Commemorative stone unveiled for a Royal Navy Victoria Cross recipient

Published Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A Royal Navy Submarine Commander, born in Bromley, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, has been honoured at the Bromley War Memorial with a commemorative stone being unveiled.

By November, in the centenary year of the end of World War One, every Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War will have been commemorated with a paving stone.  Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Saxton White, who was born in Shortlands, Bromley, was posthumously awarded his Victoria Cross memorial following his death on 28 January 1918.  The commemorative stone was unveiled in Bromley, the town Lieutenant Commander was born in. 

Councillor Colin Smith, Leader of Bromley Council said, “It was an absolute honour to represent the Borough and attend the ceremony in support of the Mayor in her duties.  Everyone present could not have failed to have been struck by the poignant and very moving peace and calm the ceremony was held in on a windswept January morning in Bromley, compared to the terror and violence faced by Lieutenant Commander White and his brave crew in the Dardanelles exactly 100 years ago last Sunday.  

The commemorative stones being placed in the birthplaces of such gallant individuals across our country, are designed not only to recognise the brave individuals in question, but also to remind us all of the incredible bravery and sacrifice displayed by so many others during the awful conflicts in which they had to fight.  

We very much hope that this stone, and the reasons for its installation, will serve as a reminder and inspiration to us all, of the debt our generations owe to those who went before us.  Their bravery and selflessness must never be forgotten, we owe them everything we are today.”  

Relatives of Geoffrey Saxton White attended the ceremony on Monday.  In a joint statement, the grandchildren of Geoffrey Saxton White, Nicola Higgins, Richard Campbell and Lyn Shore said, “We are of course very proud of our grandfather’s award of the Victoria Cross.  His act of bravery as a submariner meant he never had the opportunity to meet his daughter Sheila, our mother, as she was born in May 1917 when her father was stationed in the Mediterranean and he was never to return to England. 

We rather like our grandmother’s quote in the Western Morning News of April 1919 – when she was informed of the posthumous award of the VC – “There are hundreds of cases of bravery just as great which will never be recognised, I feel that almost every man who has served during the war must have done something that deserved an award” 

We would like to thank all the organisations and authorities for giving us the opportunity of recognising the sacrifice our grandfather, Geoffrey Saxton White made during the First World War.” 

Rear Admiral Tim Hodgson MBE, Director Submarine Capability MOD said, “It is humbling to have been invited to the unveiling of this plaque today, which demonstrates the great pride which the country takes in the conspicuous courage shown by Bromley-born Lt Cdr Geoffrey Saxton White.  We in the Royal Navy Submarine Service share this pride. 

Courage is the fuel which drove the Submarine Service then and which still drives us today; it is key to our ethos of absolute professionalism.  The kind of selfless courage shown by Lt Cdr Saxton White, where he put his duty to the welfare of others before his own, is what we all aspire to.  It is what enables us to continue to protect our nation’s interests.” 

Lieutenant Commander White, a Submarine Commander, was killed by shell fire 100 years ago on board HM Submarine E 14. Lieutenant Commander White had ordered that his damaged submarine should be sailed towards the shoreline of the Dardanelles in an attempt to allow the crew to escape from the stricken vessel, after coming under heavy fire from Turkish Batteries.   

The stone was unveiled at the Bromley War Memorial in Martins Hill by the granddaughter of Lieutenant Commander White, with the Mayor of Bromley, Councillor Kathy Bance MBE laying a wreath alongside a wreath laid by the Royal Navy.  

ENDS 

For media enquiries, please contact Andrew Rogers, Communications Executive, on 020 8461 7670 or email andrew.rogers@bromley.gov.uk