Plaques commemorating three recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC) from New Malden were unveiled at Waitrose in the town yesterday (March 31).

The ceremony involved members of the armed forces, relatives of the recipients, campaigners and members of the public who all turned out to watch the unveiling of the plaques on the side of the Waitrose store in town.

It followed a campaign to commemorate the three New Malden men and their incredible feats of bravery that has lasted several years.

The project was led by members of the Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society and team members at John Lewis in Kingston and Waitrose in New Malden. 

One of the leading campaigners, John Lewis Community Liaison Lene Wood, told the Surrey Comet she was elated at the final unveiling of the plaques.

Ms Wood said: "It was brilliant! It was really good — so busy! I go every year to the remembrance service which is at the war memorial but I didn't expect such a crowd, it was amazing.

"It's really important for New Malden to have a bigger face. Their names are on the war memorial already but it was nice to have their names up on these plaques too, it's bigger and more visual thing now."

The three men commemorated yesterday were: Cyril Barton, Ian Bazalgette and Humphrey Osbaldston Brooke Firman.

Cyril Barton and Ian Bazalgette served in the RAF during the Second World War and were awarded the VC after their heroic actions as pilots during the Allied liberation of Europe from the Nazis in 1944.

Humphrey Osbaldston Brooke Firman was an officer in the Royal Navy during the First World War and was awarded the medal in 1916 after he was killed resupplying British forces in the Middle East during the conflict.

The medal is awarded "for gallantry in the presence of the enemy" regardless of rank, and is the highest military accolade awarded by the British Armed Forces.

Due to its status, the VC medal is extremely rare.

Only 1,358 medals have ever been issued since the award's creation in 1856 during the reign of Queen Victoria, who was the first monarch to present the medal and also gave it its title.

For a town to have produced three recipients is rarer still (the Surrey Comet reported in 2015 that only two other towns — Carluke in Scotland and Euroa in Australia — could boast three VC awardees).

During yesterday's ceremony, speeches detailing the acts of the three New Malden men were read out in front of their plaques, before the Last Post bugle call was played.

Ms Wood said the campaign has been hard work and was thrilled that it had finally come to fruition: "I had to contact Waitrose head offices, and deal with external spaces, property development and because Waitrose is a listed building I had to go through all the architectural team as well.

"It took a while but we eventually got the money we needed for the plaques."

She added that the department store retailer's ethos of contributing to the communities they operate in had influenced her involvement in the campaign.

Ms Wood said: "Part of our ethos is that we like to contribute to the community where we trade. It's part of our role at John Lewis is all about community and charity support.

John Lewis Kingston said they had collaborated with Waitrose and the local hisorical society to make the memorial a reality. 

"We're just a shop, we're not armed forces, so I felt really proud to be involved in a small way.

"The speeches that were read out by the attendees and the RAF were so moving, they were amazing people. "

You can find our more about the heroic individual acts of the three New Malden men who won the Victoria Cross by searching their names on the VC Online website: