A bridge in Castletown was today named after a Manx war hero.
Major Robert Cain won the Victoria Cross (VC) for his gallantry and leadership at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.
He is the only Manxman to receive the VC, the highest military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy.
A member of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, he was in command of a rifle company that formed part of the airborne element of the attack to secure the bridge at Arnhem. Despite fighting bravely and suffering severe losses, his company was part of the force that held out for several days, coming under heavy tank and mortar fire to secure a key position.
His VC citation said of him:
‘His coolness and courage under incessant fire could not be surpassed.’
The Major’s daughter, Frances Clarkson, today carried out the ceremony that saw the footbridge over Castletown harbour become the Cain Bridge.
Mrs Clarkson said:
‘My father was a very patriotic Manxman and would have been incredibly proud to have this bridge named after him. The timing of this event is particularly fitting as we prepare to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden; an audacious attempt by Allied forces to capture a series of bridges, which culminated in the battle to hold the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. This is where my father fought so bravely and was awarded the Victoria Cross.’
The naming was the initiative of the Isle of Man Government’s War Memorials Preservation Committee, and Castletown’s MHK Richard Ronan, who have been ably assisted by the Manx Aviation Preservation Society, Castletown Regeneration Committee and the Rotary Club of Rushen and Western Mann.
Juan Watterson MHK, Chairman of the committee, said:
‘It is important that we pay tribute to those who have fought and it was a surprise to us that the only Manx winner of the Victoria Cross was not properly commemorated. I am delighted that through Richard’s efforts, bringing people together in Castletown, this has been rectified. This memorial now joins almost 200 others on the Island, which has a proud and rich military heritage.’
Arnhem veteran Bob Quayle was among the guests of honour at today’s ceremony.
The Combined Cadet Forces from King William’s College formed a guard of honour. Bagpiper Guy Pickard played a lament as Mrs Clarkson unveiled the bridge sign and an accompanying new ‘wayfinder’ sign.
The Reverend Richard Hall, Methodist Minister in Castletown, gave a reading and prayer was led by the Reverend Jules Gomez, Church of England Minister, followed by a minute’s silence.
Mrs Clarkson was presented with flowers by Molly Cooke, Castletown’s Festival Queen and a member of the Air Training Corps. The town’s Metropolitan Silver Band played the Manx National Anthem and entertained the gathered crowd afterwards.
Prior to naming the bridge, Mrs Clarkson opened a new permanent display at the Manx Aviation and Military Museum close to Isle of Man Airport that features her father – who died in 1974 – and the actions that led to his VC.