Duke of Westminster names new Grosvenor boat

The Duke of Westminster was in a jovial, but reflective, mood at Grosvenor RC’s boat-naming ceremony on Remembrance weekend. The club’s new boat was named ‘Lt Thomas Higgins MC’ – a former Grosvenor rower and First World War Sapper.

Club Chairman, Nick Lindop, welcomed The Duke and The Royal Engineers to the event, touching on the importance of never forgetting and honouring a past member who had paid he ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – just weeks after being awarded the Military Cross for bravery. He was 26 when he died.

Junior Rower Stella Dixon read In Flanders Field by Lt John McCrae, and Sam Edwardson from Kings School Chester played The Last Post. Actor David Edwards, dressed in WW1 uniform,also delivered an emotive and touching representation of Thomas Higgin’s life from the clubhouse balcony, concluding with the first verse of The Soldier by Rupert Brooke.

During the ceremony The Duke made reference to the fact he lost both his Grandfathers in The Great War. His paternal Grandfather, Lord Hugh Grosvenor, died in1914 – only the second officer to be killed in The Great War. Having no known grave, he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at the Menin Gate. The Duke added how important the act of Remembrance is, especially this year, the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the first World War.

He explained that traditionally the boats at 145-year-old Grosvenor RC were named after members of his family, but that his family were “unable to keep up with the demand” in recent years as the club increased its boat stock.

The Duke spent more than an hour at the clubhouse, chatting to members and to Liz Moore, the Great Niece of Lt Thomas Higgins MC.

After the ceremony, Liz said: “I am quite elated and very proud. Before Grosvenor Rowing Club, Chester, got in touch, I was aware that I had a Great Uncle on my Father’s side who had died in the war, but nothing more than that. We are grateful to Grosvenor Rowing Club for bringing Thomas to life, the research they have achieved and they way they have put on such an event, not just for the family but for all who attended today with this truly respectful and emotive boat naming. We had a postcard he sent in 1914 when he was training in Dover which said he was enjoying the experience but added “I am sure I won’t be needed.”

Club Captain Louise Tobias spoke of her pride at hosting such an event at the Club, stressing that although this boat naming was for a specific past member, all our thoughts go to remembering everyone who enlisted to fight for their country did not return.

By Christine Fawcett