Friday 23 March 2018

Harry Judd attends service for great-great uncle killed in First World War

Harry Judd paid tribute to Padre Alan Cecil Judd
Harry Judd paid tribute to Padre Alan Cecil Judd

Pop star Harry Judd attended a service at the grave in France of his Military Cross-winning great-great uncle, who was killed in the First World War.

McBusted drummer Judd, 30, paid tribute to Padre Alan Cecil Judd after the rededication ceremony at the Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery in the village of Villers-Plouich, near Arras.

Judd, with relatives including his parents, wife Izzy and their eight-week-old daughter Lola on her first trip abroad, said he was "proud and privileged" to honour his relative exactly 98 years after he died.

A winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Judd said: "We were all incredibly moved to hear about our relative and to be here today is quite something.

"The lesson that we can take is the kindness that he gave. To show kindness is something that really hit home for me. And the story itself on how (his discovery) came about is also incredible.

"A chaplain who wrote about chaplains from the First World War, there was this unmarked grave and it was him who was responsible for taking it forward and finding out who Alan was."

Speaking alongside his family after laying a wooden cross by Rev Judd's headstone, he added: "I'm very proud to be able to bring my daughter here today, who is Alan's great-great-great niece.

"She is eight weeks old today and it is 98 years since Alan died. We are all very proud and privileged to be here."

Rev Judd, who was attached to the 2nd/5th Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters, was killed instantly aged 31 after being hit by a hand grenade as he went to the aid of a comrade on March 21 1918.

St Paul's and Oxford-educated Rev Judd, who was one of nine children, was buried as an "unknown soldier" at the Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery.

His identity was sought for many years by a group of other padres who cycled around France's military cemeteries.

In 2008, Rev David Youngson wrote to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) - part of Defence Business Services (DBS) - saying he believed the unidentified grave was Rev Judd.

JCCC research, which included sifting through various units' war diaries and placing their locations on trench maps, helped eliminate several other candidates.

The National Army Museum then confirmed the research, prompting efforts to trace Rev Judd's relatives, which eventually led to his link to Harry Judd.

Christopher Judd, Harry Judd's father, said: "We have been moved ever since last October when we first heard the news that my great uncle and Harry's great-great uncle had been discovered."

During the research, a letter sent from Rev Judd's orderly, Private Harwood, to Judd's elder brother was uncovered, the service was told.

In it, Pte Harwood described Rev Judd as "highly esteemed" by every soldier and officer, said the Rev Dr David Coulter who led the service.

Pte Harwood wrote: "He had always a smile and a cheering word for everyone and under the heaviest of fire he was as calm as a lamb.

"My comrade told me he saw him hit with a hand grenade called a potato masher in the head which killed him instantly. This he said had occurred about 11am on March 21."

Rev Judd was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry", the Rev Coulter told the service, which included more than 20 of Rev Judd's family - some from South Africa.

Part of his citation said: "He searched shell holes for wounded, assisted them to the dressing station, and in one case carried a man on his back.

"His cheerfulness had a splendid effect in the frontline trenches, which he continually visited."

Rev Judd's great niece Selina Cohen read Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon. The Last Post was sounded, followed by silence, the Reveille and wreath-laying.

Ms Cohen said afterwards: "It would have meant so much for him to know about this. We just have to take his place. We all live on."

Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, the Fifteen Ravine Cemetery has more than 1,200 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War - 740 of which are unidentified.

Nicola Nash, of the JCCC, said: "Little did we know that once we confirmed Padre Judd's identity and started to trace his family tree to identify any living relatives, we'd unveil a fascinating and rich family history populated with clergymen, service personnel, writers, journalists, merchants, politicians and musicians including George du Maurier, Sir Oliver Nicholas Millar, former surveyor to the Queen's pictures and first director of the Royal Collection, and Terence Judd, a virtuoso pianist regarded as a prodigy in the 1970s.

"We are really pleased to have found Rev Judd's family and to be able to rededicate his final resting place with a named headstone with his extended family present."

Press Association

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