In a moving service at St Paul’s Church the names not just of those who lost their lives in the First World War but World War Two were read out including the civilians – among them six children – during bombing raids in Thornton Heath.
Members of the 39th Croydon Scout Group carried a beautifully illustrated book listing the names of members of the armed forces from Thornton Heath who were killed during both wars to the impressive War Memorial in the church.
Rev Derrick Thompson leading the Rememberance service, commemorating the hundred years since Amistice Day, attended by Councillors Pat Clouder and Callton Young, invited the congregation to write on the back of handmade poppies with a tribute or a memory to a loved one and peg them to netting on the alter.
Gill Borthwick, the Licensed Reader at St Paul’s and a history enthusiast, produced a booklet which looks back at the local sacrifice. It features the names and stories of 143 from Thornton Heath who died during WW1 including: D Dore, who lived in Belmont House opposite the church and was employed as an engineer enlisting in 1916. He was a private in the Machine Gun Corps and died on 23/10/18. He won the Military Medal for Bravery on 23/5/18 for helping a commerade to safety and then he attacked the trench despite machine gun fire, killing three men and saving numerous lives. He had attended Beulah school as a child and is on the war memorial there. He lived next to door to Flora Sandes.
Many killed were from the same family either siblings or father’s and sons with 14 of the number killed having attended Beulah Juniors which was then called Beulah Road School for Boys.
Andrea Perry, Editor of The Chronicle, spoke about Flora Sandes who lived at 26 St Paul’s Road from 1894-1914 with her father, a retired vicar.
Flora was the only British woman to officially fight on the front line in WW1 joining the Serbian Army as a private and climbing to the rank of captain.
During her time in the trenches, she lived and fought alongside the men in some of the worst conditions imaginable and was wounded in battle after being hit by a grenade in 1917.
In an account from the hospital where she lay recovering after being wounded an American journalist there to interview Flora questions why a woman like Flora would go in for soldiering? A friend, an English officer considers it for a time and replies: “Um did you ever live in Croydon?”
She was later awarded the Order of the Star of Karageorge, the highest decoration of the Serbian military and was hailed as “Serbia’s Joan of Arc”.
Her name lived on for 20 years on Wetherspoon’s Flora Sandes pub which bore her name but when that closed so did her name. Andrea said she should be remembered here in Thornton Heath with a memorial to her name and hoped there would be local support for this. Flora’s name has also been put forward to English Heritage for a blue plaque.