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First World War hero Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson honoured to mark death centenary

By Messenger Reporter

Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson, known as Riv, was killed in action on July 31, 1917. He was just 21 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and sacrifice as acting captain in the 2nd Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment.

He was born into a wealthy family with homes in Northfleet, Ightham and London and described as “the epitome of the Edwardian upper class”.

Cpt Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson has a painting and a citation in the mayoral corridor at the Civic Centre in Gravesend

Cpt Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson has a painting and a citation in the mayoral corridor at the Civic Centre in Gravesend

In a booklet written to mark the occasion, historians Andrew Marshall and Tony Larkin tell how Capt Colyer-Fergusson signed up when he was 18, a month after the British Expeditionary Forces’ first battle with the German army at Mons.

After his initial training, he was posted to the front line in France but was wounded during the Battle of the Somme.

Once recovered, he was posted back to the front and was killed 298 days later.

Mayor of Gravsham Harold Craske and pupils lay a wreath at the plaque Service of commemoration for Thomas Colyer-Fergusson

Mayor of Gravsham Harold Craske and pupils lay a wreath at the plaque Service of commemoration for Thomas Colyer-Fergusson

Capt Colyer-Fergusson, a sergeant and five other men found themselves under enemy fire.

Capt Colyer-Fergusson carried out several successful attacks, captured two enemy machine guns, killed several of the enemy, and drove a large number into the hands of a nearby British unit.

But in an attempt to push forward to dig a line of defensive posts, Capt Colyer-Fergusson was shot and died.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

The citation reads: “For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading, and determination in attack.”

Lavender laid by Veronica and Harold Craske, provided by Northfleet Girls School

Lavender laid by Veronica and Harold Craske, provided by Northfleet Girls School

A series of commemorations were held last week to mark the centenary of his death, including an assembly at Northfleet School for Girls.

The Colyer-Fergusson family were the last lords of the manor of Wombwell Hall in Northfleet, which was sold to the Kent Education Committee after the Second World War. It is now home to Northfleet School for Girls.

Wednesday’s assembly included readings and poetry, and a wreath was placed at a memorial plaque at the school entrance.

Julie Davis, a teacher at the school, said: “I had several girls come up to me after and said how much they enjoyed it.

“We wanted to celebrate his life and his sacrifice he made for us.”

By the family tomb

By the family tomb

St Margaret’s Church, Ifield, also held a commemoration service on Sunday. The Colyer-Fergusson family vault is in the churchyard, several family members have memorials inside the church, and Capt Colyer-Fergusson is among the names on the war memorial outside.

Reverend Richard Martin, priest-in-charge, led the service, with the mayor of Gravesham among the congregation.

After the service, Capt Colyer-Fergusson’s VC citation was read next to the memorial.

Ightham Mote, which is run by the National Trust and is the former Colyer-Fergusson family home, and St Peter’s Church in Ightham are holding a commemorative service at 4pm on Monday July 31 at the church.

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