Monday, 4 April 2011

'Local Hero'

Sergeant Thomas Frank Durrant, VC

A total of five Victoria Crosses were won during the raid on Saint-Nazaire - the largest number of VCs awarded for any single action during World War Two. Of these, none was more nobly earned than that awarded to Sergeant Tommy Durrant, of 1 Commando. A member of a demolition team on board Motor Launch 306, Tommy, firing  twin Lewis-guns on an anti-aircraft mounting, took on the German destroyer Jaguar, many times the size of his wooden launch, was mortally wounded, and yet continued to fire until the very last of his strength was gone. He was recommended for his country's highest award by the captain of the German ship, and today lies in the beautifully tended war cemetery of Escoublac La Baule (I.D.II).

On Friday April 1st, the teachers and pupils of his old school at Green Street Green in Kent,  along with members of the Commando Veterans' Association, honoured Tommy's memory with a special World War Two event. Children and teachers dressed up in 'wartime' clothes, songs of the period were sung, and Commando veterans were interviewed by pupils agog at coming face-to-face with real 'Green Berets'. The kindness of the CVA and the enthusiasm of both staff and children contributed  to a truly memorable event - the kind of special experience that makes all involved feel that something rather wonderful has taken place.