Updated: Jul 21, 2019
12 October 2019 - Herlingshaw Centre - Eston.
So for a few years I have been toying with and planning in my head the idea of bringing what I see as the forces family together, when I say the forces family I mean both our Regular and Reservists and not forgetting our Veterans, I say not forgetting because this is how I am being told Veterans are feeling, forgotten about.
So a I have this idea in my head and then I get talking to Ray Mallon while at a charity dinner, Ray for those who don't know him is well known within the area, having risen to prominence as a Detective Superintendent with Cleveland Police.
He became the first Elected Mayor of Middlesbrough in 2002, and was elected on 3 consecutive occasions, performing the role for a total of 13 years.
In May 2015, he became a Trustee of the Foundation, and in August 2016 he took up the role of Chair of Trustees.
So I am talking to Ray and we get talking about my idea for a football tournament and he asks me for my number and that hes going to speak to the foundation on my behalf to see if they would be interested in helping and low and behold the following week my phone rings and I am invited to the Boros ground for a meeting.
The Idea was starting to become a reality and I was asked if I would come down to the Boros ground to speak tot he foundation and tell them more about the idea, It was in the meeting that they told me about a guy who had been in the year before that had an idea for a Veterans support group an idea which he had never followed up and one that the foundation were still interested in pursuing.
So I find myself then with two great opportunities the first a a football tournament to bring the forces family together and the second a support group for veterans.
So I now need to start formulating a plan, planning for anyone who has served in the armed forces is second nature however there is a saying in the armed forces.
"No Plan Survives first contact"
In a nut shell this means you can plan for every eventuality but something will always crop up or happen that will change this plan, and this exact thing happened to me.
I had a meeting with an officer from Catterick Garrison called Lt Col Andy Black to see what assistance he could give and told him about my idea, now Colonel Blacks remit among other things is community engagement so I went away thinking I need to get the local community in Eston where we are playing the tournament involved.
I took myself down to the Herlingshaw Center where the tournament is being played parked up and went for a walk around to soak up the atmosphere and see what was around, the Herlingshaw center itself is located right next to the swimming baths and leisure center which was buzzing with activity, I off course walked on down to the town center to have a look at the war memorial and started talking to an old boy who turned out to be a Veteran himself he pointed out one of the names on the memorial and told me more about him.
William Short was a Victoria Cross winner a keen footballer and lived in Eston, Before the war he was a steelworker, working as a crane-man in a steelworks at Eston.
He was also a popular local footballer, playing for the Grangetown Albion, Saltburn, and Lazenby United.
He was 31 years old, and a private soldier in the 8th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment which back then was known as "The Green Howards"On the 6th August during the Battle of the Somme William Short showed the highest caliber of bravery and soldier can, while severely injured he continued fighting the enemy until he was finally killed.
William Shorts citation reads.
For most conspicuous bravery. He was foremost in the attack, bombing the enemy with great gallantry, when he was severely wounded in the foot. He was urged to go back, but refused and continued to throw bombs. Later his leg was shattered by a shell, and he was unable to stand, so he lay in the trench adjusting detonators and straightening the pins of bombs for his comrades. He died before he could be carried out of the trench. For the last eleven months he had always volunteered for dangerous enterprises, and has always set a magnificent example of bravery and devotion to duty.
For his actions William Short was awarded the Victoria Cross.
So Im stood talking to this old boy who eventually introduces himself as Harrold but insists I call him Harry "Only my mother called me Harrold" he says and he tells me of another VC winner and asks me to walk for a while with him as it turns out as his bag carrier which I will be honest I would have done any way, Richard Douglas Sandford he told me was not originally from up here but moved here and lived here with his family "He was a bit of a posh lad so I'm told" Harry went on to say "I don't really know much about him, but he did live here and was awarded the VC" so i decided to do some research on him when I got home and found out Harry was right he was originally from Exeter before moving to the North East.
Richard Douglas Sandford was as Harry said a posh lad his brother was a Royal Artillery Brigadier called Daniel Sandford and his farther was the Venerable Ernest Grey Sandford, Archdeacon of Exeter; his great-grandfather was Daniel Sandford the Bishop of Edinburgh.
On 22/23 April 1918 at Zeebrugge, Belgium, Lieutenant Sandford commanding HM Submarine C.3, skilfully placed the vessel between the piles of the viaduct which connected the Mole with the shore, before laying his fuse and abandoning her. He disdained to use the gyro steering which would have enabled him and his crew to abandon the submarine at a safe distance, but preferred to make sure that his mission would be successful.
Richard Douglas Sandford died of typhoid fever at Eston Hospital, 12 days after the signing of the Armistice, and the day after his last command, HMS G11 had been wrecked on rocks off Howick Northumberland.
These two stories I'm thinking need to be included in the tournament and I mention this to Harry who says "what about that young lad who was killed when he came back from Afghanistan" he says, me looking puzzled asked him more about it and he starts to tell me about David Grout"
David Grout was not a Victoria Cross winner nor was he was not mentioned in dispatches and he has no citation, he was just an ordinary lad who had dreamed of joining the Army.
David joined the Royal Signals soon after leaving school and was based down at Catterick Garrison, David deployed on various operational tours and was Army through and through and it was while coming home on his two weeks leave while serving in Afghanistan that he was killed.
As well as meeting Harry I also met up a few days later with Maureen, David's Mam who told me how everything happened.
David was back on leave from Operation Herrick in Afghanistan and a mix up with transport meant that rather than going home to Kerry his wife and son Harley who were down in Colchester where he was now based he had to spend the night in Eston.
David had no clothes other than his uniform and his Mum and her new husband took David in to Middlesbrough to get him some new clothes, they then went out for a few pints Maureen like any other forces mam was and still is deeply proud of David and wanted everyone to see him.
David's last words to his mam were "I'm just going to give Kerry a call"
The next few minutes Maureen tells me were a haze, someone ran in and said "quick Maureen its your David hes lay on the pavement in a bad way"Maureen and her husband and some other regular in the club ran outside and found David unconscious on the floor.
He had been punched once in an unprovoked attack, and his attacker had fled the scene.
David was taken to hospital and his wife made her way to Middlesbrough to be by his bedside, sadly a few days later David passed away.
Kerry his wife was now a widow and his son Harley would grow up not knowing who his father was other than through the stories from his Nanna and his Mam, this laid heavy on my mind and got me thinking.
"No Plan survives first contact"
I told Maureen about the RVR Trophy and asked her if she would be happy if we somehow include David in the event, she agreed and I after we said our good-buys I got to thinking we should change the name and put the emphasis on David and so the David Grout Trophy was born.
The tournament is being played on the 12th October at the Herlingshaw Center in Eston and has places for up to sixteen teams, we already have four Army Teams in the mix including the Parachute Regiment, a combined team from both the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, The Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Yeomanry so we have space for twelve more teams to get involved.
I made Maureen a promise, a promise that I need your help to keep.
I told her David would never be forgotten, I told her we would remember David and keep his memory alive for his son Harley who is now nine years old and for his Family.
The money we raise on the day will be used to help Veterans with issues such at PTSD, Stress and Anxiety, Homelessness, Drug and Alcohol addiction and social exclusion through our Linkman Project and on other Veteran Group projects that we are planning for the future.
I am back at the club this week and will update you all again soon on not only the David Grout Trophy but also the Linkman Project as well.
If you want to get involved please drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org