Westcombe Park RFC played its part in the Great War with 84 of its members answering the call and doing their bit in what was thought of at the time as the best away fixture yet.
23 members were not to see their home ground again.
We will remember them.
The Victoria Cross is the highest honour the nation can bestow on someone and since 1857 only 1358 have been awarded. The recipients are only awarded this honour for acts of heroic bravery in the face of the enemy.
Cecil Sewell VC, a name most Westcombe Park members may not be familiar with was one of the brave 1358 but most importantly he was one of the Combe 23 .
SEWELL, Cecil H, VC
Cecil Sewell was born in 1895 and educated at Dulwich College. He joined The Public Schools Battalion, the 21st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment) and went to France in November 1915. Following several months service as a machine gunner, Cecil received officer cadet training and was commissioned into the 3rd Royal West Kent Regiment in August 1916. In France Cecil transferred to "C" Battalion of the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, after seeing tanks in action on the Somme.
In 1918 Cecil was issued with a new fast tank, the Whippet and this can be seen in the First World War Hall in the museum. On August 29th 1918, Cecil's battalion was supporting the New Zealand Division when they came under heavy fire. At this point another tank slipped into a deep shell crater, overturned and caught fire. Cecil jumped out of his own tank and helped the crew escape. He then saw that his own driver had been hit and it was while he was trying to save Gunner Knox that he was killed himself. He was 23 years old. Another officer wrote "We found him with his arms round Knox" They were buried side by side where they fell, but were reburied at Vaulx Hill Cemetery in 1920.
A brave man to say the least.
We thought it would be a fitting tribute if some of us went to commemorate this important anniversary. Depending on the level of interest we are looking to organise an excursion to visit the site of his Tank action, for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and to visit his grave.
The proposal is that we will arrange for a coach to pick us up at the clubhouse early on the morning of 22nd or 23rd August 2018 – the coach will take us through the tunnel and on to the Somme area - (which is approximately a one hour drive from Calais).
We will look to appoint a knowledgeable guide who will accompany us on the trip.
We intend to stay for one night in a hotel in Arras and arrange a dinner for our evening in France.
We think that approximately 20 people would be the right number for this visit. Any more than that would be very difficult logistically.
We have already had interest from a few people but If you think that this is something that would be of interest to you can you please let either Peter Heath (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mark Birch (email@example.com) know as soon as possible.
We can then look into further details and costs of the coach, guide, hotels etc and get back with an approximate cost per person to see if the trip is viable.
We shall allocate places on a first come first served basis.
Also Greenwich Borough council will be honouring Cecil Sewell with a memorial paving stone within the borough which is part of the ongoing government scheme. As soon as more information becomes available on this I am sure we will post on the Combe site.
Updated 08:41 - 22 Feb 2018 by Graham Seppings