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Tribute to the 'forgotten' MP victims

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 17, 2014

By JEFF WELLS

Labour MP Chris Bryant

Labour MP Chris Bryant

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Three men who served as MPs, one for East Dorset, and who died during the First World War are to be recognised in Parliament's battle honours on the conflict's 100th anniversary.

Heraldic shields on the panelled House of Commons chamber walls commemorate 42 MPs killed in both world wars, with 19 connected to the 1914 to 1918 hostilities.

And former prime ministerial aide Charles Lyell, army doctor John Esmonde and one-time "gun-runner" Lieutenant Tom Kettle are soon to be included having been previously unrecognised.

Dr Esmonde was the Irish Nationalist MP for North Tipperary from 1910 until his death in 1915. Lieutenant Kettle was a Home Rule politician for East Tyrone from 1906 to 1910 while Mr Lyell was a Liberal who represented East Dorset and later Edinburgh South until 1917.

Shields for the trio should be installed by the summer recess in July, according to the House of Commons authorities.

The memorials will be placed above a door in the chamber used by MPs to access the "aye" lobby during votes.

The change comes after Labour MP Chris Bryant wrote to Speaker John Bercow last year asking him to look into the matter.

Mr Bryant said: "People forget that a large number of MPs and peers fought in the First and Second World War and some of them made the ultimate sacrifice.

"These three men got left out when the shields were put up in the Commons chamber and I am glad they will be recognised for their sacrifice."

The shadow minister also said he is working on ensuring a booklet is put together to give people more details about the people on all the shields in the Commons.

Mr Bryant added: "Some of the characters on the shields are fascinating people."

The Rhondda MP spoke about the three unrecognised men during last November's Commons debate on commemorating the First World War.

Dr Esmonde was serving as a medical doctor in the Army medical corps when he died, Mr Bryant said.

He went on: "It was true in one sense he was not a combatant and according to his death certificate he died from pneumonia and heart failure consequent on the strain of overwork.

"But several other MP casualties are commemorated in the chamber who died as a result of accidents rather than as combatants."

On Lieutenant Kettle, Mr Bryant explained: "He was gun-running for the national volunteers in Belgium when the war came.

"But reckoning it was the war of civilisation against barbarians, he spent several weeks in what he called 'the agony of the valiant Belgian nation'.

"Then, despite poor health, he applied time and again for active service on the Western Front in one of the Irish regiments. He was killed."

On Mr Lyell, Mr Bryant said he died of pneumonia in 1918 "as assistant military attache in Washington having served two periods as parliamentary private secretary to Asquith.

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