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/