Alumnus honoured with Blue Plaque

Alumnus honoured with Blue Plaque

The life and military valour of AOB Frank Kirby has been commemorated by a Blue Plaque in the town of his birth.

A Blue Plaque has been unveiled in Thame in Oxfordshire to remember AOB Frank Howard Kirby VC CBE DCM. Frank was born in Thame to William Henry Kirby, ironmonger, and his wife Ada (née Fuller) in 1871. By 1881 the family had moved to Camberwell in London and Frank was one of the first to attend Alleyn’s School (from 1882–1884). By 1887 the family had returned to Thame where Frank worked for his father’s business as an ironmonger’s traveller.

Promoted to Corporal in November 1899, Frank served in the South African Campaign (Boer War) 1899–1901. He was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) for his part in blowing up the Bloemfontein Railway. Then during a raid north of Kronstadt, his valorous action earned him the Victoria Cross (the highest award to British and  Commonwealth forces for gallantry in the face of the enemy). Frank was presented with the Victoria Cross by the future King George V at a ceremony in Cape Town on 19 August 1901. You can read more about his military career here . 

The ceremony was held at Wavertree, 18 Lower High Street, Thame, on 10 September 2021. Attendees were welcomed by the Mayor of Thame and a brief tribute was given by Thame councillor Mike Dyer, organiser of the event. The plaque was unveiled by Timothy Howard Kirby, grandson. Later at the reception in the Museum, another grandson, Howard Pearl, spoke on behalf of the family. Alleyn’s archivist, Nicola Waddington, was among those attending, along with twelve Kirby family members, officers of the Royal Engineers and RAF and local government, and county representatives.

A special temporary exhibition of Kirby records is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 25 September at Thame Museum  Alleyn’s was delighted to contribute an equestrian maquette of Kirby to the exhibition. Loosely attributed to the equestrian sculptor Anton Hiller, it was made to commemorate Kirby’s act of bravery in the Boer War in rescuing his comrade whose horse had been shot from under him. School archivist Nicola Waddington said 'The maquette is a fitting tribute to Kirby's courage and it was a pleasure to show it to his family for the first time.'  

Frank is also featured on the School’s First World War Archive website