The Duke of Westminster was jovial, yet reflective, at a ceremony to name a boat after a First World War sapper at the Grosvenor Rowing Club today, November 8.
His Grace cracked open a bottle of champagne over the boat, naming it Lt Thomas Higgins, after a member of the club who died in 1916. Lt Higgins's great-niece Liz Moore, of Rossett, was also at the ceremony to commemorate her great uncle's ultimate sacrifice.
The duke explained that traditionally the boats at the 145-year-old club were named after members of his family but that they were 'unable to keep up with demand'. In this centenary of the outbreak of war, veteran members suggested they select a name from the Great War commemoration board on the club wall as a tribute.
After the ceremony Liz Moore said: "I am quite elated and very proud."
"Before the club got in touch, I was aware that I had a great uncle on my father's side who died in the war, but nothing more than that.
"We had a postcard he sent home in 1914 when he was training in Dover which said that he was enjoying the experience but added 'I am sure we won't be needed'."
Thomas was the brother of Liz's paternal grandmother Margaret Higgins, who married George Henry Moore and went on to have five children, the youngest of which was Liz's dad Norman Francis Moore.
Liz and her husband Mike Masters visited Thomas's grave in Etapes near Calais two weeks ago.
During the ceremony His Grace made reference to his own loss in the Great War. His paternal grandfather, Lord Hugh Grosvenor, died in 1914, the second officer to be killed in the Great War, and having no known grave, is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at the Menin Gate. He said that it was 'peculiar never to know your grandfather.'
The Duke spent more than an hour at the clubhouse chatting to the senior ladies team who won the Lester Cup at Henley for the first time in the club's history. They shared keep fit tips with the duke who admitted to walking every morning and using a running machine. He also chatted to Liz and her husband.
His Grace will unveil a new war memorial at the former Saighton camp n Huntington tomorrow, November 9, at 11am. He said how important the act of Remembrance is, especially this year, the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, and how he was in awe of the poppy art installation at the Tower of London.