Unveiling of Commemorative Victoria Cross Stone in L'head
A sailor who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions during the First World War was remembered by his family and gathered dignitaries at a special commemorative ceremony held on Saturday 7 October at Park Gardens, in his birthplace of Leatherhead.
Lieutenant Harold Auten of the Royal Naval Reserve, who was born in Leatherhead on 22nd August 1891, was commander of the Q ship, HMS Stock Force, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 30th July 1918. Despite the extensive damage to the vessel, Lieutenant Auten ordered his crew to return fire and sank the U-boat. His actions were described in the 20th November 1918 edition of the London Gazette as 'one of the finest examples of coolness, discipline and good organisation in the history of Q ships'.
In September 1918, Lieutenant Auten was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest medal that can be bestowed upon military personnel, in recognition of his actions. Victoria Cross commemorative stones have been laid in birthplaces across the nation as a lasting legacy to those local heroes awarded the medal.
The arrival of honoured guests to this special event was accompanied by the Reigate Sea Cadet band's music. Lieutenant Auten's niece, Mary Carpenter, unveiled the Commemorative Stone and other family members were also in attendance. The sword Lieutenant Auten received when awarded the Victoria Cross and a replica of the Victoria Cross medal were on display courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy to mark the occasion.
Other guests on the day included: Vice Admiral Peter Dunt CB DL; Councillor Simon Ling, Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) Chairman; Reverend Graham Osborne, Rector of Leatherhead and Mickleham; Councillor Vivienne Michael, MVDC Leader and Armed Forces Champion; Karen Brimacombe MVDC Chief Executive; members of the Leatherhead & District History Society; members of the Royal British Legion; Captain (Retired) Julie Thain-Smith; Lt Cdr Paul Wolstencroft RNR and other representatives from the Royal Navy.
Councillor Vivienne Michael, Leader of MVDC, said: "It is extremely important that we never forget the outstanding sacrifices and the debt we owe those who fought during the First World War. The ceremony honoured and recognised the exceptional bravery of Lieutenant Harold Auten but also that of all who fought at that time and those members of Armed Forces who serve today. It was a real privilege to meet Lieutenant Auten's family and to be a part of this special ceremony."