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Tragic hero haunted by butchery of war; ARMISTICE DAY: 100 YEARS ON.

OU will not find the name of Captain John Osborn Walford on any war memorial.

Yet he is a hero.

Today we remember those who died during ferocious fighting, those killed by shells, bullets and gas.

Captain Walford was not one of them.

He is one of the forgotten casualties: those who were left forever mentally scarred by the horrors they witnessed on a daily basis.

Much has been written about the the men and women who emerge from today's theatres of war with post traumatic stress disorder.

Hardly anything, other than reference to shell-shock, has been written about those Great War veterans condemned to the torture of flashbacks.

Unable to cope with the constant nightmares fuelled by the sights he saw, Captain Walford, former pupil of King Edward's School, Birmingham, took his own life.

His old school has not forgotten his bravery.

Captain Walford features in the King Edward's School and Great War exhibition, which opened on Tuesday.

Images of former pupils who served and died - 245 of them in all - will be projected in the school chapel.

And on Tuesday, a lecture on shellshock was given by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King's College, London.

A film about Captain Walford, a man whose immense bravery has been buried by the sands of time, was also shown.

At the age of 45, he joined up at the outbreak of war and became a decorated war hero.

He survived the hellish battlefields of Fromelles and Passchendaele, and was in almost constant action until the conflict's end.

A member of the Worcestershire Regiment, Captain Walford received the Military Cross for heroics during the November 4, 1918 attack on Landrecies.

His citation, published in the London Gazette, stated: "He displayed marked gallantry and determination in forcing the passage of the canal under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Dashing to the top of the canal bank, he personally assisted in launching the rafts and pulling them to and fro.

"Then he reorganised his company and led them forward to their objective."

Physically, he survived the war. Mentally, he did not.

Captain Walford struggled to deal with its after-effects and ultimately succumbed to what would now be recognised as post-traumatic stress disorder. He commited suicide on February 21, 1922, in Alcester, Warwickshire. He was 52 years old.

Captain Walfard's story was only uncovered when his medals, including a Military Cross and Bar, were found by his granddaughter less than a decade ago.

The family had never spoken about his role in the fighting because of the stigma attached to suicide nearly 100 years ago.

Keith Phillips, school acting chief master, says: "The research undertaken by Foundation Archivist Alison Wheatley prior to, and during, the centenary commemorations has brought to light a number of poignant and little known stories about our former pupils who served and lost their lives in the First World War.

"Exhibitions held by the school have provided the opportunity for us to tell some of these stories, and this final exhibition highlights the fact that, for some, the war did not end at the Armistice.

"More than 1,400 boys from King Edward's School fought in the conflict and at least 245 of them never came back. Research for the commemorations has also identified 17 former pupils killed as a consequence of the First World War who are missing from our memorial plaques.

"When the exhibition ends next year, it is only right that we honour these fallen on an additional plaque in the memorial chapel to remember the sacrifice made by all of our alumni.

"Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the true number of losses suffered by this school and this city will ever be fully known."

The exhibition will be open to the public on Friday afternoons and is free to attend but visitors must register in advance.

King Edwards, one of the country's most successful boys schools, was founded in 1552 by Edward VI.

Old boys include Francis Galton, Edward Burne-Jones, JRR Tolkien, Field Marshall Slim, Enoch Powell, Kenneth Tynan, two winners of the Nobel Prize, Bill Oddie, novelists Jonathan Coe and Lee Child, and the politician Lord Willetts. | To find out more about the exhibition, view a full list of opening dates, and to book to attend, visit


Captain John Osborn Walford, left, and right, his Military Cross

Captain John Osborn Walford
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2018
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