Victoria Cross Mayoral Dinner

Victoria Cross Mayoral Dinner

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The heroic actions of two Hāwera men during WWI are to be commemorated in September.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop says it is very fitting that John Gildroy Grant VC and Henry John Laurent VC are recognised 100 years after each being awarded the Victoria Cross.

The commemorations will begin at the South Taranaki RSA’s official opening of the Victoria Cross Garden (which features statues of Grant and Laurent) at 2.30pm and then will continue at the Mayoral Dinner on Saturday 15 September.

"It is amazing and unprecedented that two Soldiers from a small town in New Zealand should receive this prestigious award," says Mr Dunlop. "It was also remarkable that Sgt Harry Laurent and Sgt John Grant received their Victoria Crosses in two separate engagements within 10 days of each other in France."

"It will also be very special to have family members of the Victoria Cross recipients represented at the event."

The guest speaker for the evening is Brigadier (Retd) The Honourable Justice Tim Brewer ONZM, ED.

The Mayoral Dinner will be held at TSB Hub in Hāwera on Saturday 15 September, starting at 6pm. Tickets are $50 each, or $450 for a table of 10 and formal dress is requested. You can get your ticket from Tarin at TSB Hub by calling (06) 278 0646 or emailing events@stdc.govt.nz

This event is bought to you by the South Taranaki District Council and supported by Mercer and Forsyth Barr.

John Gildroy Grant, VC,

1st Battalion, Wellington Regiment

John was born in Hawera in 1889 and prior to World War 1 worked as a building and contractor. He enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 14 June 1915 and embarked for Egypt with the 7th Reinforcements to the NZEF in October. He joined the Taranaki Company of the 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment in France in 1916.

After 2 years of fighting in Belguim and France he rose to the rank of Sergeant. On 1September 1918 he was in command of a platoon during an attack on Bancourt Ridge.

“One reaching the crest, it was found that a line of five enemy machine-gun posts offered a serious obstacle to further advance. When about twenty yards from the posts, Sergeant Grant rushed forward ahead of his platoon and with great dash and bravery entered the centre post, demoralising the garrison and enabling the men of his platoon to mop up the position. In the same manner he then rushed the post on the left, and the remaining posts were quickly occupied and cleared. Throughout the whole operation Sergeant Grant displayed coolness, determination and valour of the highest order and set a splendid example to all”. For this action Sergeant Grant was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Henry John Laurent VC

2nd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade

Born in Hawera in 1895 at Tarata, attending Hawera District High School before leaving to work in a cheese making factory. When war broke out in 1914, Laurent joined the NZEF and was send first to Egypt and from there to France to serve with the NZ Rifle Brigade.

While in France he showed great leadership and was promoted to Sergeant. During the Allied advance toward the end of the war, the New Zealanders came up against a strong German position at Gouzeaucourt Wood. On 12 September 1918 during confused attacks on this objective, Sergeant Laurent was sent out with a twelve-man patrol to probe the enemy defences. Finding a heavily fortified trench system, he immediately attacked. After hand-to-hand fighting the twelve Kiwis killed thirty of the enemy, captured the trench and took 112 enemy soldiers prisoner. When the Germans counter attacked, Laurent managed to retreat in good order, keeping his prisoners under control and fighting a rear-guard action. “The success of this daring venture was due to Sergeant Laurent’s gallantry and enterprise”. This rather incredible action resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross to Sergeant Laurent.