The region's war veterans bade farewell to 'one of their own' yesterday at the funeral of a man who worked tirelessly to keep alive the memory of their sacrifice.
Family, friends and veterans watched 76 doves released into the air to commemorate each year in the life of Geoff Davis from Birmingham who was a national figure in the Western Front Association.
He was a founder of the Birmingham Branch 25 years ago and was secretary until his death from a heart attack on March 19.
Geoff was a senior social worker in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Leicester, but went to great lengths to ensure the memory of the men who served in the deadly trenches of the Western Front between 1914 and 1918 would not be forgotten.
The number of British and Colonial soldiers killed or counted as Missing in Action, presumed dead, on the Western Front is officially given as 750,000 but statistics from that era are notoriously unreliable and many historians think the number could be much higher.
Established in 1980 by noted military historian John Giles, the WFA has grown over the years to more than 6,500 members worldwide but there are now only 12 Great War veterans left in the UK.
The WFA has supported many remembrance and research projects, from the renovation of battlefield memorials, to organising care for the veterans, to reestablishing the 11 o'clock two-minute silence at the Cenotaph on the 11th November each year.
It was formed with the aim of perpetuating the memory, courage and comradeship of both sides who served their countries during the many battles on the Western Front in France, but one of Geoff's guiding principles was that they should never seek to to glorify war and that they remained entirely nonpolitical. His widow Merry said: "Geoff's role required him to maintain contact with many veterans both nationally and internationally and was always away visiting them and, inevitably, attending many funerals.
"Whenever an important anniversary came around he would be the one the media would call on and would he always be there for veterans, but the reason we released the doves was as a symbol of the peace he desired so much."
Geoff was also a national committee member serving first as the Veteran Affairs Officer which required him to
But his role was becoming increasingly obsolete as the veterans numbers dwindled so he eventually became national branch coordinator nurturing the 60 to 70 branches both in Britain and abroad.
One project involved two French journalists living with him at his home in Birmingham while they interviewed veterans for a book about the war.
Jonathan Dale, chairman of the Birmingham branch of the WFA, said: "He was committed to the veterans and worked tirelessly on their behalf."
He was also very keen to promote the educational side of the organisation and organised lectures from eminent speakers and in was in the process of major fundraising for a memorial to the war commemorating every stage and battle at the National Memorial Arboretum in Cannock when he died from a heart attack. His family and friends have asked people to donate money to the National Memorial Arboretum marked for The Western Front Memorial. For more information visit the WFA Birmingham's website which is located at www.wfa.birmingham.co.uk or phone 01827 52862.