Despair as bid to honour a hero is rejected

Sgt James Dugdale

Sgt James Dugdale

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Sgt James Dugdale left his young family behind to serve his country with honour on the battlefields of the First World War.

And between 1915 and 1917 he was awarded medals for incredible feats of bravery and gallantry.

But, aged just 33, he paid the ultimate price. Like so many before him, he was killed by machine gun fire.

He was, say community leaders, a hero who deserves to be remembered.

Now a call to honour the life of the former Blackpool Tower worker has been launched by councillors, armed service veterans and a Blackpool war hero – but they have been left angered in their attempts to recognise his sacrifices.

Residents in the Fylde village of Elswick want to re-name a new development off the town’s High Street in honour of Sgt Dugdale, who was born in the village.

The trooper was awarded the Gallantry Certificate, Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal during the Great War.

Now Elswick Parish Council wants to call the new development Dugdale Drive after reading about his story in The Gazette’s Fylde at War page.

But Baxter Homes, the developer behind the scheme, has applied to name the site Orchard Meadows – a name it feels is “more appropriate.”

Elswick Coun Paul Hayhurst, Fylde West’s representative on Lancashire County Council, said: “Sgt Dugdale was recognised three times for his gallantry – one of his medals is second only to the Victoria Cross.

“It had been mentioned Blackpool Council was going to name a street after him but it did not happen. We said we wanted to do the right thing after seeing his story in The Gazette and name a street after him.

“We put it forward to 
Fylde Council but it was knocked back by the developer. It is hugely disappointing.”

Fylde Council’s Armed Forces member Coun Ed Nash added: “If the developer does not want to play ball we can’t make them do it.

“We can only implore them to do it. I am supportive of what they are trying to do. It would be very appropriate to rename it.

“He paid the ultimate sacrifice. I am disappointed the developer won’t go along with it. It just appears to be inconvenience.

“I fully support Elswick Parish Council on this.”

South Shore soldier Sgt Rick Clement, who was seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan, urged the developer to “reconsider” its decision.

He added: “As far as naming the street it is a brilliant idea. In other towns they have named streets after fallen soldiers.

“It is a great way to remember them and means their name will be remembered forever.

“I would urge the developer to reconsider.”

Born in Elswick in 1885, Sgt Dugdale worked for the Blackpool Tower Company at its Staining Greenhouses.

He had a wife, three sons and two daughters.

James left his young family behind to sign up with the 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Preston in 1915.

In July 1916, at Usna Hill, his platoon attacked the German trenches, destroyed a mortar, two machine guns and captured the survivors.

James was wounded in the action and when he returned to the front he was given the Gallantry Certificate for his part in the attack.

In June 1917 he was watching an aerial dogfight in the Kemmel sector. A British fighter was hit and crashed in front of the allied trenches. James and another brave man sprinted across no man’s land and, through a hail of fire, dragged the injured pilot from the wreck.

The other man was killed but James made it back with the pilot. His bravery earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

That October he earned the Military Medal having repelled a German attack at La Clytte but, in June 1918, just weeks before the armistice, James’ luck ran out when he was killed by machine gun fire. Weeks before he had turned down a commission to stay with the ordinary ranks.

But David Walker, of Baxter Homes, said the developer had researched the history of the site – adding it was a factor in the name of the location.

He added: “We have applied for it to named Orchard Meadows. It is a normal process. The site used to be an orchard.

“The residents who will be buying the homes might not be happy when it ends up being called something else.

“I have no axe to grind. It is up to the local authority – we expressed a view that the name is appropriate.

“Dugdale Drive is not in line with our thinking.”

A spokesman for Fylde Council said the authority has certain powers in renaming roads – but not in this case.

He added: “The position is that the developer wants to call the road Orchard Meadows and the parish wants to call it Dugdale Drive.

“We have asked the developer to accede to the wishes of the parish and call it Dugdale Drive. Our legal powers are restricted. If it was a similar name to another road we can do, but all we can do is ask the question.”