The search has begun for the relations of a war hero awarded one of the highest royal honours as plans take shape for a memorial to his sacrifice.
Members of The Royal Artillery Club in Mary Street, Sunderland, are planning to buy a granite slab dedicated to Bombardier Henry Herbert Reed, who was awarded the George Cross posthumously for selfless heroism during the Second World War.
The tribute to the Sunderland soldier will form part of the Veterans’ Walk pathway, which will be laid in Mowbray Park to honour both living and deceased forces personnel.
The memorial slab is part of a series of events to mark 300 years of the Royal Artillery.
Alex Bonallie, club steward, said: “Bombardier Reed was killed on June 20, 1941, and as it approaches the 75th anniversary of his death we felt it was fitting to have a memorial to him.
“We know a little bit of history about his personal life, such as that he went to Bede School and worked in Binns, but it would be great to find some of his relations – however, we believe he was an only child.
“We found his grave at Bishopwearmouth Cemetery and it looks to be a family grave. We’d like to trace his family so we can get their permission to lay a stone in his honour.”
Herbert Reed was serving in No.2 Battalion, 1 Maritime Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, when merchant ship SS Cormount was attacked by German E-boats and planes.
Despite suffering severe stomach wounds in the attack, the brave Gunner managed to carry two of his comrades to safety, before dying minutes later of his injuries.
He was praised at the time for “his gallant and utterly-selfless action” and was also awarded the Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea.
Alex added: “The very reason this club exists is for soldiers to support each other, whether that be the current crop of squaddies to veterans, and this is our way of honouring the sacrifice he made.”
•If you have any details on Bombardier Reed’s family, contact Alex on info@thegunnerssunderland.
The Royal Artillery Club, known as The Gunners Club, started in the 1940s and was first opened in Norfolk Street as a men-only workman’s club.
In the 1960s, the club moved to Silksworth Row. It continued as a gentleman’s club and then moved again in the 90s to its current position in Mary Street.
Last year, it underwent a major £250,000 renovation to modernise its facilities.
Though the club still retains its core membership, non-members can also use the bar, lounge and function room.
As well as being a members’ club, the function room is used by many associations and unions, including the Sunderland Armed Forces Network.
Its events to mark 300 years of the Royal Artillery include a night of entertainment on May 26, when visitors can win £300-worth of alcohol.
Alex said: “The Royal Artillery is one of the oldest regiments in the country and Sunderland has a proud history with the forces, which recruits heavily from the area.”
Nationally, a baton will circumnavigate the globe to mark 300 years of the Royal Regiment, starting at its birth place in Woolwich and finishing at the regimental home in Larkhill.