Medway Council will unveil a commemorative stone to honour Major James McCudden at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham on Thursday, 12 April.
McCudden was born in the Chatham Garrison Female Hospital, Brompton, in 1895 and lived in Brompton Barracks, Belmont Road, Gillingham, in Chatham and in Sheerness. His father was Sergeant-Major William McCudden of the Royal Engineers. His mother, Amelia, was a member of the well-known Chatham Byford family. Many members of his family had served in the armed forces, including with the Chatham Royal Marines and the Royal Engineers.
McCudden followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Engineers in 1910. He transferred into the Royal Flying Corps in 1913, serving initially as an air mechanic. By the time of his death in July 1918, aged just 23, he had risen to the rank of Major, commanding 56 Squadron RAF. As well as the Victoria Cross, he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice, Military Cross twice, Military Medal, 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. His contribution was also recognised by the French who awarded him the Croix de Guerre. His collection of medals is on display at the Royal Engineers Museum.
Medway Council has worked with the Royal Engineers and the Royal Air Force to organise the event to honour McCudden as part of a government scheme to recognise Victoria Cross winners in their home towns.
McCudden served in the Royal Engineers, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. He was one of four brothers to do so. Three of them lost their lives as pilots in the First World War.
Royal Engineer and Royal Air Force personnel will join the Lord Lieutenant of Kent and civic dignitaries for a special public ceremony at the Royal Engineers Museum on Thursday, 12 April, to mark the 100th anniversary of his receiving the Victoria Cross from King George V. The Colours of the current 56 Squadron RAF will also take part in the ceremony. McCudden was serving with the squadron when he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Members of the public are invited to watch the ceremony at 10.30am.
A commemorative stone, mounted on a plinth, will be unveiled at the museum gates. The plinth was designed and built by bricklayer instructors and students based at Brompton Barracks with the Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment. The materials for the plinth were donated by Travis Perkins in Chatham. The commemorative stone has been supplied by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
During the ceremony there will be a short service led by Army and RAF chaplains accompanied by musicians from the Royal Engineer Band and the Royal Air Force. It is also expected that the Standards of the Royal Engineers and the Royal Air Forces Associations will be paraded along with the Standard of 56 Squadron RAF. There will also be guards formed of personnel from the Royal Engineers, Royal Air Force, Kent Army Cadets and the Kent Wing of the Air Training Corps.
Members of the McCudden and Byford families will attend the ceremony. One of them, former RAF Squadron leader Paul Spears AFC, will take part in the service.
Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder of Community Services and Armed Forces Champion, said: “We are very pleased to be able to honour Major James McCudden in his home town. There is a strong armed forces community in Medway and we are proud of our military history. It is very important to commemorate those who gave their lives to serve our country.”
Rebecca Nash, Royal Engineers Museum Director, said: “We are privileged to help commemorate the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross to Major James McCudden and it is fitting that the anniversary is marked at this location, as he grew up in Brompton and started his military career with the Royal Engineers.”