Parade passes without a Hitch

Cllr. Paul Lynch hails an historic occasion in Chiswick


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Also present was Ann Keen MP who told us, “I was pleased to be asked to speak and attend the ceremony for private Frederick Hitch VC. As well as being there on Sunday as the local Member of Parliament I also attended in my capacity as President of the Chiswick branch of the Royal British Legion.

“The ceremony was especially poignant as in 1995 I visited South Africa with the Lords and Commons cricket team and I had the opportunity to visit Rorke’s Drift museum and battlefield. Part of the British contingent was the regiment from South Wales and standing viewing the battlefields you could not be anything but moved by what had taken place. “

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It has been a privilege to be involved with the Hitch family and the Royal Regiment of Wales, since the mid-nineties when RRW were posted to Hounslow and the regiment, the family, and Chiswick Royal British Legion formed an alliance to restore Fred's vandalised tomb.

When the tomb had been restored, the 1879 society suggested a Blue plaque. I tried to pursue this (with English Heritage) but was deterred by being told that it did not meet the strict criteria. We are very fortunate that Graham Mason would not take "No" for an answer. It took him a long time but the date, fortuitously, was just right.

The day was wonderful and many people who came from afar were impressed by the welcome, the organisation, and the weather. I take full credit for the weather,
it always shines on my parades.

It was wonderful to show Chiswick at its best to so many visitors who had come to honour a Chiswick hero. We stressed at the event that his heroism extended
throughout his life, disabled, with no benefits system to support him, he brought up a family who went on to achieve what he would have wanted. They still show his "can do" outlook.

Mrs Sandra Barker, (granddaughter of Fred), who was at the centre of this event, had a firm but gentle hand on the strings of all of us puppets, never flapped, kept things rolling and fed the 5,000 at lunch-time on the day.

When one plans and runs such an event there is always the fear that the disruption will really seriously inconvenience someone. On this occasion, against the background of the tanker spillage on the A4, I hope we were only a minor irritant. The residents of Cranbrook Road are particularly to be thanked for their tolerance; most of them seemed to be joining in the fun.

Chiswick Police were so professional and helpful, in the face of gridlock, that I am lost for words. All my parade marshals deserve great bouquets. Ian Hywel-Jones, was as he has been from the start, a very welcome support. David Holtby, (Lt-Col RE retd) has represented the Royal Engineers from the very start. Brian Lovell bravely stepped in at the last moment to replace the UK's oldest TA major (John Tydeman, R.Sig, my school-friend and army comrade, who has always supported these events,) whose unit was suddenly called to the gulf, but particularly Chris Calvi-Freeman, who used his initiative, and his traffic expertise, to liaise with the Met Police, and keep all running smoothly.

Fred Hitch VC, the most modest of men, would have been astonished at the fuss. I do hope that anyone who was inconvenienced will understand the importance of celebrating a rare example of an ordinary man honoured for his bravery selflessness and steadfastness. It was a proud moment for all of us who took part.”

Cllr. Paul Lynch

Pictures of the event reproduced with kind permission of Richard Jennings

January 28, 2004