WHITNEY-on-Wye’s First World War hero, Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis kept faith with his country a century ago, and now thanks to concerted efforts in recognition of his extraordinary courage on the battlefield, his home county has kept faith with him.

No longer is Herefordshire’s only native-born recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry that a British and Commonwealth serviceman or woman can achieve, a forgotten figure from the past.

As the county prepares to commemorate all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War, the 23-year-old carpenter’s son is keenly remembered with honour and pride.

Thanks to a spirited drive led by Lance Corporal Lewis’s great-niece, Dawn Lewis, a life-size bronze statue now stands sentinel in Hereford’s Old Market shopping centre.

With the coming weekend’s centenary events marking the Armistice signed on November 11 in 1918, the Northamptonshire regiment soldier comes into sharp, and poignant focus.

It was his soldierly disposition and character that earned him promotion to lance corporal, and he took part in the final allied push to break the German Hindenburg Line in late 1918.

He was to show exceptional bravery on two separate occasions, both witnessed by others, and showing a quiet confidence, spirit, determination and bravery under fire.

On September 21, a matter of weeks before the Armistice was signed, he was killed in action, and his grieving parents were to receive his posthumously awarded Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace the following April.

The citation reads: “For most conspicuous gallantry at Ronssoy when in command of a section on the right of an attacking line which was held up by intense machine-gun fire, Lance Corporal Lewis, seeing that two enemy machine-guns were enfilading the line, crawled forward, single handed, and successfully bombed the guns, and by rifle fire later caused the whole team to surrender thereby enabling the whole line to advance.”

A paragraph from his entry in The Victoria Cross registers brings home the importance of this soldier. His deeds in battle were said to “unquestionably rank as one of the most valorous deeds even in this war of unexampled bravery, and it will assuredly provoke feelings of patriotic pride in the breast of every Herefordshire resident to reflect that a ‘son of the soil’ from a humble, rural home should have won immortal fame on the battlefield in what happily proved to be the closing stages of the most gigantic struggle in the world’s history.”

Now honoured in Hereford, he is also remembered in Whitney-on-Wye and at Brilley where his family had later moved.

One of nine children, Lance Corporal Lewis’s name is commemorated in memorials at both parish churches. His father, George was to carve a wooden plaque in honour of his son at Whitney, but undoubtedly due to his terrible grief, misspelt his name.

He had left school at 13 to work on the land, becoming a gardener near Llandeilo in West Wales, but his passion for working with machines led to him becoming an employee of the Great Western Railway.

He moved to Neath and after working as a conductor, drove a railway bus on the Ponterdawe route, joining the army in 1915.

Lance Corporal Lewis’s grave was among those the Army War Graves Service was unable to locate after the war, but he is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial in Haucourt.

Earlier this year, the Dean of Hereford, the Very Rev Michael Tavinor paid his own respects to him, discovering his name on the same panel as that of his ancestor.