Blue plaque marks Great Yarmouth home of WW1 Victoria Cross hero
- Credit: Paul Davies
A blue plaque was unveiled to commemorate a Victoria Cross holder, a hero of the First World War.
The plaque was unveiled by Mayor Cllr Malcolm Bird on 5 Beaconsfield Road in Great Yarmouth on Monday and marks the former home of Harry Cator VC, MM, and Croix de Guerre.
Cator arrived on the Western Front in June 1915 with the 7th Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment.
In 1916, at the time of the Somme offensive, he was awarded the Military Medal for bringing back 36 wounded men from no-man’s land. He was promoted to sergeant, but declined a commission.
He earned his Victoria Cross and a Croix de Guerre first class with laurel leaves during the Arras offensive. On April 9. 1917 near Arras, France, Sgt Cator’s platoon had suffered heavy casualties from a German machine-gun. Under heavy fire Cator, with two men, advanced across the open to attack the gun and when his companions were killed, he went on alone.
Picking up a Lewis gun and some ammunition drums on his way, he reached the enemy trench and sighting another German machine gun, he killed the entire team and the officer. He held the end of the trench with such effect that 100 prisoners and five machine guns were captured.
A few days later his jaw was shattered and he was peppered with shrapnel following an explosion. He was repatriated to the Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol. His comrades in the hospital congregated at the station and carried him on their shoulders to a waiting car.
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On arrival at the Beaufort, the band of the 1st Battalion Bristol Volunteer Regiment assembled outside his ward and played “See the Conquering Hero Comes”.
In his speech, Cator said: “Boys, I don’t want to go back, you don’t want to go back, but if we go we’ll go back as Britishers. We are winning now, boys, and Germany knows it and we who are recently back from the front know it.”
On July 21, 1917, he was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V outside Buckingham Palace.
After the war, like many others, he searched for a job and became a postman and later a civil servant.
Cator served with the rank of captain in the Home Guard during the Second World War, and was a quartermaster at an army transit camp and then a commandant of a prisoner of war camp at Cranwich in South Norfolk, where he became as popular with the Germans as the guards. He made several friends among them and even visited some of them in Germany after the war. He retired from the Army in December 1947.
He died from pneumonia on April 7, 1966 in Norwich and is buried in Sprowston Cemetery.
His Victoria Cross and his other medals were sold in 1985 for £10,500. His Victoria Cross is now exhibited in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.
The plaque was the 83rd erected by the Great Yarmouth Archaeological and Local History Society in the borough.