The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to First World War servicemen whose bravery earned them the Victoria Cross, including a lance corporal who single-handedly stormed a machine gun post.
During a visit to the region, Prince William laid a wreath at a service outside Birmingham’s Hall of Memory as he unveiled ten of 627 memorial stones commissioned by the Government to honour all those awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during the Great War.
Under the five-year initiative, announced by the Communities Secretary in 2013, commemorative paving stones are being laid around the British Isles to honour VC winners in their home communities.
Among the ten servicemen honoured in Birmingham was Corporal William Amey, who was awarded the VC in November 1918 for “most conspicuous bravery” in killing two enemy troops manning a machine gun inside a farmhouse.
The member of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, from Duddeston, then drove other enemy soldiers into a cellar before taking 20 prisoners after help arrived.
After laying a wreath with a hand-written message paying tribute to “those who paid the ultimate sacrifice” and “did not fear to put their country and their comrades” before themselves, William chatted with relatives of some of those honoured by the ten memorial stones.
A great-nephew and two great-nieces of Private Arthur Vickers, who survived the First World War and died in 1944, were among those who spoke with the Duke after a brief service addressed by the Bishop of Birmingham.
Pte Vickers, from Aston, was awarded the VC in 1915 after braving a “firestorm” of shells and bullets to cut through barbed wire holding up his battalion which was trying to attack in northern France.
The soldier’s great-nephew, Alan Vickers, 62, said after meeting William: “The memorial means everything to the family but it’s also a recognition of Birmingham as well.
“It has put the icing on the cake that his (the Duke’s) generation also revere what past generations have done and sacrifices which they have made.”
Speaking during the short service of remembrance, Brigadier Robin Anderton-Brown, the head of the Army in the West Midlands, said of the ten First World War heroes: “These were brave men from a remarkable generation that endured great hardships wherever they served.
“It is a huge honour to be able to celebrate their lives and status as Victoria Cross recipients together with their relatives.
“The ten men who we remember today are among 627 Victoria Cross recipients of the Great War.
“They are testament to the fighting spirit and prowess in battle of those from this great city, a tradition that continues today with significant numbers of our armed forces coming from Birmingham and the West Midlands region.”
On his third visit to Birmingham in as many years, William also dropped in at the Football for Peace Global pilot project in the Saltley area, Bournville College and charity St Basil’s, which offers support to the homeless.
During an hour-long visit to Bournville College’s conference centre, the Duke showed his support for an anti-bullying campaign run by the Diana Award, a charity set up in memory of his mother.
The Duke listened to an anti-bullying rap performed by primary school children from Quarry Bank, West Midlands, and took part in creating a poster promoting the slogan “Together We are One”.
Recent research conducted by the Diana Award has shown that three-quarters (76 per cent) of young people feel they do not always fit in at school because of their identity.
Tessy Ojo, chief executive of the Diana Award, said: “These latest statistics highlight how overwhelming identity-based bullying is for many young people today.
“We welcome the Duke’s support on fostering a safer and bully-free environment which celebrates diversity, instead of being threatened by it.”
Around 50 children from across the Midlands took part in diversity workshops and gave presentations on projects they had set up in their schools to tackle the issue of bullying.
As part of one workshop, the Duke of Cambridge was asked to write down what made him different.
He simply wrote: “I am a Prince.”
Later in the day, Prince William enjoyed a rap by pupils from the Quarry Bank Primary School in Dudley called Record It, Report it, Don’t Support it.
He also had his photograph taken for a collage aimed to promote the charity’s message of: “We are all different, but together we are one.”
The Duke of Cambridge even made a joke about his thinning hair, saying: “Are you able to put Alex’s hair on mine?”
Rhyley Williams, aged 12 and a former pupil at the Quarry Bank Primary School in Dudley, said he was delighted to meet the Duke.
He said: “It was exciting and nerve-wracking.
“I was pleased to see he was interested in what we’re doing.
Later in the day, Prince William enjoyed a rap by pupils from the Quarry Bank Primary School in Dudley called Record It, Report it, Don’t Support it. “He was very nice.”