Campaigning to restore Greenwich’s war memorials

The centenary of World War One has been on many people’s mind for some time and across the Royal Borough of Greenwich residents felt that restoring our war memorials was the absolute minimum required to commemorate the sacrifice of so many people one hundred years ago.  I thought the Council agreed with me on this, but as the centenary came and went, the memorials across the borough were not restored, so I launched a petition to help remind Councillors how important this issue is to residents from communities across our Borough – you can sign at http://spencerdrury.com/warmemorials/.

To give some context, the request and concerns about war memorials are not recent.  A few landmarks include:

  • In the Remembrance Day sermon at Eltham in November 2008, the Reverend John Neal raised the condition of the Eltham War Memorial and adding the names of servicemen/women who had died in action since World War One.
  • In December 2012 and December 2013 Greenwich Conservative Councillors asked the Full Council to ensure that all war memorials be properly restored before the centenary of World War One.  On both occasions the Labour-run Council accepted that some war memorials were suffering from ageing but refused to commit to a formal timetable for completing repair.

I really don’t view this as a party political issue (as everyone seemed to agree with the basic principle of restoring the war memorials).  Instead I see this as an issue of competence.  The Council Leader agreed with me in December 2013 that “there was a desire to address the issue of the condition of the Memorials effectively and quickly”  (Minutes of December 2013 Council meeting) and on we were promised that the Greenwich Heritage Trust would provide the way forward, but still nothing has happened.  Indeed worse than that the Council has now admitted that it will have to restore at least some of the memorial before handing them over to the Heritage Trust.

I want to be clear that this is a personal issue rather than a political one.  For me the war memorials are a really important part of our heritage, especially in a military borough like Greenwich.  I am simply gutted that the Council has failed to restore the damage to our existing war memorials prior to the centenary of World War One despite myself and others pressuring them to do so for many years.

I do not want to let another year drift past without a proper commitment to restore and update them.   I would also like the Council to add the names of those who have died in the service of their country since World War One to the memorials.  As a local teacher, I believe these monuments are not just historical but should be relevant to current and future generations.

I am so grateful to those people, who regardless of their political views, have agreed to support this campaign, including Alan Tizzard Chair of the National Service Veterans Alliance, Barry Nugent, Chair of the Eltham and Well Hall British Legion, and Steve Mann from the 28th West Kent Boys Brigade who have taken part in  the Remembrance Day Parades in Eltham and at the Cenotaph.

While many people are trying to do really good work to look after their own war memorials, including a petition to replace the plaque on the Plumstead War Memorial by the Woolwich Scouts and raising money to try and repair the monument in Eltham High Street, I want a commitment from the Council, whose responsibility it is, to sort our all the war memorials across the borough.

If you have the time, please do look at this excellent video on one of our local memorials which ironically is not maintained by the Council.  This really matters and I would appreciate everyone’s support through signing my petition at http://spencerdrury.com/warmemorials/

Eltham War Memorial Sept 2014

Spencer Drury is the leader of Greenwich Conservatives and the Conservatives' parliamentary candidate for the Eltham constituency.

Comments

  1. Deborah says

    What concerns me is that, last November, I made an offer to the group that wished to have our local memorial renovated, to apply for one of the grants that are available this year. A good deal of money had been set aside, by various charities, trusts and heritage organisations for that very purpose. Local people had said they wanted to be involved and were keen also to involve local schools. No thank you, they said (to all of the offers), we want the council to pay for it and we are going to set up a petition. This seemed short-sighted and foolhardy, considering non-council money was readily available

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  2. Mary says

    I know I am really not getting information from the Council anymore, but I thought that a year or so ago I spoke at length to an officer who was working full time on sorting out all the war memorials – listing them, finding hitherto unknown ones, listing down the names on them. Hmmmm. Wonder what’s going on?

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  3. says

    In response to these comments, there are certainly local groups who want to help and I know the British Legion in Eltham has saved a substantial amount to help with restoration. However, we need to be clear on who is doing what to ensure all work is done to a high standard. Council/Heritage Trust co-ordination is essential I would have said in this regard, but I am sure they will not reject any offers of funds to help with this process.

    With regard to Mary’s comments, I remember her speaking in Council about this previously when I thought we all agreed a way forward. It just doesn’t seem to have happened and there is certainly some confusion in the policy.

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  4. John Fahy says

    When is a campaign not a campaign. This is a case in point. The Council has a clear policy to bring the War Memorials up to scratch. Work undertaken has been researching all of the War Memorials who owns them and their state of repair. The work to repair a number is underway and the rest will be done over a period of time. There is no intention to shirk its responsibility to maintain these important symbols of the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives. As Rememberance Day draws close we should all unite in our determination to maintain the War Memorials and the Council is not wanting in this regard

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  5. Mary says

    Thank you John. I knew the Council was doing it. Something which I find interesting is that after both wars some communities decided that rather than erect a momument or a statue as a memorial they would provide something useful – a youth club, a hospital ward, or whatever. In recent years many of these have been shut down and sadly forgotten, sometimes as the result of funding cuts. I wonder if this campaign is looking at memorials of this sort too???

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  6. John Fahy says

    Mary has an interesting thought warranting further discussion. Good to hear from people who have some ideas on this matter.

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  7. Henry Hinchcliffe says

    I am trying to find a stained glass window which was installed in St. Alfega’s Hospital Chapel, Greenwich in 1950. It was a war memorial window to staff of the hospital who had died in WW II. It is a two-light window with two paintings of scenes from Pilgrim’s Progress; in the left hand light Pilgrim ,in armour, is shown in prayer above the inscription “I will walk in the Strength of the Lord God”, in the right light Pilgrim is shown fighting Apolyon (the Devil) above the inscription “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
    Eight members of staff are named as having died in the War; Annie Cassidy, Josephine Clark, Arthur ?, Hilda Lee, Peter Edwards, Gladys Waters, Eileen ?, Kenneth?.
    I have a black and white photo of the window. I am researching the life of the artist who made the window, Harry Stammers. hinchcliffe@talktalk.net

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