City unveils second commemorative slab in honour of First World War hero

Commemorative slab for Captain John James Crowe VC The second of four commemorative paving slabs dedicated to Plymouth and Devonport-born soldiers who received the Victoria Cross for their courage during the First World War has been unveiled on the Hoe.

The slab is located near the Plymouth War Memorial, at the junction of Citadel Road and Lockyer Street and is in memory of Captain John James Crowe VC (28 December 1876 to 27 February 1965).

Crowe was born in Devonport. His father John was a soldier who was garrisoned at Raglan Barracks. His mother, Catherine (née Turpin), was born and raised nearby at Cherry Garden Street.

Crowe followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Worcestershire Regiment (amalgamated in 2007 with the Cheshire, Staffordshire and Sherwood Foresters Regiments to form the Mercian Regiment). By August 1914 when the First World War began, he was in France with the British Expeditionary Force.

Having survived many hard fought actions, it was for ‘valour and zeal…of the highest order’ in the defence of the Belgian village of Neuve Eglise, also known as Nieuwkerke, that Crowe was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 14 April 1918, he showed ‘…an utter disregard of danger…’ and led two small parties in successful attacks on enemy machine gun and sniper positions.

Crowe retired from the Army in 1920 and settled in Sussex. Nine family members travelled to Plymouth to take part in the unveiling ceremony which was also attended by representatives from the Mercian Regiment, 29 Commando, the British Legion and the Lord Mayor. Regimental mascot, Private Derby XXXII also made an appearance.

Nicola Moyle, the Council’s Head of Heritage, Art and Media, said: “It was wonderful to see so many of Captain Crowe’s descendants at our ceremony and a very proud moment for them. He showed immense bravery whilst serving on the Western Front and it was a fitting tribute to a man who received the highest military decoration that can be given to members of the armed forces for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’.”

The commemorative slabs are part of a national initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government to honour Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War and are being laid in the birth places of all those awarded the Victoria Cross during the conflict.

Plymouth unveiled its first slab in 2015 in memory of Sergeant Alfred Joseph Richards VC who served at Gallipoli.

It will unveil two more slabs in memory of Brigadier General George Grogan in late May and Sir Arnold Horace Santo Waters in early November.