Big U-turn: Rex to be honoured

PUBLISHED: 16:25 12 November 2013

Reginald 'Rex' Warneford
Restored by Arthur Cooke
Persmission from Julian Sleeman

Reginald 'Rex' Warneford Restored by Arthur Cooke Persmission from Julian Sleeman

Archant

The Journal and the family of a World War One flying-ace from Exmouth have forced a government U-turn to have the hero’s name immortalised in an ‘honour plaque’.

And now plans to unveil the tribute in Phear Park next spring are being drawn up by district bosses.

In August, the Journal exclusively revealed that Whitehall chiefs had banned Sub-Lieutenant Reginald ‘Rex’ Warneford from a commemorative stone.

Rex, from 2 Morton Road, was awarded the Victoria Cross aged just 23 when he became the first person to shoot down a zeppelin airship planning to bomb London.

And to herald his exploits, it was expected that his name would lie alongside that of Exmouth’s other VC hero, submariner Lt. Richard Sandford.

The stones are part of a government scheme to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war by laying plaques in the birthplaces of VC heroes.

But they ruled that only those born in Britain would be honoured - and because Rex was born in India, and moved to Exmouth aged 13, he would not be included.

The story was then published by the national press and reported around the world.

But last week communities minister Baroness Warsi said: “There a number of VC recipients who may have been born in India, like Sub-Lieutenant Reginald ‘Rex’ Warneford, that have local ties… In cases like this, we are happy to provide (East Devon District Council) with a commemorative paving stone.”

Rex’s nephew, James Corkery, said that he was told about Rex’s exclusion after his daughter read the article online in Burma.

He said: “We are delighted the Government has changed its mind.

“We want to thank the Journal – if it hadn’t been for the article we would have never have known.

“And thank you to (West Devon MP) Geoffrey Cox who took this up on our behalf, and achieved a result within a few weeks.”

Mr Corkery added: “Exmouth was the only home Rex knew and, if there should be a tribute to him, it should be in Exmouth.”

An East Devon District Council (EDDC) spokesman said that East Devon MP Hugo Swire had also asked them to consider ways of marking the pair’s heroism.

Proposals from EDDC’s chief executive and chairman include ‘honour plaques’ at the base of a tree in Phear Park.

He said: “This would be a local effort to complement proposals currently being discussed by Government.”

MP Hugo Swire said: “I am delighted that two Exmothians are finally going to be commemorated in their home town.

“This is long overdue and I am pleased that all who have helped in this campaign are going to see it come to fruition.”


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