom Poole, of Ironbridge, one of the trio who received an individual Croix de Guerre.

"It's been a real treat for us to come up. This could have just passed us by without us even knowing," she said.

Like many Great War veterans, her grandfather spoke little about what happened.

The Last Post is sounded on Bligny Hill during commemorative events there on the exact anniversary

"I never heard the story about why he got the Croix de Guerre. He said 'I made a good cup of tea.'"

Wendy Palin of Wellington, granddaughter of Bligny veteran Tom Turner of Oakengates, said: "He was with Mark's granddad and went up the hill but I know nothing about it apart from the fact that he was there. We took my mother to Bligny Hill in 2006."

Also enjoying the sunshine at the events at Shrewsbury Castle was Mrs Mary McGrath, of Far Forest, whose grandfather Sergeant Frederick Langford of Horsehay was another of that Bligny band of brothers. And it was something of a birthday treat for daughter Sophia McGrath who was 27 on June 6 - Bligny day.

Brian Peace, 86, brought along various photos like this of his father Geoffrey Peace, who took part in the Bligny attack.

"We went to the church service and met some of the dignitaries and they gave us tickets," said Sophia, Sergeant Langford's great-granddaughter.

They went into the museum to see his medals, which include a Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded for the capture of a machinegun and taking 30 prisoners.

Sergeant Langford survived Bligny but was to die in a road accident in 1939.

Lieutenant Colonel John Marsham, President of the Bligny Officers' Club, said there had been a party of 70 retired KSLI officers from the club on the hill for a ceremony on the exact 100th anniversary.

"We were joined by a lot of French people. One thing that was really striking was the warmth of feeling from the French, particularly some of their children who read poetry at the site."

It was particularly nice that relatives of the Bligny soldiers had come to the Shrewsbury events.

He added that the Bligny Club was holding its final ever dinner on Friday, June 15.

"There are fewer and fewer of us about. A new club will then start with a wider membership base."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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