As we gathered at St. Mary’s on 4th August last year to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, on the other side of the world in an auction room in Melbourne, Australia David Hay was bidding for a rather fine portrait of an English officer.
His final bid was successful and he decided to research the officer whose picture it was.
It turned out to be H.W.F.B. Farrer, the son of the then Rector of Bridport and whose sermon at the outbreak of war I had reprised as part of the commemorations.
Mr Hay contacted me and the Bridport Museum who through their good offices tracked down the surviving members of Major Farrer’s family who still happen to live in the County.
On Sunday, 19th April at a special service at St. Mary’s at 09.30 and in the presence of the Town Mayor Mr. Hay presented the portrait to the family.
It was a very special and unique event.
Farrer volunteered for service in the Army just days after the outbreak of the war. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was awarded the Military Cross and two bars, the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre and the 1914 Star.
Major Farrer was killed in action on 30th October 1918, twelve days before the war’s end. He was just 24 years old.
Farrer served with astonishing dedication and bravery and it is a tragedy that he was to die so close to war’s end.
This is an extraordinary story. David Hay has said that when he bought the picture he didn’t think he would hold it for long and it is wonderful that he generously brought it back to Bridport to present to the family.
The presentation was a unique event in the history of our church and town. David Hay is on the right holding the portrait next to Caroline Patterson, Farrer’s great niece who now lives in Sussex. Next to David’s wife Leigh is John Farrer, great nephew who now lives in London.