The heroic actions of two Hawera men during World War I are to be commemorated in September.

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said it was fitting for John Gildroy Grant VC and Henry John Laurent VC to be recognised 100 years after each being awarded the Victoria Cross.

The commemorations will begin at the South Taranaki RSA's official opening of the Victoria Cross Garden, which features statues of Grant and Laurent, at 2.30pm and continue at the mayoral dinner on Saturday, September 15.

"It is amazing and unprecedented that two soldiers from a small town in New Zealand should receive this prestigious award," Dunlop said.

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"It was also remarkable that Sergeant Harry Laurent and Sergeant John Grant received their Victoria Crosses in two separate engagements within 10 days of each other in France.

"It will also be very special to have family members of the Victoria Cross recipients represented at the event."

Sergeant John Grant VC.
Sergeant John Grant VC.

The guest speaker for the evening would be Brigadier (Retd) The Honourable Justice Tim Brewer ONZM, ED.

Grant was born in Hawera in 1889 and prior to World War I worked as a builder and contractor.

He enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on June 14, 1915 and embarked for Egypt with the 7th Reinforcements to the NZEF in October.

He joined the Taranaki Company of the 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment in France in 1916.

After two years of fighting in Belgium and France he rose to the rank of Sergeant.

On September 1, 1918 he was in command of a platoon during an attack on Bancourt Ridge.

One reaching the crest, it was found that a line of five enemy machine-gun posts offered a serious obstacle to further advance.

When about 20 yards from the posts, Sergeant Grant rushed forward ahead of his platoon and with great dash and bravery entered the centre post, demoralising the garrison and enabling the men of his platoon to mop up the position.

In the same manner, he then rushed the post on the left, and the remaining posts were quickly occupied and cleared.

Throughout the whole operation Sergeant Grant displayed coolness, determination and valour of the highest order and set a splendid example to all."

Laurent was born in Tarata in 1895, attending Hawera District High School before leaving to work in a cheese factory.

When war broke out in 1914, Laurent joined the NZEF and was send first to Egypt and from there to France to serve with the NZ Rifle Brigade.

While in France he showed great leadership and was promoted to sergeant.

During the Allied advance toward the end of the war, the New Zealanders came up against a strong German position at Gouzeaucourt Wood.

On September 12, 1918 during confused attacks on this objective, Sergeant Laurent was sent out with a twelve-man patrol to probe the enemy defences.

Finding a heavily fortified trench system, he immediately attacked.

After hand-to-hand fighting, the 12 Kiwis killed 30 of the enemy, captured the trench and took 112 enemy soldiers prisoner.

When the Germans countered, Laurent managed to retreat in good order, keeping his prisoners under control and fighting a rear-guard action.