New gravestone go-ahead for Sheffield war hero

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THE crumbling gravestone of the first Sheffield-born war hero to be awarded a Victoria Cross can be replaced, it has been agreed.

Sheffield Council has agreed that the Victoria Cross Trust can put a new stone up for Sergeant James Firth VC, who is buried at Burngreave Cemetery.

At the moment the masonry on his headstone is in such a state that the words of his name and inscription on it can barely be read.

The news is a victory for the Doncaster-based trust, which has joined forces with community groups to campaign for all three of Sheffield’s Victoria Cross graves to be restored and kept tidy.

But it now needs to raise the money for the stone, expected to cost around £2,000 to £3,000, and is appealing for help from Star readers.

Gary Stapleton, founder of the trust, said: “This is the grave of a true local hero who was born, lived and died in Sheffield.

“I do know this is what the descendants of Sgt Firth has wanted for a long time.”

Sgt Firth, of the Duke of Wellington Regiment, was awarded the honour during the Boer War, South Africa, in 1900.

He was honoured for rescuing two comrades under fire while wounded in the face.

Later he became a steelworks foreman and lived in Neepsend before his death in June 1921.

A Sheffield Council spokesman confirmed that it had been agreed in principle that the headstone could be replaced, with quotes and funding to be obtained.

Joan Jackson, of Jarrow, is a distant descendant of Sgt Firth - as her grandfather Francis Firth’s brother was his father.

She is to tell the oldest living relation of the hero, her uncle Ambrose Firth, 87, about the good news.

Joan said: “I think it is wonderful.

“I feel very privileged to be related to a man who showed such bravery.

“Until recently I was unaware of the connection, then my uncle told me about it.

“It is so inspirational and a lot of the attributes James Firth had I can see in other members of the family.

“I will come down and see the grave when the headstone gets replaced.”

n Visit www.victoriacrosstrust.org/jamesfirthvc.php to help fund the replacement of the headstone.