We launch new fight to honour our war heroes

Howard Potts and artist Steve Winterburn, of Yorkshire Fine Arts, with a model of the planned Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry memorial
Howard Potts and artist Steve Winterburn, of Yorkshire Fine Arts, with a model of the planned Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry memorial
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It was an army regiment which saw thousands of Doncaster men fighting under its colours - and today The Doncaster Free Press is signing up to fight to help keep its name alive.

We are launching a campaign to honour the men who fought with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with a memorial to them and their regiment here in Doncaster.

The regimental association - made up of veterans who served in the regiment - wants to build a memorial here, close to the regimental museum at Chequer Road.

But to do that, they need to raise £125,700.

And we are backing their efforts.

So far, they have already got around £25,000 in support for the scheme.

And this week saw the first fundraiser for the appeal held in Doncaster, with an event held at Hyde Park Working Men’s Club boosting the funds.

Over the coming weeks and months we will highlight fundraising events within the borough, as well as hear why former soldiers and their descendants from across the borough would like to see the regiment remembered.

David Wroe, a former soldier from Crowle, near Doncaster, who signed up for the regiment in 1966 said the memorial would represent all who served in the regiment and those who died in its service.

He said Doncaster people had figured large in the history of the regiment, including Sgt Laurence Calvert, from Conisbrough, who was one its its Victoria Cross winners.

The 68-year-old Mr Wroe rose to become a major, before retiring from the army in 2010 after serving in counties including Germany, Malaya and Bosnia.

In 1968 he transferred to the Light Infantry during a reorganisation of the army which saw the regiment become the second battalion of the Ligh Infantry. The Light Infantry itself has since become part of another regiment, The Rifles.

He said: “In 1968 the Regiment was taken out of the Active Service list. The KOYLI took part in the Peninsula, Napoleonic and Boer Wars where our first VC was won. A total of 16 Battalions served in WW1 and a further eight VCs were awarded, but tragically 9,447 of our best gave the ultimate sacrifice; thereafter followed the battlefields of WW2, the emergencies in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Borneo, Sarawak and Aden where Yorkshiremen rallied to the Bugle Call.

“Yet despite such sterling service, no dedicated Memorial to The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry exists.

“The aim of the KOYLI Memorial Appeal Fund is to provide a just and fitting Memorial to our proud Yorkshire heritage. The memorial will be sited in Doncaster which will ensure full and permanent exposure and reflect our Regimental connection. The memorial will take the form of a bronze statue on a Yorkshire Stone plinth with suitable inscriptions on all sides.

“Our target date for the unveiling ceremony is 1st August 2018, this being 50 years after the KOYLI name was consigned to the history books. We must ensure our proud heritage is known and we are determined that future generations should know of our past and the sacrifices made by the Regiment.”

He said Doncaster Council was are fully behind the plan to have the memorial build next to its Regimental Museum.

He added: “It will surely be a place where those who served, their descendants, friends and families can visit and reflect on their family’s part in our loyal history.All the donors who pledge cash to support the scheme will be listed in a book at the regimental museum in Doncaster.

Free Press content editor David Kessen said: “Generations of young Doncaster men signed up with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, too many of them laying down their lives in the service of our country. I think for the regiment to be recognised in Doncaster in such a visible way as the planned memorial would be a fitting tribute to all those heroes from our borough who fought under its colours.

“If you, or even your father, grandfather or great grandfather was among them, please tell us their story, and why you would like to see a memorial here in Doncaster.”

Anyone who wants to get involved with a donation or a fundraising event can contact donations co-ordinator Howard Potts on 01642 271534.

LOCAL HERO:

A Doncaster soldier was among the biggest heroes to have served in the KOYLI.

Sgt Laurence Calvert won both the Victoria Cross and the Military Medal while serving with the regiment in World War One.

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Calvert was 26 years old, and a sergeant in the fifth Battalion, when, on September 12 1918 at Havrincourt, France, he rushed into action to single handedly put a German machine gun out of action.

His medal is now on display at the Imperial War Display in London.

He survived the war and lived until the age of 72, before his death in 1964. He lived at Beech Terrace, Conisbrough and joined the regiment from Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company.

He had joined the Denaby company of the Doncaster territorials, the 5th KOYLI, whose headquarters was then in the town.