Provost Christine Simpson has helped unveil a commemorative Victoria Cross paving stone in Dunblane to honour local war hero Major James Palmer Huffam.
Remembrance Day

The event on Friday celebrated the 100th anniversary of courageous Major Huffam’s act of valour which saw him awarded the highest military honour for gallantry.

The Scots soldier – who served in both the First and Second World Wars – was a 21-year-old second lieutenant with the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment when he carried out astonishing acts of bravery at St Servin’s Farm, France on August 31, 1918.

Major Huffam died aged 70 in 1968 but three generations of his family, including his 82-year-old son Robert, travelled from their Northern Ireland home to attend the special ceremony.

Provost Simpson was proud to unveil the new memorial to honour Major Huffam at Dunblane Railway Station, just across the road from the house where he was born.

She said: “It has been a tremendous privilege to be part of the Commemoration Slab ceremony honouring the memory of one of Dunblane’s bravest sons, Major James Palmer Huffam VC.

“The phrase ‘hero’ is something which gets bandied about a little too readily nowadays but there is no doubt that it is an absolutely appropriate when referring to a man who served in both World Wars and was awarded a Victoria Cross for his selfless courage.

“It is a fitting tribute to Major Huffam’s incredible bravery that this Commemoration Slab will serve as a permanent reminder to everyone living and visiting Dunblane of his service to our country.

“It was wonderful that three generations of Major Huffam’s family were able to make the journey here to see how proud the Dunblane community is of the town’s Victoria Cross winner.”

Major Huffam won his Victoria Cross after he stormed an enemy machine gun post with three men then carried back a wounded comrade after coming under heavy attack.

On the same night of August 31, 1918, Major Huffam, accompanied by only two men, rushed an enemy machine gun, capturing eight German prisoners, to play a vital part in enabling the advance to continue.

The dad-of-two was born in Dunblane on March 31, 1897 and remained in the military after his World War I heroics.

He served four years as a Flying Officer with the RAF before rejoining the Army and reached the rank of Major.

He had retired in 1938 but was recalled at the outbreak of World War II to serve with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Commemorative paving stones have been laid across the UK over the past four years as part of the UK Government’s First World War Centenary campaign.

A total of 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded during World War I – a conflict that saw 40million people lose their lives.

Pupils from Dunblane High and the Queen Victoria School took part in the ceremony for Major Huffam alongside representatives of the Yorkshire Regiment.

Major Huffam’s wheelchair-bound son Robert, 82, was determined to travel over from his home in Carrickfergus, near Belfast, to see the tribute to his courageous father.

Robert said: “I am immensely proud of my father. He never made a big fuss about anything yet he had such an incredible life.

“He never said much about how he won his Victoria Cross. He had lost his brother beside him in 1916, he had another brother who was very badly wounded and spent the rest of his life in hospital, and his other brother was gassed.

“His sister, who was a nurse through the First World War, was a matron on the Lancastria when it was blown up in St Nazaire in 1940. She did come home but she died and has a war grave in York.

“My father did actually talk a little about the Second World War but I think an awful lot of people who survived the First World War just blocked it out. He really did not like talking about it at all.”

Robert added: “He was proud of his Victoria Cross but he kept it in an old envelope and he wasn’t one to make a fuss.

“I think he would have been surprised by this ceremony but I think he would have been proud and thought it was wonderful so many people would get involved in an event like this. It is lovely for the whole family that dad’s memory will live on forever.”

Pictured: Provost Christine Simpson with war hero Major Huffam's family and bagpipe-playing pupils from Dunblane High School