20 March 2015

Bonner United

 There wasn't a great deal of fuss this morning but it was a fitting ceremony. As part of a national programme to honour all those awarded the Victoria Cross during World War One, a paving stone was unveiled in Aldridge honouring Charles 'Gus' Bonner VC.

I was brought up in a house in a road in Aldridge named after Gus; Bonner Grove. I had no idea as a child that the grove was named after someone brave until one day when visiting the cemetery  in Aldridge with my Dad, I noticed the large dark shiny stone by the lychgate, where Gus's ashes are buried. I asked Dad who he was. Dad being ever helpful told me to research the name in the library, which I duly did.

Back then Sue Satterthwaite was years away from writing her excellent book Bonner VC; The biography of Gus Bonner - VC and Master Mariner which would have made my quest a little easier. I didn't manage to ascertain much information. Aldridge has never been any good at shouting something to be proud of from the rooftops!

I can now say though that Gus Bonner was a man from Aldridge. He was...

"Awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of his conspicuous gallantry and consummate skill in action with an enemy submarine. This officer, after being blown out of his control station by the explosion of a depth charge due to shell fire, crawled back into the 4 inch gun hatch with the gun's crew. They there remained at their posts with a fire raging in the poop below. When the explosion took place the gun shifted bodily and the gun's crew blown up in the air, one man being blown overboard, but fortunately none of them were killed and only four wounded. Lieut. Bonner, although wounded himself, did what he could for the two who were with him in the wardroom."

The paving stone has been erected in a small garden designed and created and to be maintained by Aldridge Volunteer Gardeners, who do a wonderful job all year round in making Aldridge look at its best with colourful displays of flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. The garden is quite lovely. It stands opposite The Compass Suites that were erected on the land that the Bonner family home of Manor Farm, originally stood. Older people from Aldridge may remember the farm that stood next to The Manor House with the pond right in front of it.

I'm surprised that more publicity wasn't given prior to the ceremony today. Yes there were a decent number of people there but I would like to think that there might have been hundreds present, just as there are on Remembrance Sunday, to honour Gus had they known what was happening. For those interested I have scanned the Order for the ceremony. Click the photographs below to see an enlarged version.

Now the great and the good have left, you can take a stroll across the Croft to the Bonner Garden and view the memorial.

A commemorative leaflet has also been produced marking the events of today by The Aldridge Great War Project. This project aims to help local people to discover their own family's Great War History and there will be a display and research facilities available at Aldridge Library in a few months time. Full information is included on the web page highlighted above but you can also email the project aldridgegwp@outlook.com

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