NEWS AND UPDATES
WICKFORD AT THE SOMME 100 EVENT
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Its also now been confirmed that our friends from FrontLine Living History will be attending and demonstrating and displaying a number of items but focusing on the medical side of how casulaties would have been treated in WW1.
We are delighted that the Royal Norfolk Regt Living History Group will also be attending and setting up their full display covering many facets of a WW1 soldiers life.
Remembrance Sunday 2014
Once again the residents and local community groups of Wickford did us proud and turned up again in huge numbers.
Its really quite humbling to see so many people attend these days and how many kind and positive comments we receive about all that has been achieved in ensuring our war dead are remembered by memorials that are in keeping with the sacrifice they represent. For many visitors it was the first time they had seen the restored Avenue of Remembrance, which we had once again decorated with flags and poppies for the weekend. It was also great to see how many additional poppies, wreaths and crosses were planted in the Avenue over the weekend something that was a rare event in its former condition. One of our members collated a video of the service which can be seen here:
Lights Out ceremony at Wickford War Memorial.
Immediately following the cricket match, (well following a quick refreshment in the club house of course) many of us moved down to the main war memorial where our town's 'Lights Out' ceremony took place. Based on the quote that 'Lights all over Europe were going out' when war was declared the event encouraged local communities to remember the events of 100 years ago by turning off the lights and using a candle. We chose to light up the memorial with candles that were brought or purchased and laid on the memorial. Nearly 100 people attended the short but evocative service and our thanks got to the RBL for organising the event and to all those who attended.
August 4, 2014 chairty match starts ball rolling for new cricket club memorial.
On the warm balmy evening of August 4, 2014 to commemorate the declaration of war 100 years ago we were proud to be involved in a number of events. First up was a cricket match between Wickford Cricket Club and the Allstars, a group of volunteers from many backgrounds and professions. A similar match was the opening chapter of my book Wickford Heroes set on the outbreak of war and from that the club and local people decided it would be a very fitting way to start our centenery commemorations. The event also marked the start of WCC's drive to raise funds to replace its own war memorial which at some point in the last century has been lost. 11 members of the club were killed in WW1 and once again they will be remembered in the club house of the club they loved and played for.
Our thanks go to Wickford Cricket Club for hosting the event and we stand ready to help or support or assist in anyway the clubs ambitions to commission a new memorial.
August 2014 WW2 serviceman photo found.
We are grateful to members of Leonard Longman's family who kindly supplied us with this image of him taken shortly before his death in 1940 whilst serving with the Royal Artillery. Tracking down photos of the servicemen is one of our key aims to help keep their memory alive and everyone we get is a victory. Have a look at our 'Soldiers' section to see the images we have and if anyone can help we would love to hear from you.
July 2014-Significant WW2 Wickford artefact recovered
There's a lot more to remembering the past than just ensuring our local memorials are well maintained and the WWMA were pleased to lead on the recovery of a significant artefact from Wickfords history. In Decmeber 1944 a V2 smashed into Wickford wounding a number of people, the only significant part that survives was recovered and saved by local resident Trevor Williams when it was dug up during waterboard works in 1984. Stored outside for many years we were given permission to recover it and oversee having it restored with a view to returning it back to Wickford for public display.
JOB DONE: The restored Avenue of Remembrance and new Home Front Garden are formally opened.
So a decade after we started work to ensure that Wickford's memorials were restored we have completed our task and our role moves from preservation, to education, maintenance and continued research as well as standing ready to help in other ways.
The formal opening itself took place of Friday May 23, where Steve Newman the Chairman of the Wickford War Memorial Association welcomed the invited guests to the opening and in turn asked those key to the conclusion to say a few words. First was Mark Francois MP for Wickford and Rayleigh, followed by George Courtauld of Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust who were the main sponsorsof the Home front Garden.
Tony Ball was next up and who throughout the entire period of the this project had been the leader of Basildon Council and who has been a pillar of support since day one. John Robb of the Essex Environment Trust then spoke having again been involved with both this project and our earlier successes. The mic was then returned to Steve who thanked all the sponsors, volunteers and donors who had helped make it all happen, with particular emphasis on his own industry, the Transport sector where the three local bus companies Ensignbus, NIBSbuses and First Essex had all made donations that helped complete the funding needs.
The event was rounded off by Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, a role which has symbolically opened all of Wickfords memorials since 1922 unveiling the final plaque explaining the importance and significance of the Home Front and the new garden.
And with that a decade of hard work from a lot of people to restore the Memorial and the Avenue came to a successful conclusion. A few pictures of the day are featured below and should anyone want a photo of any individual plaque please just let us know.
At both ends of the tree lined Avenue is a new board explaining a little of the history and inviting people to read the stories now displayed on the plaques.
The restored Avenue has seen many new trees planted to eplace missing trees or ones that had were dead or dying. Fortunately none of the original plantings were lost.
Each tree now has a plaque telling the story of how each soldier, sailor or airman was lost, many have pictures of the man included making Wickford's Avenue of Remembrance a very unique war memorial.
Lord Petre and Steve Newman of the Wickford War Memorial Assoc stand by the last of the plaques to be unveiled thus opening the new Home Front Garden.
The new garden has a further 11 new trees planted one for each of the civilians killed including Wickford's youngers casualty aged just 10. For more than three decades this area that was once a formal garden had become an empty space.
The final act to complete the project was the unveiling explaining the significance of the new garden.
Official Opening Date Set: Friday May 23 at 1100 in the new Home Front Garden.
So 10 years and some £150,000 later our efforts to restore the main memorial and then the Avenue of Remembrance sees us days away from completion. Since 1922 Wickford's memorials have been opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex and this time is no exception with Lord Petre officially opening the gardens. We are also proud to have the MP for Wickford and Rayleigh, Mark Francois in attendance as well as our main sponsors, family members of those commemorated and of course members of the Wickford War Memorial Assoc. who have led on this project. All we need now is the finishing touches to be completed and the weather to be kind to us!
Tree works in Avenue completed 15 April, 2014
With the final trees now in place the Avenue is starting to look much like how the original planners must've envisaged it would. With the street lamps now cleaned and repainted, all the tree works finished, the benches and bins are the next to be renewed, following that will be signage, tidying up and the final finishing touches will be the adding of the plaques in front of each tree and some final painting in the vicinity.
Tarmac path goes down April 9, 2014
The Home Front Garden will have 11 trees to the local civilians killed, around a central flower bed with four benches all accessible from a new tarmac path. As can be seen the path has now been added, the formal flower beds have been dug out and marked and planning for the positions of the trees is being worked out. It is hoped that by Easter the very first of the trees will have been planted
The new plaques arrive! March 9, 2014
Works update Feb 25 2014
Following the deluges and high winds, progress has been slower than we would have liked over the winter but fortunately the improvement in weather has allowed work to start again.
The big news and sad news in some ways is really about the willow trees which, when we took advice expert originally were trees that the experts felt were nearing the end of the their natural lives, but being such spendid specimens and original plantings we did not want to see them removed whilst they were still alive.
Sadly the recent storms have caused some of the willow branches (one over a ton) to have come down, which means the planned trimming work of these fine trees has to be a little more drastic than previously planned to prevent an accident in the future. This however was again one of the alternative suggestions at planning stage that could help preserve the life of the trees and also help nearby trees to get more water in dry spells.
The cutting back will now involve some drastic removals of some large limbs but this will in the longer term encourage each tree to produce new fronds and take the strain of the water system and of course ensure the safety of visitors to the park.
Whilst there are of course no guarantees in life we are hopeful what may look drastic now will end up being the very treatment that protects and ensures these magnificent trees survive as long as possible as Avenue Trees.
In short please bear with us whilst we break eggs to make the omelette so to speak and judge the end result rather than how it looks whilst the works are ongoing.
Update on works January 16, 2014
The high winds and waterlogged grounds have made it hard to get as much done as we would have hoped for by this stage, so we are about a month behind where we had hoped to be. This means that the planned tree pruning in the Avenue is still yet to take place as we hope for a dry or cold spell so the ground won't tear up when the machinery comes in to undertake the work. Either way within the next month this will have to be done...
But in the meantime work has continued on preparing the Home Front Heroes Garden which will commemorate the 11 Wickford civilains killed in the 39-45 conflict and will see the reinstatement of some beautiful formal gardens. The initial work has already started with the removal of the scrub from the edges, which has revealed an array of interesting plants that now are exposed to light we hope will regenrate nicely. The other nice point the clearance has revealed is the lovely view now back towards Runwell Church and a clear view of two ancient oaks. New tennis and basketball courts have also now been finished and the new fences can now be planted against to ensure these quiet gardens will become an oasis of peace for those who wish to enjoy a visual and fragrant area.
Update on Works- November 13, 2013
The Truth behind the Spin
There has been some emotive clap trap in the local press about the 'loss of numerous healthy trees' in the Avenue. So in response to the opinionated spoutings lets look at some facts with some images. 21 trees are being removed, five of which are already dead, nine diseased/unsafe or growing into original trees, leaving the loss of seven healthy trees, all of which (bar one) are part of the ad hoc inner row. There are NONE of the original Avenue plantings being removed although later dead plantings such as the one below are:
Above is an actual memorial tree, its not in the so called inner row but is in the original and thus now being restored line. This tree was dedicated to a 27 year old Royal Air Force Sergeant, John Wood, who along with his crew were lost on April 17, 1941 when their Wellington bomber vanished on a raid to Cologne. No trace of them has ever been found and this long dead tree is his local epitaph... fitting..? We don't think so, '60 year old tree and healthy', definitely not, so yes its being felled much to the chargin of some.
Here's one of the 'inner row' that were never part of the original planting. Again its dead and as can be seen it has grown into one of the healthy original trees. Yes its going to be removed and the willow will also now be pruned to allow some light back into the area and to stop the willow taking over the psace of the original tree to the left. Necessary, yes... wanton butchery no.
So with the removal of the ad hoc inner row the true lines of the Avenue start to be seen. But there is gaps, in this case one has been missing for years and one vandalised sapling was removed. These will now be replaced in the Spring with species that will keep with the tradition of varied species in the Avenue whilst taking into consideration the space requirements and soil conditions in the park to ensure the new trees can flourish.
So next up will be some pruning and this is why. Two original trees here are 'fighting it out' The willow is not only winning above ground but its massive size means it is leaving the other tree no water. It was recommended the willow should be felled but we did not want to sanction the loss of any original trees, so it will be pruned back to allow both trees the ability to co-habitate.
WORK BEGINS ON THE AVENUE OF REMEMBRANCE
... And so it begins.... October 31, 2013
The plaques and plinths have been removed and now the diseased and dead trees are also being removed. The remaining trees are having whatever work has been suggested by the experts to give them the very best chance of a long life. As much work that can be done before the weather shuts us out for the winter is being done now.
In the Spring, work to the benches, lighting, surfaces and of course the unique plaques telling each mans story will be added, to give us a unique project. We will also commence work on the Home Front Garden where 11 trees and plaques to the civilians killed in Wickford will be added to create a new formal garden. With paths, benches and plantings that will stimulate you both visually and through scent it will be another highlight of the park and worthy memorial to those who were lost on the Home Front.
WWMA Now On Twitter
October 22- We are now running a Twitter account to send out updates to those who would like to follow the project. So why not follow us @WickfordWarMem and let others know!!
FUNDING GRANTS SUCCESSFUL
October 12, 2013- We are over the moon to report that our Community Initiative Fund and Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust Fund applications have both been successful. Not only does this ensure a huge chunk of the funding is in place but is another huge vote of confidence in this unique project.
November 6, 2013- Our final grant application was also successful! So a huge thank you to the Essex Environment Trust for supporting the scheme, which is now fully funded and we look forward now to delivering a world class and unique memorial to Wickford.
SPONSOR A PLAQUE SCHEME SOLD OUT- Oct 31, 2013
Huge thanks to the individuals, groups, clubs and local businesses who supported the scheme and sponsored a plaque. The generosity shown means that every soldier will have a sponsor for their plaque. It also means that the Wickford War Memorial Associations pledged funding as our share of the overall scheme has been reached and is part and parcel of the need to show that the support is there to see this project through and hopefully help unlock other funding we have applied for.
A special mention must go to the local Bus Operators who made significant donations, so to Ensignbus, First Essex Buses and NIBSbuses an especially large thank you.
Stage 2 - The Restoration of The Avenue of Remembrance moves forwards!
The 1949 laid out Avenue of Remembrance is looking very tired now. Having done so much outside the gates to the memorial its wonderful condition has only highlighted the decay of the Avenue, but that is now all hopefully about to change.
For more images on the current condition please go to our 'Gallery' and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Plans have been drawn up and approved to:
- Replace the six dead or missing trees.
- Add a further 14 trees to those who currently don't have any tree at all in an extended Avenue.
- Replace all 66 plaques with new ones that will include a little background information and a photo where we have one, or quote from the family if they would like one added.
- Replace the benches, bins and refurbish all the lighting along the Avenue of Remembrance.
- Undertake professional tree surgey to all the trees to help them to continue to grow true.
- Protect the bases and trunks of the trees from accidental damage due to cutting.
The cost for all this is £35,000 of which through pledges and donations we are ever nearing. In August we intend to have a fund raising day on the park, which will include a BBQ and Plastic Duck Race along the river in the park..come and join us!
If you would like to help in anyway, be it sponsoring a tree or plaque, providing a photo of one of the soldiers, or in any other way, please don't hesitate to let us know so we can bring this project to completion for the memory of those who went before us and for the benefit of those who will come after.
Wickford War Memorial Assoc scoop major award!
At the Basildon Play Your Part Volunteer Awards which took place on June 7, I was nominated in a category for the work carried out so far. When you looked around the room at so many great causes and great organisations I truly felt humbled. To say I was surprised to win the Tony Guyon Memorial Cup as Volunteer of the Year, truly is an understatement, I was astounded. So to those who nominated me, many thanks- I have to say it has renergised me to get Stage 2 of the project done and repay the confidence shown in awarding this to me. It was presented by Stephen Metcalfe MP for Basidon and East Thurrock and Basildon Mayor Mo Larkin, seen in this picture taken by Visual Solutions on the night.
Downham Memorial, Restored and Rededicated, Feb 6, 2013
It was under grey skies that Downham Memorial was rededicated. The work funded by the Wickford War Memorial Assoc and our friends at the Western Front Assoc saw two names with incorrect initials corrected, two gallantry awards added and a full clean and replace of worn sections, see below in October update for a 'before' shot.
The service was hosted by Rev Roberston of St Margarets Church where the memorial stands, who provided a thought provoking sermon. Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex and patron of the Wickford War Memorial Assoc gave an address on the current interest in war memorials and congratulated the community for its interest in assuring its conservation and condition. The service was concluded by Steve Newman, who thanked those involved, including Frank Fisher who provided much local background information, Lord Petre, Rev Roberston and the local church committee, South Hanningfield Parish Council and of course the members of both the WWMA and WFA who donations saw the work funded. You can go to the 'Gallery' section for more images of the service.
November 2012- Back to School Again!
The middle of November saw us give a presentation at the Combined Learning Centre for a number of classes from local schools. The title was Wickford's Heroes where the children learnt about heroes of the town past and present. A visual display was given on how the war progressed and how local men from a small town took part in a global conflict. After the presentation the children were able to try on uniforms and helmets from the day, ask questions and get a feel for what their ancestors did. All in all a good day that I certainly enjoyed and hoped the kids did too!
Remembrance Sunday 2012
November 11, fell on a Sunday this year and we were blessed with dry and sunny, albeit quite cold weather.Now having a superb memorial we have tried to improve more of the service.
The parade was timetabled better this year, new orders of service in colour and also featuring some of the stories of the men commemorated were handed out, a piper played us in and out and we along with our colleagues at the Royal British Legion, we shared costs on the purchase of a new sound system. The result was far clearer than in previous years with the additional of topical music as people milled around before and after the parade and service.
Some more tweeks to make but a big improvement on last years as we continue to learn how to best utilise the towns new memorial.
October 2012, Downham Memorial- another project gets the go-ahead,
Whilst we approach the first aniversary of the opening of the Wickford War Memorial the Association has remained busy and keen to ensure that we build upon the success of that project by ensuring other local memorials are not forgotten. The village of Downham sits just to the west of Runwell and north of Wickford and has a small memorial in front of the church. The memorial has always been well maintained but there are two errors on the WW1 names, a Bertie Lawrence Barnardo is shown as P. L. Barnardo, and the Wickford village policeman George Burnett is incorrectly shown as G. Durnett. On the WW2 names two gallantry winners have sadly not had their bravery awards shown alongside their names, with Richard Keddie winning a DSC and Alfred Andrews a DSM.
We put these errors and ommissions to first the Downham Church Committee and then South Hanningfield Parish Council, who I would like to thank for both voting unanimously to support us in making the changes. We have now raised or have promised the funds to do this work that will give back the identity of two local men and provide the honour of individual bravery awards to two others. We will at the same time undertake other slight maintenance work to ensure that another of our local memorials is in the very best shape we can make it as we approach the centenery events of the Great War.
It is our intention to complete this work as soon as possible, so hopefully very shortly I can update this site with some images of the completed work.
June 2012- The War Memorial Park goes Royal
As part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations Wickfords application to host a beacon for this prestigious event was successful and blessed with dry weather and a good crowd, we enjoyed a barbeque,
drinks, music and good company at the Royal British Legion hall before heading over for the actual lighting.. Situated between the road and the war memorial its fitting that such a patriotic symbol
is looked on by those who gave their lives for King and Country in years gone by. And so it was that at approx 2215 the beacon was light by our MP Mark Francois and leader of Basildon Council Tony
The start of April saw the front end of the park area of our war memorial finally reach its conclusion with the addition of the Heroes Aboretum.
The men killed in WW2 all have a tree planted to them but the men from WW1, with the loss of the Nurses Home, have nothing more personal. So in the area where the former memorial stood has now been transformed into The Wickford Heroes Arboretum, with a different tree species that is relevant to each area of conflict where a Wickford man was lost planted. Each will flower differently, have different shades at different times of year to highlight the global nature of the conflict. A sign has been erected explaining this and also listing the names of each of those killed and in which theatre they were lost and which tree represents them. It is hoped this novel and visual explanation will be a popular attraction and allows us to now look at turning our attention inside the gates and particularly to the Second World War, Avenue of Remembrance which we have just started surveying in readiness to putting togther a plan for its long over due repairs and restoration.
The end of March has seen one of the final additions to the actual war memorial completed, the addition of the signage that explains the history of our memorial, how we came to lose the original and how and why the new one came about. If you want to read the signs and see some close ups just head across the 'Gallery' page where we have added some more details.
We now move on to the creation of the Heroes Woods, an arboretum to the men lost in WW1 that will be situated just behind the memorial and will commence being planted in early April.
In May we should see the toilets open in the park, which whilst perhaps not the most glamourous of institutions was one of the things that an absence of scored highly in reasons that visitors to the war memorial park did not stay longer.
So plenty still happening between us and our partners to keep the momentum of improvements rolling.
For 2012 we intend to start using the memorial for more events and nothing can be more important than that of learning. So we are now able to welcome school groups and use the area of the parade ground and the losses of our men across the world to demonstrate how a global conflict was reflected in local terms. We can target talks for all sorts of age groups and towards the actual events of the conflict for studies on World War I & II, to the local effects the war had on the community. In December 2011 we welcomed our first two school groups who were doing projects on the war and its effects using various multi media skills. The groups were able to interview veterans, see and handle artefacts and enjoy a talk at the memorial using original props from the various fighting armies to illustrate how the war swung, was nearly lost and how local men were swallowed up in fighting in places many would would have never even heard of before the war.
If its something you may be interested in doing for a group, school, or society why not drop us an email and if we can help we will!
Its been a long journey but, with grateful thanks to all those who helped fund raise and our supporters Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust, Essex Environmental Trust, Basildon Council and of course all the members of the Wickford War Memorial Association we finally have an elegant and proper place to remember our towns war dead.
The stunning new memorial is now in place and was unveiled on the 4th November 2011. It took us longer than we hoped but the result is stunning. Building work started in July and we were ready, on time and on budget for our grand opening on November 4, 2011. We were delighted to welcome around 200 invited guests to the unveiling, which included family members of those commemorated, supporters and sponsors of the appeal, local council members and councilors and a representative from the First World War front line village of Zonebeke where many of our lads still lay.
2007- A small Victory
In 2007 we managed to trace and recover the long out of public view Runwell Hospital Memorial. Originally this memorial was located in the Runwell Hospital Chapel, but following an asbestos problem and the chapels closure the memorial was placed in storage in Chelmsford. With thanks to the parish at St Marys Runwell we were able to relocate it and acquire it, so that like all war memorials it could go back on public display in the community it represents. After having it cleaned it was formally hung in the Royal British Legion Hall, on Runwell Road where it now resides ensuring that another small part of our communities heritage is saved and the sacrifices of those before us are not forgotten.
2006- Looking forwards
The plan as it stands today has been born from a number of like minded people who live locally and feel that we must surely be able to commemorate our ancestors better than this? With the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I coming up, in 2008, what better time to try and organize a fitting memorial? Our park is without doubt a beautiful and fitting memorial in its own right and seeing people enjoy themselves there is indeed a just memorial. However, the original tablets with the names of treasured lost ones deserves to be displayed in a more fitting manner than a vandalized concrete slab and these are what we would like to see presented in a new and more fitting manner. All such projects are of course expensive and we fully understand budget pressures on local authorities do not allow for war memorials to feature high on the priority list. It is therefore our intention to be able to fully fund the whole project, through the selling of the "Wickford and Runwell Roll of Honour" book, gaining local sponsorships, donations and seeking grants. We of course will need to secure the site to place the memorial which should surely stand near the entrance to the park. This would allow for a central focal point for the annual remembrance service, whilst more importantly reminding today’s community of the sacrifices made by those before them.Please now you have found this site, take time to sign our guest book/petition to register your support and help us make the ideas and intentions reality.
/ Steve Newman, August 2006.
2006- Overview of the Memorial
By 2006 with the wishes and hoped of those from the 1920's of a staffed nurses home long since swept away the picture of the town efforts to remember its war dead was somewhat bleaker.
The only real success really being the park which was commissioned as our Second World War Memorial, keeping Wickfords wishes of having a living memorial alivem the park is both well used and generally well maintained. Alas the stone tablets at the gates and the tree lined Avenue of Remembrance have not faired well. The stone tablets are often vandalized and are deteriorating, they are mounted in a very unsympathetic way in 1970’s style concrete slabs with a small plaque informing the reader that they were removed from outside the original nursing home. The tree lined Avenue of Remembrance to the men of World War II is also not in the kind of condition that the sacrifice of a life must surely warrant. Some trees are missing, some have died and need replacing, many of the remaining plaques on the plinths are unreadable and that’s of the ones that remain, many have been stolen and empty plinths now line the footpath…
The Original Nurses Home Opening, July 7, 1922
Lord Lambourne opened Wickford's War Memorial Nurses Home, in front of a large crowd, many of whom had lost loved ones or served at the front in the trenches. In the porchway can be seen the two plaques that recorded the names of those that had been subscribed to be included, these now remain as the only vestige of this original concept of providing the community with a living memorial.
In 1976 the nurses home was demolished to make way for the new ring road and the tablets were moved about a mile to lie outside gates of the Second World War, War Memorial Park. Here they were unsympathetically mounted in concrete slabs to which the community would make the annual pilgrimage to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday to a completely inadequate and ugly memorial.
It would be 30 years before a movement to right this wrong gained the traction, support and finance to finally provide the town with a fitting memorial.