Proud day for family as Sidmouth’s forgotten war hero is finally honoured - exactly 100 years after his death

Service held in parish church to honour Sidmouth's forgotten war hero

Service held in parish church to honour Sidmouth's forgotten war hero - Credit: Archant

Three generations of family joined town and church representatives for dedication of memorial plaque to Garnett Oldrey

Service held in parish church to honour Sidmouth's forgotten war hero

Service held in parish church to honour Sidmouth's forgotten war hero - Credit: Archant

The family of Sidmouth’s forgotten war hero said it was a proud day to see him honoured by the town – exactly 100 years after his death.

Private Garnett Oldrey died in action on February 3, 1917, at the age of 19 – but, due to an administrative error, his name was not included on a memorial with 60 others from the parish who lost their lives in World War One.

His great nephew, Ian Collins launched an appeal two years ago – with the help of the Herald – for his relative to be remembered by the town he loved and a plaque to honour the ‘gallant soldier’ is now installed in Sidmouth Parish Church.

Three generations of Garnett’s family joined church and town representatives for a special memorial service to dedicate the plaque on Friday (February 3) and mark 100 years to the day since he ‘died a hero’s death’.

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Ian said: “It is brilliant to be here today. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work so to finally get him recognised is fantastic. It is also lovely to see so many people here. It is a very proud day for the family.”

He added that his mother Eileen Collins (nee Oldrey) was unable to attend the service due to ill health but her husband Ben went in her place and she intends to visit the plaque as soon as she can.

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Garnett’s great nephews Kelwyn and Brian Oldrey, with their wives, Kim and Joy, attended, along with Ian’s wife Claire and four-year-old daughter Ruby.

Kelwyn said: “Ian and so many other people have put so much good work in and its nice to have so many people here for the service.”

Born in Sidmouth, Garnett lived with his parents in Mill Street before signing up for military service with his elder brother – Ian’s grandfather, William Oldrey.

Both men served in the 1st/4th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, and were deployed to Mesopotamia – now Iraq – to fight the Ottoman army.

Garnett died fighting in the trenches and is buried alongside nearly 5,000 British and Indian allies at the Amara War Cemetery in southern Iraq. It is believed William was injured in the same battle.

The Reverend Canon Dr Philip Bourne conducted the service and described it as ‘wonderful and fitting’ that Garnett has finally taken his place among the other heroes of Sidmouth who paid the ultimate price for their country.

Special thanks was given to Malcolm Steward - a member of the Parochial Church Council – for his tireless efforts in commissioning the plaque and Norton Memorials of Axminster for the expert advice and guidance.

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