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Nephew and granddaughter of World War One Victoria Cross soldier meet for the first time

Stella Holmes and John McNamara, reunited after an article on their relative, VC winner, Cpl John Mcnamara

Stella Holmes and John McNamara, reunited after an article on their relative, VC winner, Cpl John Mcnamara

The story of a First World War Victoria Cross hero has brought together two of his relatives for the first time, almost a century after his death.

A newspaper feature on Bamber Bridge mill worker Corporal John McNamara described how he won the highest award for gallantry after almost single-handedly fighting off the enemy in the trenches, while his officers were killed or injured.

Cpl McNamara’s 89-year-old nephew, John, who was named after him, of Clayton-le-Woods, was traced as part of the story.

It came as a complete shock to Cpl McNamara’s granddaughter, Stella Holmes, who read the article in South Ribble Council’s Forward newspaper believing she was his only surviving relative.

Now the pair have been introduced for the first time at a special First World War production organised by the council called ‘Our Lives’.

Great-grandmother Stella, from Leyland, said: “It all came completely out of the blue.

“I received my copy of Forward through the door and when I opened it I was shocked to see my grandfather’s picture inside and a full story about his heroics.

“I couldn’t quite believe it when I then read about his nephew John – it’s strange to think we live so close to each other but yet never even knew each other existed.

“I was so excited to meet him. It was incredibly emotional.”

Stella spent more than 20 years living in Africa with her family and had been researching her grandfather so she could pass down information to her children and grandchildren.

She added: “My mother was only nine when my grandfather was killed in the war. She was one of his four daughters, but sadly only two of them survived.

“My grandmother would tell us that granddad had won the Victoria Cross, but we didn’t know much more.

“In fact, I only found out that he had a brother and sister when I went on a trip to France to visit his grave.

“To have now met John is just wonderful.”

Second World War veteran John, who pays tribute to his uncle every Armistice Day at a special plaque in School Lane, Bamber Bridge, said the reunion had also come as a complete surprise to him.

He added: “I haven’t lived in this part of the world since I joined the Royal Marines in 1942. I met my wife during the war and we settled in Bournemouth.

“I couldn’t believe it when they rang me to tell me about Stella.

“I had absolutely no idea about her or her family.

“It was so nice to meet her for the first time and we have exchanged telephone numbers so we can stay in touch.”

The citation for the Victoria Cross read: “For conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty”, but Cpl McNamara, a signaller for the East Surrey Regiment, was killed in action in France aged 30 before he received his honour.

Writing to his wife, Lieutenant Colonel Cameron, of the 9th Battalion, offered his condolences, with Cpl McNamara’s identity disc pinned to the top of the page.

He described him was of the the ‘most gallant’ men he had ever seen, and that it would be an honour to take his widow to the King to receive the Victoria Cross.

 

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