Residents of Eden District attended a special ceremony at Castle Park in Penrith on Thursday 9 August 2018,100 years to the day since Glassonby born, First World War soldier, Pte. Robert Beatham, was award the Victoria Cross (VC) aged just 24, for his heroic action in silencing four heavy machines guns that were holding up Australian troops at the Battle of Amiens.
As part of the ceremony organised by Eden District Council, the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Mrs Claire Hensman unveiled a commemorative stone in memory of Pte. Robert Beatham, in Castle Park close to the Memorial Gateway.
Attending the commemoration ceremony were members of Pte. Robert Beatham’s family who travelled to Penrith from across the country, including his great nephew Tony Beatham, from Lincoln, who said: “Today’s commemorative service is an opportunity for everyone in today’s busy world to stop and take a moment to reflect and remember those who fought in the Great War and the conditions they had to experience.”
Also attending the service were Lt. Col Lachlan Sinclair representing Australian Defence Staff from the Australian High Commission; Eden District Council Chairman, Councillor Mary Robinson, bugler Robert McNicol from Penrith Town Band and the Rev’d Keith Speck from Kirkoswald and Alston Moor Methodist Circuit who blessed the commemorative stone. A memorial service led by Rev’d. Canon David Sargent at St. Andrew’s Church, Penrith was held after the ceremony at Castle Park.
Councillor Malcolm Temple, Eden District Council’s Armed Forces Champion who helped organise the event, said: “It is an honour for the Council to site this memorial stone for Pte. Robert Beatham VC adjacent to the Memorial Gates in Castle Park as part of our commitment to the Armed Forces Community Covenant. Reading through the citation for Pte. Beatham’s VC it is truly the definition of a hero, an individual who has made the ultimate sacrifice to protect his fellow countrymen.
“The Victoria Cross is the highest award for gallantry that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. It’s important that we recognise and remember the actions of Private Robert Beatham and bring this aspect of our history to a wider audience so that more people are able to learn about the community’s shared history. I would like to thank everyone who has attended and all those who have helped to organise and contribute to this commemorative event. Richard Preston of the Penrith Remembers Group has produced an exhibition of Pte. Beatham’s lifestory and the group working with Bill Mossop have produced some special commemorative Robert Beatham bookmarks.”
Robert Beatham was born in Glassonby but emigrated to Australia as a young man and served with the 8th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. He saw active service in the Gallipoli campaign, the Somme campaign, in the Battle of Passchendaele and on the Western Front. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Battle of Amiens in France on 9 August 1918.
The citation for Pte. Robert Beatham’s VC Award reads:
For most conspicuous bravery and self- sacrifice during the attack north of Rosieres, east of Amiens, on 9th August 1918, When the advance was held up by heavy machine- gun fire, Pte. Beatham dashed forward, and, assisted by one man, bombed and fought the crews of four enemy machine guns, killing ten of them and capturing ten others, thus facilitating the advance and saving many casualties. When the final objective was reached, although previously wounded, he again dashed forward and bombed a machine gun, being riddled with bullets and killed in doing so. The valour displayed by this gallant soldier inspired all ranks in a wonderful manner.