A true hero who risked his life to save more than 300 people in a fierce First World War battle has been honoured by his home city.
One hundred years to the day since George Maling received the Victoria Cross for his extreme bravery, a memorial paving stone was laid at the cenotaph in Burdon Road.
In attendance at the civic ceremony was the medical officer’s grandson, David Maling and his wife Jenny, who made the trip from Cornwall to see how Sunderland honours one of its greatest military heroes.
George, who was born in Mowbray Road, was the only Sunderland soldier to receive the highest military honour for valour during the First World War. While serving in the Royal Medical Corps (RMC), he came under heavy shell fire to save the lives of hundreds in the Battle of Loos, collecting and treating men who were trapped in an area of no man’s land in France.
Speaking about his grandfather, who was presented with his VC by King George V in Buckingham Palace, Dr David Maling said: “This is our first visit to Sunderland, but we feel a strong connection to the city. We feel proud and honoured to be here, and my father too would be so proud of this service.
“I grew up knowing all about my grandfather’s medal, which is currently on loan to the RMC museum in Aldershot. I inherited a lot of military memorabilia when my father died and I felt it was right it should be there.”
The civic commemoration of Lieutenant Maling’s courage began last month with the installation of a blue plaque at this birthplace, Carlton House, in Ashbrooke.
It continues this weekend with a weekend of themed events and activities in Mowbray Park and the Museum and Winter Gardens.
“This is a great occasion of civic pride for us,” said Mayor of Sunderland Barry Curran. “To think he left his home to fight in the fields of France in conditions that are unimaginable to us, it’s only right that we pay homage to that.
“ To see so many senior officers, veterans and the general public come along today shows how much respect we have for members of our Armed Forces. The military recruits heavily from the area and the city has 26,000 veterans here, we have incredibly strong links.”
The commemorative paving stone is one of a number commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, provided to communities across the UK as a permanent reminder of the bravery of citizens awarded the VC during the First World War.
George Maling commemorative events
•Sunderland and the First World War city centre guided walk 10am (meet at Wear Street car park). A free guided walk through the city centre learning more about the sites most affected by the First World War including George Maling’s childhood home
•Maling Trail and activities 11am -1pm, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens;
Visitors can follow a special trail and take part in craft activities to find out more about George Maling and his family, with ’Show and Tell’ sessions with the Time Bandits’ revealing more about First •Illustrated talk by John Sadler - ‘ Most Unsuitable Ground - the Battle of Loos 1915 ‘ 1.30pm, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens;
An illustrated talk on the 100 th anniversary of the Battle of Loos describing the heroism and sacrifice of all those involved in the British Expeditionary Force attempt to break the deadlock on the Western Front
•Cpt. George Maling VC ‘Strong for war, for helping tender ‘ 3 -5pm, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens / Mowbray Park;
•Award winning theatre company Theatre Space NE present an open air performance suitable for all ages, including a specially commissioned play written by James Whitman and mural painted by street artist Frank Styles
•George Maling Football Festival 10am - 3pm, Raich Carter Sports Centre;
A football festival in honour of George Maling VC who lived in the local community, with football activities and mini—tournaments for all ages with trophies and medals for participants/winners
Chairman of the East Area Committee, Councillor Ellen Bell (Ward Member for Ryhope) said: “We wanted to help commemorate the bravery of one of our most famous residents George Maling VC, by supporting a programme of events and activities telling his story and celebrating his life.
“His story is one to inspire present and future generations in the city and the community where he was born and bought up, and I hope everyone will join us with their families and friends over the weekend to get involved in paying tribute to his memory in a number of ways.”