Moray Victoria Cross winners to be honoured

John Ripley VC and George Sellar VC

Two Moray soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross are to be commemorated at a special service next month.

Paving stones engraved with the names of Keith-born John Ripley and George Sellar will be unveiled by the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire, Roger Goodyear, at the war memorial in Keith.

Cpl Ripley was awarded the VC while serving with the Black Watch in France during the First World War, while Lance Cpl Sellar won the same award during the Anglo-Afghan war in 1879.

Saturday, May 9 marks the 100th anniversary of the action for which Cpl Ripley was awarded his VC and the commemorative stone being laid that day is one of almost 630 commissioned by the UK Government in honour of service personnel awarded the nation’s highest honour.

The Keith and District Heritage Group have taken the opportunity to commission a similar stone to commemorate Lance Cpl Sellar, with each of the stones bearing the names of the soldiers, their regiments and the date of the event for which their medals were awarded.

John Ripley was born in Land Street in 1867 and worked locally in the textiles industry before moving away and becoming a railway porter in Dumbarton. He was 47-years-old and a serving with 1st Battalion, The Black Watch when he led an assault on an enemy position despite having been shot in the leg and receiving a shrapnel injury to his head.

He was one of the oldest men to receive the VC in the conflict, and was later promoted to sergeant. After the war he returned to his home in St Andrews where he died in 1933 after falling from a ladder.

George Sellar was born in Wellington Terrace in 1850 and was awarded the VC while serving in Afghanistan in December 1879. He was severely wounded while leading an attack on the enemy near Kabul but was able to continue his military career.

In 1887 he was appointed a sergeant instructor with the 1st Sutherland and Caithness Highland Rifle Volunteers based at Lairg in Sutherland, where he died and was buried in 1889 at the age of 38.

Next month’s dual commemoration will include a parade led by the Strathisla Pipe Band and members of the Keith branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland.

It will involve the closure to traffic of Union Street between Mid Street and Land Street and the section of Land Street from the Union Street junction to the A96. The road closure will apply from 10.30am to 12 noon, with the ceremony at the war memorial beginning at 11am.

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