East Ham World War I Hero honoured by Newham Council

12 April 2017 in Events and Mayor
‘Newham is proud of your actions’ – that was the message from the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, yesterday (Tuesday) as he unveiled a commemorative stone in honour of an East Ham man who received a Victoria Cross (VC) in World War I.
Hundreds of people attended the ceremony led by Sir Robin at the Cenotaph in Central Park, East Ham, to honour Lance-Corporal Harold Sanford Mugford. His courage during the battle for Arras in northern France in April 1917 earned him a VC - the highest award for gallantry a member of the British and Commonwealth military services can achieve.

Five people from Newham received VCs for their heroics during World War I and Newham Council is providing a lasting commemoration of their bravery with special stones at the Cenotaph. All of the stones are being unveiled around the 100th anniversary of the act of bravery they received the award for.

The stone for Lance-Corporal Mugford - which was unveiled by the Mayor, Harold Mugford’s godson Chris Collins, and the Honorary Secretary of the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades Association, Judith Lappin – is the fourth of the five stones to be unveiled.

Harold Sanford Mugford, who as a child lived in Wyndham Road and Gilbert Avenue in East Ham and attended Shrewsbury Road School, joined the volunteer cavalry unit the Essex Yeomanry in 1912. After training in Suffolk, Harold was posted to France in November 1914.

In March 1916 he was transferred from the Essex Yeomanry to the Machine Gun Corps. On 11 April 1917, during the battle for Arras in northern France, his unit was ordered to capture the high ground on the east and north east of Monchy-le-Preux, a village about five miles east of Arras.

Harold and another soldier were in an exposed area of the battlefield. They both came under fire, and his comrade was killed. Harold was wounded, and an incoming shell left him with two broken legs. Despite his injuries Harold remained at his post, providing covering fire for his unit and inflicting damage on the enemy.

He was taken to a dressing station to have his wounds dealt with, but was again wounded in the arm whilst there. Harold was not expected to survive but lived and was brought back to England where he needed six operations. Both his legs were amputated above the knee. The wound in his arm was treated and shrapnel embedded in his hip, tongue and jaw was removed.

Lance-Corporal Mugford died on 16 June 1958 and his VC medal is currently on long-term loan to the Imperial War Museum.

Colonel Vic Matthews OBE, of Colonel Reserves London District; Reg Pinney, Chairman of the Greater London District of the Royal British Legion; and the Young Mayor of Newham, Khadija Sethi, also attended the service.  The event was also attended by Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, who is one of only two serving soldiers who have a VC.

The stone was blessed by Chaplin to East Ham and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, Reverend Fred Ashford –Oaki.

Lance Sergeant Beharry said: “I am here representing the modern military to show that the heroic efforts of Lance-Corporal Mugford are still remembered and were not in vain.”

Harold Mugford’s godson, Chris Collins, also spoke at the ceremony. He said: “Harold Mugford was an extraordinary soldier and citizen. He was modest and proud of his regiment, and carried his injuries without complaint and bore no malice. He was an admired and useful member of society until his death. We loved him.”

Sir Robin said: “Newham is proud of the brave and selfless acts of Lance-Corporal Harold Mugford and the other Newham residents who received the Victoria Crosses for their actions in World War I.

“It is only right that we create a permanent reminder of their selfless bravery in the face of war.

“In bestowing the highest honour of the Victoria Cross, Lance-Corporal Mugford embodies the values of resilience, determination and solidarity. This is a lesson that serves Newham today as we stand together learning from the past and facing the future.”